Copenhagen Meeting Highlights

The 2009 United Nation's climate summit

Senior Editor Janet Raloff covered the 2009 United Nation’s climate summit. Here’s a compilation of the stories and blogs that were filed in the weeks leading up to the December event and then from the meeting itself in Copenhagen, Denmark. A follow-up new story on the resulting accord was published in the January 30, 2010 issue of Science News.

FEATURE Climate might be right for a deal
Copenhagen negotiations will take steps toward a climate-stabilizing treaty

On December 7, negotiators from some 190 nations will convene in Copenhagen to build the framework for a new climate treaty. Twelve years ago, a similar conclave in Japan — also meeting under the aegis of the United Nations — set out with much the same aim. But that accord, known as the Kyoto Protocol, largely failed to deliver on its primary goal: reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the world’s industrial powers.

This time around, hopes are high — if cautious — that the negotiations will make progress toward a more politically viable treaty. | Read More


January 15

Copenhagen climate summit yields ‘real deal’ to limit greenhouse gases

COPENHAGEN — Last month, after two weeks of heated — at times, intensely inflammatory — talks, representatives of 193 nations agreed to a bare-bones framework for an international treaty to curtail global warming. But even its proponents admit it falls short of what’s needed. | Read More 


December 19

Climate deal reached, importance debated

COPENHAGEN—“Finally, we sealed the deal. And it is a real deal,” said United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon this morning at an 11:15 press briefing. He was referring to a new climate accord – one aimed at reducing global greenhouse-gas emissions and setting up a green trust fund for mitigation and adaptation programs in the world’s poorest countries, ones that are already being hammered by a changing climate. | Read More

December 18

Climate: Deal or no deal?

COPENHAGEN—We’ve got a climate accord, President Barack Obama said at a parting press conference tonight (at about 11 to 11:30 p.m. local time, before leaving Denmark). Not so fast, argue a number of other negotiating blocs – groups that continue to work on the language of the latest draft of that so-called accord. Many sticking points remain. Observers say it could take many hours – perhaps through the night – before any real deal emerges. | Read More

Climate: China defends its reputation

Over the past few days, a number of national delegations – not least the United States’ – have criticized implicitly, if not explicitly, China’s unwillingness to accept binding limits on its greenhouse-gas emissions and the measurement of emissions by outside auditors. This morning, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao addressed a plenary meeting of the United Nations climate-change conference – populated by more than 100 heads of heads of state – to make his case that China has embarked on an earnest step toward substantive climate protection. | Read More

Obama: Climate’s rock star

COPENHAGEN—A little over a half-hour ago, President Barack Obama wrapped up a stirring pep talk to his fellow world leaders attending the United Nations climate change meeting. He didn’t promise the world. Only that the United States could be depended upon to do its part in helping stem global greenhouse gas emissions and to fund measures that would help fund the world’s poorest and climate-beleaguered nations adapt to the environmental changes they are experiencing. | Read More

Climate emissions mandates: What role China and India?

COPENHAGEN—One major schism between negotiating blocs at the United Nations climate change meeting is over which nations should face a mandate to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions. Just the industrial powers that have historically spewed most of the carbon dioxide responsible for today’s climate troubles? Or that group and the newly emerging industrial leaders – especially China, who for several years has reigned as the world’s greenhouse-gas king? The deadline for resolving this dilemma is ostensibly quite imminent. As in today. | Read More

December 17

Tiny Tuvalu could quash climate deal

COPENHAGEN—Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia brags that his tiny nine-island state of Tuvalu is the world’s smallest independent country. Its 10,000 inhabitants live an average of two meters above sea level, which makes their homeland highly vulnerable to disappearing with even modest sea-level rise. With the nation’s survival so dependent on climate protection, he vowed today that Tuvalu will not sign onto any climate-change accord that does not require “legally-binding” language and programs aimed at ensuring global temperatures peak at “well below” 1.5 oC. Or so reports Platts Global Alert, a subscription newswire, this afternoon. | Read More

U.S. backs $100-billion-a-year plan for climate adaptation

COPENHAGEN — “The United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the climate change needs of developing countries,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced at a press conference this morning, a few hours after she arrived at the United Nations climate change meeting. | Read More

December 16

IPCC to offer climate science scholarships

COPENHAGEN—The Nobel Peace Prize will pay dividends in the developing world by funding scholarships for climate-science studies. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which received the 2007 Nobel Prize, announced today that it is investing its winnings as seed money for these scholarships. They’d go to residents of nations expected to experience dramatic impacts of climate change, explains R.K. Pachauri, who heads the IPCC. | Read More

December 15

Climate: Negotiating the brackets

COPENHAGEN—Representatives of 193 nations are posturing and challenging, threatening and bluffing, as they wrestle to draft a successor climate treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. The chief objective is to lower global emissions of greenhouse gases. How to do it, who will pay for it, how high to strive – all of these are up in the air. Still. Three days before the negotiators are to sign onto a statement of shared goals and intentions. | Read More


December 12

‘Climate-gate’: Beyond the embarrassment

SAMSØ ISLAND, DENMARK—Late last month, someone leaked a cache of more than 1,000 stolen emails relating to climate science. The emails had been stored in an archive at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. The hacked correspondence has proven a monumental embarrassment to its authors — for a host of reasons. | Read More

December 7

Newspapers issue strong warning on climate

HAMBURG, GERMANY—I’m staying with distant kin, for a few days, and woke up this morning to find my host had placed a newspaper editorial on the breakfast table. It’s from a Bavarian newspaper, the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The same let’s-get-tough-on-climate editorial ran in 55 other newspapers in 45 nations. Among English-language papers, the Miami Herald was apparently the sole U.S. outlet. | Read More

November 9

Guarded optimism on Copenhagen climate talks

Negotiators representing 181 nations completed their final prep work in Barcelona, Spain, last Friday, on a new climate treaty — one they hope to build a month from now at a major conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. But some observers worry that what comes out of the Copenhagen deliberations may not have sufficient coordination and strength to meet the challenges that Earth’s climate has begun throwing at us. | Read More

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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