By ELAINE MATTHEWS and AMANDA VENDER
Almost 200 countries will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The goal of the conference is to finalize an international agreement to limit emissions of greenhouse gasses that cause global warming. According to the environmental organization Greenpeace, the meeting “represents the best chance we have of reversing current emissions trends in time to prevent the climate chaos that we are hurtling towards.”
Copenhagen is a follow-up to the world’s first climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, which went into effect in 2005 and ends in 2012. Kyoto set targets only for rich countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions while Copenhagen aims to include all countries in the reduction plans. Rich countries are responsible for most of the warming experienced to date. However, recent economic development in the countries with the most people—China and India—means they’re using a lot more energy than before, which is boosting these countries’ greenhouse emissions. Another important goal in Copenhagen is to get commitments from richer countries to help poorer countries pay for their efforts to reduce emissions.
The United States is the only rich country in the world that refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol. This is significant because the United States has always been the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gasses. In meetings leading up to the Copenhagen negotiations, the United States did not say whether it would agree to reduce its emissions, whereas many European countries have already promised sharp reductions.