Today, Monday 7 December 2009, governmental representatives from 192 countries are starting two weeks of negotiations in Copenhagen which should eventually result in a new global treaty on climate change. Two years ago, at the UN climate conference held in Bali, governments agreed, with the adoption of the Bali Road Map, to start work on a new global agreement attempting to forge a global framework on carbon emissions to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which will expire in 2012.

In Italy in July 2009, the G8 and a number of large developing countries agreed that the average temperature rise since pre-industrial times should be limited to 2°C. In principle the new treaty should curb the growth in carbon emissions enough to keep the world within that limit.

In order to achieve this goal developed countries will need to agree to cut their emissions more aggressively between now and 2020, while developing countries should curb the future growth of their emissions. Developed countries will also have to agree on substantial financial assistance to the developing world to introduce renewable technologies and other climate-control measures and on the governance structures that will have to be created to oversee this. A third area for discussion is the carbon trading scheme aimed at ending the destruction of the world's forests by 2030.

The overall aim is to ensure that the world's output of CO2 begins to decline by 2020. If this is not achieved, temperatures will likely rise by more than 2°C and take the world into uncontrollable global warming according to the predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is a scientific intergovernmental body set up by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide decision-makers with an objective source of information about climate change.

The Copenhagen conference takes place within the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), adopted at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992. The meeting in Copenhagen is the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the UNFCCC. According to the Bali Road Map the framework for climate change mitigation beyond 2012 needs to be agreed upon within the next two weeks.

Whatever the outcome in Copenhagen, further negotiations in 2010 will certainly be necessary for the final conclusion of any new climate change treaty.

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