Time is up – the deadline is Copenhagen

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

“We have no alternative. We must handle climate change and we must do it right now. Copenhagen is the deadline. Time is up,” writes former Danish Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard, the EU’s commissioner-designate for climate action, in an exclusive op-ed for EURACTIV.

“There are moments in history where the world can choose to go down different paths. The COP-15 Climate Conference in Copenhagen is one of those defining moments: we can choose to go down the road towards green prosperity and a more sustainable future. Or we can choose a pathway to stalemate and do nothing about climate change, leaving an enormous bill for our kids and grand-kids to pay. It really isn’t that hard a choice.

The Danish government’s goal is clear and unambiguous: we are working for an ambitious, global agreement that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and delivers on adaptation, technology and finance. Also, Copenhagen should include a deadline for when to close a legally binding agreement.

Time is of the essence. For each day we wait, the price increases and the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change increase. According to the International Energy Agency, every year lost to inaction will cost us 500 billion dollars. We must make the pressure pay and use the political momentum to make the leaders of the world live up to their responsibility and act swiftly on climate change.

The Copenhagen deadline works. One-by-one, governments from all over the world are delivering before the climate conference next month. Recently, we saw concrete targets from Brazil and South Korea, and Russia improved its bid.

President [Barack] Obama has announced US targets, not only for 2020, but maybe more noticeable for 2025 and 2030. 4% below 1990 might not be what the world has been hoping for, but the US seems to know that the price for coming late is that the pathway for reductions after 2020 will be extra steep with 18% below 1990-levels in 2025 and 32% in 2030.

It is also new and very encouraging that China comes forward internationally. We must analyse more carefully what the new Chinese announcement translates to when it comes to a percentage for deviation from business as usual.

All of this is a clear sign that the deadline of Copenhagen is working and world leaders are feeling the pressure of expectations from citizens, business and the rest of society. Now is the time for these leaders to live up to the pledges to our planet and deliver results in Copenhagen.

Denmark didn’t set the deadline to be this December 2009. With the Bali Action Plan from 2007, the world as a whole decided that COP-15 in Copenhagen is a turning point in the campaign to put the world on a more sustainable path. 192 countries signed up to this mandate and now we must not let that deadline slip out of our hands. Now is the time to act and now is the time to cash in on the political momentum. World leaders have promised the citizens of the planet a solution. Now is the time to live up to that responsibility and come up with an ambitious, truly global climate agreement in Copenhagen.

The content of a deal is basically four challenges that need solutions. The deal should involve binding medium and long-term greenhouse gas reduction goals for developed countries. And it should put the big developing economies on a cleaner and greener path to prosperity. Finally it needs to provide assistance for the vulnerable countries – those who are hit hardest and hit first. The deal must bring new and truly additional finance on the table – some of which needs to fund adaptation in developing countries – and an agreement needs to be reached on how we can work together to disseminate and develop technology and knowledge. These are the four cornerstones in Copenhagen that we must deliver on.

And solve it we must. We have no alternative. We must handle climate change and we must do it right now. Copenhagen is the deadline. Time is up. Let’s get the job done.”

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