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Mixed mood on eve of climate summit

As the Copenhagen climate summit prepares to open its doors on Monday, the mood among some participants is lifting.

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News that US president Barack Obama will attend the crucial last day of the two-week summit has boosted hopes of a deal to tackle global warming.

And with India announcing its target on greenhouse gas emissions in recent days, all the big polluters have put their cards on the table.

But one of Australia’s lead negotiators at the Copenhagen summit believes it will be extremely difficult to get all countries to agree on a climate pact.

Howard Bamsey will head up a team of 20 public servant negotiators at the two-week summit. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong will also be there making the decisions.

Bamsey and his team will work to turn these into agreements which he says is extremely difficult to achieve among 193 countries.

Conference ‘bursting at the scenes’

Last-minute progress towards sealing the deal at Copenhagen may have buoyed the Danish organisers – and given some momentum to curtain-raiser protests and rallies held across Europe over the weekend – but it has also ensured the conference will be bursting

at the seams.

More than 15,000 delegates from 193 countries will be attending, including 5,000 journalists, and organisers have been forced to turn away more journalists who want to attend.

Some delegates are worried about transport and queuing to get into the conference venue, the Bella Center, which is a bus or train ride south of the city centre.

The numbers are so large that only a handful of journalists will be allowed into the conference’s three-hour official opening, which is set to begin at 10am Monday Copenhagen time, (2000 AEDT).

Details of the opening are scant but it is expected to contain a ‘cultural segment’.

Conference called to ‘thrash out deal’ on emissions

In the afternoon, the business of the conference will begin – negotiators will start their meetings on the framework of a climate deal, then attend an official welcoming ceremony in the evening.

The UN conference is supposed to thrash out a new global deal to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming.

The existing deal, the Kyoto protocol, will run out in 2012 and the UN wants all countries, rich and poor, to agree on a replacement.

Big decisions set for week two

The first week of the conference is set aside for negotiators to thrash out the details of how a climate deal could work. The big decisions are expected in the second week, when ministers arrive, particularly on the last day of the conference on December 18.

That’s when more than 60 world leaders will make an appearance – among them President Obama.

The US president had planned to attend during the first week only, when other leaders would not be present, which was seen as an unpromising sign.

But President Obama has changed his mind, citing “progress being made towards a meaningful Copenhagen accord in which all countries pledge to take action against the global threat of climate change”.

He will now attend on December 18.

A statement issued from the White House said he made the decision after discussing “the status of negotiations” with Australia’s prime minister Kevin Rudd, as well as the leaders of

Germany, France and the UK.

President Obama’s change of heart means he will share the stage with Mr Rudd at Copenhagen – the Australian PM is due to attend on December 16-18, where he’ll act as an official ‘friend of the chair’ to the Danes.

Australia’s role forced to change due to ETS failure

But Australia’s role at the summit may have changed after the government’s main weapon to bring down greenhouse gas emissions, an emissions trading scheme (ETS), was killed off by the Senate.

The opposition has dropped its support for an ETS under its new leader Tony Abbott, casting doubt on how Australia will reduce emissions.

Mr Rudd has promised to slash emissions by five to 25 per cent by 2020.

Away from the formalities, the city of Copenhagen is expected to come alive for the first day of the summit – helped by a benign weather forecast of sunny periods and a maximum of eight degrees celsius.

Backstreet Boys drafted in

Pop idols the Backstreet Boys are due to play on Monday evening in the city centre, with a dance concert and a display of rainforest stumps scheduled for other parts of town.

The City Hall Square is to be made into a ‘Hopenhagen’ centre.

Major obstacles to a deal at Copenhagen persist – countries have not promised to cut emissions by the amount some scientists say is needed.

And there’s no agreement on the hot topic of financing – how rich countries will pay poor ones to tackle climate change.