Delegates started arriving into South Africa last week for what is formally known as the 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change.
There were 11 810 delegates approved to come to South Africa for the conference, the department of home affairs said.
The delegates expected to include several heads of state and government, ministers, UN officials, members of civil society and journalists.
The summit is scheduled to run until December 9.
‘Alarm bells’ for urgent action
On Sunday, during a curtain-raiser media briefing in Durban, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said new research and findings were “sounding alarm bells” for urgent action to halt global warming.
The UN’s top official on climate change said there were two very important backdrops to the next fortnight’s negotiations.
“The first has to do with a growing momentum for action… and the other is the new research and the findings that are sounding alarm bells for urgent action.”
Figueres said recent findings all warned of rising danger levels.
These included reports by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
She said governments had come to COP 17 “fully aware” of the importance of this treaty and the expiry of its current commitment period at the end of next year.
Second commitment period
Many observers believe COP 17 is unlikely to agree on a second commitment period, and say that in this regard laying a foundation for it to happen is the likely outcome. Some say this could take up to 2020.
Scientists warn that any delay would make restricting warming to an average global increase of two degrees Celsius, or less, extremely difficult if not impossible. Anything higher than two degrees is likely to cause extreme changes to the world’s weather patterns.
A recent assessment by UNEP, titled “Bridging the Emissions Gap”, warns that pledges by countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fall way short of what was required. SAPA