Climate Conference Opens in Copenhagen

World leaders meet in Copenhagen to tackle climate change.

ByABC News
December 7, 2009, 7:20 AM

COPENHAGEN, Dec. 7, 2009 — -- The two-week United Nations Climate Change conference officially kicked off in Copenhagen this morning. The conference is expected to attract 15,000 delegates, activists and journalists from around the globe.

Delegates arriving at the conference center today were met by a small but loud group of protesters beating drums and chanting.

"What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!" they yelled.

Delegates from 192 nations filled the gigantic meeting room in Copenhagen's Bella Center to begin hammering out a global climate agreement to cut greenhouse gases that a vast majority of scientists say are driving climate change. At the end of the second week of the conference, 110 world leaders will arrive in Copenhagen including President Barack Obama.

Delegates will tackle several sticking points, including how much wealthy, major polluters like the United States should cut their greenhouse gas output.

"Differences can be overcome if the political will is present, and I believe it is," declared Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Denmark's prime minister.

Obama will bring with him a proposal to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020, and pledge an 83 percent reduction by 2050. China and India have also pledged their own cuts.

The proposals, however, don't promise an emissions cut of 25 to 40 percent by 2020 - the goal sought by the U.N.'s top climate official Yvo de Boer. Scientists also say the proposed cuts are not enough to keep Earth's warming climate from uncharted territory.

"There's a limit on how much gases you can put in before Mother Nature shows you what the climate system will do. And Mother Nature bats last," said climate scientist Richard Somerville with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Another issue is how much money rich countries should pay to help poor nations adapt to climate change. De Boer said developing nations need at least $10 billion of aid a year, beginning immediately.

"Developing countries desperately need tangible, immediate action on these crucial issues," he said.