Our Copenhagen Curtain-Raiser

The delegates have descended on Copenhagen. The curtain has been raised. And as UN climate chief Yvo de Boer told the representatives of 192 countries at the opening festivities of the 12-day international climate conference, “The clock has ticked down to zero. After two years of negotiation, the time has come to deliver.”

Momentum is on their side. After months of stagnation, culminating in the Nov. 14 decision not to attempt a legally binding, comprehensive climate treaty at Copenhagen, the past week has brought a flurry of positive developments for environmentalists seeking to reduce the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. India has pledged an emissions target, following similar announcements by the United States and China. President Obama has decided to attend the last day of the conference, when final decisions will be made, rather than making a one-day stop in Copenhagen this Wednesday en route to Oslo. And in another demonstration of his commitment to progress in Copenhagen, Obama will meet today with former Vice President Al Gore, a fierce environmental advocate who himself will attend the conference, to discuss strategy going into the talks.

This morning, an editorial ran in 56 newspapers in 45 countries calling on the world’s developed nations to commit to “deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade.” Delegates themselves are seeking to send a powerful message to the conference; 400 of them arrived in Copenhagen this weekend on board the carbon-neutral Climate Express.

Of course, the rollout of the Copenhagen talks has not been without problems. With protests expected, security has been a major issue, and demonstrators have taken issue with Denmark’s wildly ramped-up security operation. And conservative media outlets have highlighted the specter of the “Climategate” scandal, which threatens to hover over the negotiations, despite the continued scientific consensus that man-made global warming is a real and serious threat to the planet.

While a final climate treaty is not expected until next December, the next two weeks promise to lay the groundwork and answer crucial questions about the prospects for global consensus.

We’ll have daily updates here at UN Dispatch that will provide easy-to-digest roundups of the days’ activities and developments.