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Copenhagen report: Day 1

07 December 2009

The 15th UN Climate Conference commenced in Copenhagen today.  Tasked with reaching agreement on a new global deal to tackle climate change, negotiators were left in no doubt that a lot is expected of them over the coming two weeks.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Danish Prime Minister said that there was an "unprecedented mobilization of political will" to reach agreement.   The confirmed attendance of 110 heads of state next week was testament to this.  Copenhagen was simply "too great an opportunity to waste". 

IPCC Chairman Dr Rajendra Pachauri also addressed the meeting.  He underscored the findings of the IPCC's 4th Assessment report and the scientific urgency of taking ambitious action.  Global emissions, for example, must peak by 2015 - just six years away. 

Pachauri also spoke about the controversial leaked emails from climate researchers in the UK.  He strongly defended the IPCC's findings, its review process, and the integrity of the thousands of climate scientists involved in the panel's work.

Always fond of an appropriate analogy, Yvo de Boer, the UN's chief climate official outlined his 'Christmas Cake' solution.  This was a three layer affair consisting of:

  • Fast, effective implementation of actions;
  • Agreement on ambitious cuts or emission limitations;
  • A 'shared vision' to guide long-term action. 

Just in case anyone had forgotten, he also made a point of emphasizing the limited negotiating timetable available for concluding a deal:  6 days for officials; 2 days for ministers; and 1 day for leaders.

Connie Hedegaard, the Danish Climate Minister and President of the Conference, made an impassioned speech on the need for a "successful and ambitious outcome".  Likely to be a proactive and no-nonsense President, Hedegaard will play a key role in determining the success, or otherwise, of the conference.

Overall, this was a day of formalities.  Statements from parties at the opening sessions of the key negotiating groups were formal and gave little away. 

Despite the high-level political momentum, the language and rhetoric seems to have changed little since negotiators last meet in Barcelona in November.  Hopefully, as countries get down to the serious business from tomorrow, the outlines of a Copenhagen deal will begin to emerge.  As many of the speakers today noted:  the world is watching.

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