Climate Change summit kicks off

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pretoria - Thousands of delegates are this morning gathering in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, for the opening ceremony of the crucial United Nations (UN) Climate Change Summit.

More than 34 000 thousand people have asked to attend the opening session, despite the UN earlier stating that the maximum capacity of the Bella Centre, the venue for the conference, was 15 000.

Due to the capacity constraints, the UN has decided that non-governmental organisation (NGO) delegates will be allowed access to the building according to a quota system that was implemented at the most recent UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gathering in Barcelona in November.

According to this system, only a prearranged percentage of each organisation's representatives will be allowed access to the building during peak times.

Speakers at the opening ceremony will include Denmark Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, Copenhagen Mayor Ritt Bjerregard and Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

President Jacob Zuma will join Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica and other senior government officials at the conference later this week.

Zuma accepted the invitation from Rasmussen to attend the Heads of State and Government segment of the meeting from 17 December.

The conference brings together all signatories to the UN Climate Change Convention to negotiate a more equitable, ambitious and effective global pact to combat climate change beyond 2012, when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end.

Meanwhile, a top UN official said the summit will deliver a comprehensive, ambitious and effective international climate change deal.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said the numerous emission reduction pledges that developing and developed countries have made in the run-up to the conference, were an indication that there was unprecedented political momentum to clinch an ambitious deal in Copenhagen.

"Never in 17 years of climate negotiations have so many different nations made so many firm pledges together," De Boer said. "So whilst there will be more steps on the road to a safe climate future, Copenhagen is already a turning point in the international response to climate change."