Copenhagen climate negotiations kick off

Feature story - December 7, 2009
The countdown is over and the time for excuses has run out. More than 15,000 delegates from around the world have gathered in Copenhagen for the most important meeting of our time. Next week, they will be joined by over 100 heads of state, including NZ Prime Minister John Key. Many of these leaders only agreed to attend the summit at the last minute. By doing so, they have injected much-needed hope into the process and have also accepted responsibility for safeguarding the future of the planet and mankind.

Dominion Post Sign On newspaper advertisement

Government negotiators will spend the next 10 days laying the groundwork for the heads of state meeting, planned for the 17th and 18th December. Their task is to reach a deal that is fair to all countries, ambitious in emissions cuts and legally binding. All of the pieces are in place to make this happen; success or failure is down to the level of political will the heads of state bring to the table. It's now up to the leaders to decide if we get a fair deal.

The Copenhagen Climate summit offers a defining moment in our history. All the pieces of the jigsaw are there: a gathering of more than 100 Heads of State; the key elements of a legal text; more than 15,000 delegates - and a world that's demanding action. Over 180,000 New Zealanders have Signed On. Greenpeace published around 4000 of those names in a composite image of John Key in the Dominion post this morning and many thousands took to the streets over the weekend to support John Key committing NZ to 40 per cent by 2020 emission reduction targets.


As the negotiations start, we will all watch to see who will take the lead in the shaping of the new climate treaty. In recent weeks, many of the larger developing countries have put new commitments on the table, and both India and China have pledged to reduce the carbon intensity linked to their economic growth. Rich nations, however, are still shirking  responsibility for their historical contribution to climate change or the greater resources they have available to combat it.

New Zealand has so far tabled only a highly conditional target of 10-20% reductions by 2020., when the science calls for at least 40 percent by then. However, it's not all bad news, South Africa has emerged as a frontrunner in the 'COP15 conference star' stakes by announcing emissions reductions targets of 34% below business as usual over the next 10 years, and 42 percent by 2025 - a step up from their previous target. This directly challenges all industrialised countries to step it up and commit to ambitious targets needed to slow climate change.

More than 10 million of you have called for our leaders to sign a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement. TckTckTck's petition was handed over to key figures at the climate talks today: UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and COP 15 President and Danish Climate Minster Connie Hedegaard.

TckTckTck chair and Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said the size of the petition demonstrated the huge groundswell of support for world leaders to deal with climate change.

What does the success look like?

Here are the four critical points:

  • Emissions cuts of 40% by 2020 by industrialised countries (at 1990 levels)
  • $140 billion a year from the industrialised world for developing countries to deal with climate impacts, act on climate change and stop deforestation
  • The end of tropical deforestation by 2020.
  • Developing countries must reduce their projected emissions growth by 15-30% by 2020, with support from industrialised countries.

The road to Copenhagen

The UN climate summit is the culmination of a two-year negotiating process that began in Bali, Since then, the talks have been repeatedly stalled by a complete lack of ambition by the US, first under President Bush and then by President Obama's inability to lead on the climate issue.

The crunch issues

The real key to progress in Copenhagen is resolution and agreement on the crunch issues -- those key elements that will put the world on a path to staying as far below a 2 degree C temperature as possible. That is what the science demands and what is required to ensure the survival of the world's most vulnerable countries and people and, ultimately, all of humanity.

Science says we must, technology says we can, it is time for politicians to say we will.

Sign On to 40 per cent by 2020

Join over 180,000 kiwis and Sign On to 40 per cent by 2020 and give John Key the support he needs to do the right thing in Copenhagen.

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