Of history, ticking clocks and looming deadlines

“I believe the conference will write history, but we must make sure it writes the right history,” UNFCCC general secretary Yvo de Boer told the media on the opening day of COP-15.

Boer spelt out the three layers of action that would ultimately count as some sort of an effective deal: fast and effective implementation of immediate action on climate change; ambitious commitments to cut and limit emissions, including start-up funding and a long-term funding commitment; and a long-term shared vision on a low-emissions future for all.

Negotiators must focus on solid and practical proposals that will unleash prompt action on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries, and capacity-building, he said.

The next fortnight will tell how much of this will be achieved. But certainly eager to make history were some “early bird” delegates who braved the Nordic winter to arrive at six in the morning to avoid long queues for the opening ceremony.

“We have reached the deadline and there is no going back,” Danish COP 15 Minister Connie Hedegaard and the new COP president reminded delegates.

“Copenhagen will be the city of the three Cs: cooperation, commitment. and consensus. Now is the time to capture the moment and conclude a truly ambitious global,” she said … If we miss this opportunity, we will not get a better one.”

Added Boer: “The clock has ticked down to zero”.

“The time for formal talks is over. The time for restating well-known positions is past. The time has come to reach out to each other. I urge you to build upon your achievements. Take up the work that has already been done and turn it into a real deal.”

But, as Boer observes, an agreement in Copenhagen will have some meaning only if it “delivers significant and immediate action that begins the day the conference ends”.

If progress on the Kyoto Protocol is anything to go by, it will nigh take many years between a conference ending and action beginning.

Ochieng’ Ogodo, SciDev.Net freelance writer and T. V. Padma, South Asia Regional Coordinator, SciDev.Net.

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