Time is up: The deadline is now

There are moments in history when the world can choose between different paths. The COP15 Climate Conference in Copenhagen is one of those defining moments: We can choose to go down the road toward 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 children and grandchildren 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 conclude a legally binding agreement. Time is of the essence. Each day we wait, the price increases and the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change multiply. According to the International Energy Agency, each year lost to inaction will cost us 500 billion dollars. We must make the pressure pay and use the political momentum to press the leaders of the world to assume 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, while Russia improved its bid. President Obama has announced US targets, not only for 2020, but perhaps more significantly for 2025 and 2030. Four percent below 1990 levels might not be what the world has been hoping for, but the US seems to know that the price for arriving late is that the pathway for reductions after 2020 will be extra steep with 18 percent below 1990 levels in 2025 and 32 percent in 2030. It is also new and very encouraging that China is stepping up internationally. We must analyze more carefully what the new Chinese announcement translates into when it comes to the actual degree of the deviation from business as usual. All of this is a clear sign that the Copenhagen deadline 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 of December 2009. With the 2007 Bali Action Plan, the world as a whole decided that COP15 in Copenhagen is a turning point in the campaign to put the world on a more sustainable path. A total of 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 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 any deal basically involves four challenges that need solutions. The deal should incorporate 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 the problem 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. (1) Connie Hedegaard is minister for the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009.

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