Nearly 200 countries are involved in the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference ("COP15") taking place at Bella Center in Copenhagen from December 7 to 18, 2009. The goal of COP15 is to reach a new global agreement for fighting climate change, as a successor to the Kyoto Protocol is needed. However, this goal has met with many hurdles as each participant has varying ideas about what is required internationally and individually to make a Kyoto successor a reality.

Canada has participated in this convention since it started as the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. This is the 15th conference held within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ("UNFCCC") framework. Canada's goal this year is to assist in the development of a new agreement that will focus on economic growth while protecting the environment. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment, and Michael Martin, Chief Negotiator and Ambassador for Climate Change, are representing Canada at COP15.

The Conservative government announced intentions to harmonize the Canadian plan to cut greenhouse gases with the legislation that is currently being debated in the U.S. Canada has vowed to do no more and no less than what the U.S. does. This stance is being debated in the court of public opinion. While this discussion continues, Mr. Harper's late agreement to attend, the government's support for the development of Alberta's tar sands and our rising emissions levels have added to the spotlight being put on Canada on the international stage.

Other hurdles facing participants at COP15 include deciding which nations should be making carbon cuts, which nations will pay for these changes, rules surrounding carbon trading and solutions regarding deforestation.

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, has called for clarity in all of this. He stated in an interview with Environment & Energy Publishing ("E&E") that the four essentials to reaching an international agreement in Copenhagen are:

  1. How much are the industrialized countries willing to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases?
  2. How much are major developing countries such as China and India willing to do to limit the growth of their emissions?
  3. How is the help needed by developing countries to engage in reducing their emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change going to be financed?
  4. How is that money going to be managed?