Thousands of representatives from almost all governments, international organizations and civil society gathered Monday in Durban, South Africa, for the start of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which seeks to advance ways to cut global carbon emissions and pollution.
The stakes at the two-week long conference are high, as its outcome will determine the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the legally binding treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, whose first commitment period is due to expire in 2012.
During her opening remarks to the conference, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Conventions on Climate Change, urged countries to seize the opportunity to finish the tasks set during last year’s negotiations in Cancún, Mexico, and ensure policies are translated into action.
“We meet here at a time when greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have never been higher, when the number of livelihoods that have been dissolved by climate change impacts has never been greater and when the need for action has never been more compelling or more achievable,” she said.
Ms. Figueres, a Costa Rican, said countries can take two major steps in Durban to address climate change. The first is completing a comprehensive package to help developing countries adapt to climate change and limit the growth of their gas emissions, and the second relates to how governments can work together to limit the global temperature rise and thus prevent further natural disasters.
“These negations are about securing a better future and improving the quality of life of people. The momentum for change is building, not least in developing countries. More can be achieved if governments and the private sector work in partnerships,” she said.