Now comes the hard part

Bob Henson | 18 November 2009  •  What happens in Copenhagen, Denmark, from 7 to 18 December could affect our lives for years to come. Diplomats from almost 200 countries will huddle, confer, cajole, and eventually forge the structure of a new global agreement to reduce carbon emissions.

Bella CenterThe Copenhagen meeting will take place at the city's Bella Center, where a windmill serves as literal and symbolic evidence of Denmark's commitment to alternative energy.

The Copenhagen meeting—technically, the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—has been dubbed many things, including the last chance to save our planet. Any gathering would have trouble living up to such hype, and in fact, expectations are already getting tamped down. Leaders from the United States, China, and other Asia-Pacific nations announced on 15 November that a binding agreement on emissions would be impossible to achieve in Copenhagen. Instead, they’ll seek a “political agreement” that might lead to a binding deal in 2010.

Though widely expected, this pullback was sobering enough to prod the London Telegraph to ask its readers, "Has the battle against climate change been lost?"

The obituary may be premature: much still rides on the Copenhagen meeting. Many issues remain on the table, including how to structure carbon trading and how to help developing nations adapt to climate change already in the works.

Along with the diplomatic talks, there will be hundreds of side events involving thousands of scientists, activists, journalists, and legislators, including some 200 U.S. senators and representatives.

A handful of people from UCAR and NCAR will be in the mix as well. We’re each attending for various reasons—to present research results, share educational resources, meet international peers, and more— but all of us are keenly interested in sharing our knowledge and learning more about climate change and the tremendous challenge the world faces in responding to it. 

We’ll be posting updates here on NOTES FROM COPENHAGEN as our schedules allow, beginning in earnest around 11 December and continuing through the end of the meeting. You can also follow our updates via RSS news feed, Twitter, or Facebook.

More soon!

Bob HensonBob Henson, a writer/editor in UCAR Communications, is the author of The Rough Guide to Climate Change.

Update (25 November):  The November/December issue of NCAR & UCAR Staff Notes includes more about our Copenhagen attendees.

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