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Apocalypse not now

india Updated: Nov 18, 2009 01:34 IST
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Global warming: Countdown to Copenhagen

In a few weeks, the world meets in Copenhagen at the most important climate change conference in history. The task is not simple however clear. We need a global climate agreement that is ambitious and equitable and that sets firm targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Ambitious, because we need to ensure that the temperature on our planet does not reach dangerous levels, which would result in catastrophic climate change and endanger future generations. Equitable, because any agreement must enable developing countries to grow and lift their populations out of poverty.

Some people say that in these times of financial crisis, the world cannot afford to address the issue of climate change. I would beg to differ. The world cannot afford not to address the issue and it could be a way out of the crisis. Denmark’s green corporate world sets a good example. The latest figures from 2008 show that Danish export of energy technology rose by 19 per cent. This is approximately four times the corresponding number for ordinary export. This shows that it pays for the corporate world to go green — both now and in the future.

It goes without saying that developing countries have a right to develop their economies. But in 2050, we will be nine billion people on planet Earth and eight billion of these will live in what we today refer to as developing countries. They must, of course, have access to the same resources as in the developed countries. But we are forced to find a better way to make use of our resources. We cannot continue polluting our planet and overusing fossil fuels the way we do today. That is simply not viable, scientists tell us. And in the same breath they tell us that now is the time to act; because if we don’t do something today, it will become increasingly expensive to carry out the necessary measures in the future. In short: the cost of delaying action against climate change will only keep rising the longer we wait. Business as usual is not an option. The only growth we can afford is green growth.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not only something that has to do with our climate and saving future generations. It is evident that it also has to do with energy security and foreign policy. Depending on foreign oil and gas is simply not a solution for the 21st century. Not in the developed world, not in the developing world. We need to find an answer that will spur the development of cleaner energy to rid ourselves of our dependency on foreign energy resources.

India has shown willingness to lead and to be part of the solution. Ambitious national targets on solar energy and energy efficiency have already been announced. India also successfully organised a conference on climate change technologies last month in New Delhi that provided important input to the international negotiations and paved the way for an agreement on technology in Copenhagen.

It is no secret that there are marked differences between developed and developing countries. But it is time to move from controversy to compromise. In the last march towards reaching an agreement in Copenhagen, we all have to appreciate the stride of others; we all must give and take; and we all have to come to Copenhagen with flexible mandates so that we can seal the deal the world needs.

Not every aspect of the challenge of climate change will be overcome once and for all in Copenhagen. But if everything works out, the conference could go down in history as the moment where the leaders of the world united and took a significant step towards stopping dangerous and destructive climatic changes enabling growth and prosperity for all. What we, in effect, have is a golden, green opportunity, which we shouldn’t allow to turn to dust.

Connie Hedegaard is the Minister for Climate and Energy, Denmark

The views expressed by the author are personal
In a few weeks, the world meets in Copenhagen at the most important climate change conference in history. The task is not simple however clear. We need a global climate agreement that is ambitious and equitable and that sets firm targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Ambitious, because we need to ensure that the temperature on our planet does not reach dangerous levels, which would result in catastrophic climate change and endanger future generations. Equitable, because any agreement must enable developing countries to grow and lift their populations out of poverty.

Some people say that in these times of financial crisis, the world cannot afford to address the issue of climate change. I would beg to differ. The world cannot afford not to address the issue and it could be a way out of the crisis. Denmark’s green corporate world sets a good example. The latest figures from 2008 show that Danish export of energy technology rose by 19 per cent. This is approximately four times the corresponding number for ordinary export. This shows that it pays for the corporate world to go green — both now and in the future.

It goes without saying that developing countries have a right to develop their economies. But in 2050, we will be nine billion people on planet Earth and eight billion of these will live in what we today refer to as developing countries. They must, of course, have access to the same resources as in the developed countries. But we are forced to find a better way to make use of our resources. We cannot continue polluting our planet and overusing fossil fuels the way we do today. That is simply not viable, scientists tell us. And in the same breath they tell us that now is the time to act; because if we don’t do something today, it will become increasingly expensive to carry out the necessary measures in the future. In short: the cost of delaying action against climate change will only keep rising the longer we wait. Business as usual is not an option. The only growth we can afford is green growth.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not only something that has to do with our climate and saving future generations. It is evident that it also has to do with energy security and foreign policy. Depending on foreign oil and gas is simply not a solution for the 21st century. Not in the developed world, not in the developing world. We need to find an answer that will spur the development of cleaner energy to rid ourselves of our dependency on foreign energy resources.

India has shown willingness to lead and to be part of the solution. Ambitious national targets on solar energy and energy efficiency have already been announced. India also successfully organised a conference on climate change technologies last month in New Delhi that provided important input to the international negotiations and paved the way for an agreement on technology in Copenhagen.

It is no secret that there are marked differences between developed and developing countries. But it is time to move from controversy to compromise. In the last march towards reaching an agreement in Copenhagen, we all have to appreciate the stride of others; we all must give and take; and we all have to come to Copenhagen with flexible mandates so that we can seal the deal the world needs.

Not every aspect of the challenge of climate change will be overcome once and for all in Copenhagen. But if everything works out, the conference could go down in history as the moment where the leaders of the world united and took a significant step towards stopping dangerous and destructive climatic changes enabling growth and prosperity for all. What we, in effect, have is a golden, green opportunity, which we shouldn’t allow to turn to dust.

Connie Hedegaard is the Minister for Climate and Energy, Denmark

The views expressed by the author are personal.