Now for the Moment We've All Been Waiting For ... Copenhagen Talks Officially Begin

And now, the moment we've all been waiting for--after months of anticipation, speculation, and debating, the global climate talks have officially begun in Copenhagen. TreeHugger is on the ground there, and will be bringing you breaking updates as news unfolds there. But for now, here's a quick primer on what's to be expected at COP15.

As you likely know, the intention of COP15 (the 15th Conference of the Parties) is to construct a framework for a global agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The original goal was to create a legally binding successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, but difficulties in negotiations have rendered that option infeasible. Now, the representatives from 180 nations around the world will instead work on trying to find a viable way forward.

One of the biggest hurdles has been the chasm between rich and developing countries--developing nations want aid and strong carbon reduction targets, and rich countries want them to agree to their own reduction targets before they do so.

But some positive news from the biggest developing nations--China, India, and Brazil--have encouraged the proceedings. Each has pledged to reduce carbon emissions on some level, and Obama has put forward an emissions reduction target based on the climate bill that passed the House of Representatives last summer. At 17% below 2005 levels, it's hardly what the international community was looking for--but it's progress nonetheless. Most importantly, hope seems to be in the air--real progress can be made in the coming days.

To get a better grasp of what's going on at COP15, here's some highly recommended reading:

Getting Up to Speed on COP15

If you've only got a few minutes, read COP15 : What's at Stake in Under 5 Minutes.

To get a sense of the urgency behind the proceedings, see COP15 : What It Means If We Fail to Prevent Climate Change

Paul Krugman's column An Affordable Truth is a well-reasoned call to climate action.

This Guardian editorial ran in 56 newspapers in 20 languages around the world, prodding world leaders to act. It's well worth a read.

Climate Progress's Copenhagen 101 is a useful primer and refresher as well.

And here's how you can help: 7 Best Ways to Help the World Fight Climate Change at COP15

Finally, watch live video of the events at the COP15 website. Gear up, it's going to be an eventful couple weeks.

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