A UN conference exploring ways to avoid disasters caused by global warming opened yesterday, faced with faltering efforts to cut deadly greenhouse gases.
The two-week long summit in the Kenyan capital will also discuss what steps to take after the UN Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gas emissions expires in 2012, and will seek to convince top polluters outside the treaty to do more to stop climate change.
Around 6,000 delegates will press for political decisions and review scientific findings during the 12th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
"Climate change is rapidly emerging as one of the most serious threats that humanity has ever faced," Kenyan Vice President Moody Awori told the opening session. "There is a great task ahead of us."
At the first such summit in sub-Saharan Africa -- one of the regions hit hardest by global warming -- countries whose leaders signed the Kyoto Protocol but whose legislatures failed to ratify it will be put under the spotlight.
These include the US, the world's biggest single polluter, and Australia, the biggest polluter on a per capita basis and a major supplier of fossil fuels such as coal, which cause global warming.
The protocol is an annex of the 1992 treaty on climate change, which has been hamstrung by the uncontrolled release of ozone depleting gases, especially from developing economies such as India and China.
The summit will also address ways in which rapidly industrializing nations such as India, China and Brazil can minimize the environmental damage of their economic progress. Despite being the second-largest polluter, China is still exempt from targeted emission slashes because of its developing country status.
Kyoto was supposed to commit industrialized countries to a cut of about 5 percent in annual emissions by 2012 compared with their 1990 level.
Experts have warned that global warning will have the largest impact on Africa.