Today is the first day of the international climate summit in Copenhagen. The opening formalities for one of the largest and most important gatherings in history are being completed and the representatives of 192 nations are now starting the business of bringing together the high politics and the legal details into an agreement. Whether there will be an agreement, what form it might take and whether it will be enough are open questions. But the stakes and the pressure for action could not be higher.
In her opening address to the conference, Danish climate minister, president of the COP15 (and the EU’s new climate commissioner) Connie Hedegaard said: “The science has never been clearer.” She said, “The solutions have never been more abundant. Political will has never been stronger – and let me warn you, [it] will never be stronger.”
The attention of the world will be on Copenhagen – and on climate change – for the next two weeks. In 56 newspapers around the world this morning front page editorials appeared under the headline “Fourteen days to seal history’s judgment on this generation”.
And at the negotiations, an unprecedented number of up to 14,000 observers from civil society organisations, including ClientEarth, will be watching, engaging, monitoring – and asking leaders to commit to an ambitious, fair and binding agreement.
The extraordinary situation we face is that the decisions the international community makes, or does not make, in Copenhagen will affect the earth’s climate system for thousands of years. And that system determines the liveability of planet Earth and prosperity of millions.
The issues for discussion in Copenhagen are myriad. The legal architecture of an agreement, the nature of commitments on emissions targets and the balance between developed and developing world action will all be on the agenda. So too will the means for funding mitigation and adaptation in the poorest nations, working out how a new low-carbon revolution can be kick-started and the modes of development and sharing of technologies that the revolution rests on (smart meters, renewable energy technology, and carbon capture and storage, for example). Tropical forests and reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) will be high on the agenda, and a key area of focus for ClientEarth.
The summit is the culmination of years of negotiations and false starts. In many ways, Copenhagen will simply be a beginning. Whatever text we have, the real work will begin with translating the outcomes of Copenhagen into detailed, workable and enforceable legal frameworks resulting in ambitious and real reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases. This will be ClientEarth’s core focus as lawyers working in the public interest to secure the urgent action that is required on climate change.
Want to find out more about ClientEarth’s climate and energy programme?