The U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is only a few weeks away and climate change negotiators are working day and night to identify the common ground for an agreement.
I see three key issues in the negotiations:
1. Setting of targets by developed countries for greenhouse gas emission reduction.
2. Commitment by developing countries to actions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Financing of adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.
These are very difficult issues, but let me state the obvious: We cannot compromise on our ambitions to limit man made global warming to a maximum of two degrees centigrade, and thus have a good chance to adapt to the consequent impacts.
Science is very clear on this point: If we continue to increase the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, we are bound to pass a number of critical tipping points that may lead to dire consequences. And it is also clear that we can halt or change the trend. It is doable and indeed profitable compared to the cost of inaction, the cost of doing nothing.
My aspiration for Copenhagen is simple: We must conclude a binding agreement that will set the world on the path to limit global warming to a maximum of two degrees.
I know that many ask whether this is possible. And whether we are on track to reaching global consensus on such an agreement? My answer is clear. Yes, it is possible. The transition of the world economy into a low carbon development path is already under way. And political determination and investment is developing momentum at unprecedented scale.
Are we on track for an ambitious agreement? Well, here the answer is less clear. Negotiations have been ongoing for almost two years and progress has been painfully slow. Clearly, at current speed, we will not make it in the remaining weeks. On the other hand: One should not underestimate the progress made: Over the span of these two years, virtually all countries with major emissions have adopted ambitious climate legislation. And others are mounting new plans and political momentum to get them approved. Within the negotiations good progress has been made on a number of subjects, such as adaptation, technology and forests.
The world is changing and part of our task in Copenhagen is to capture this wave of change and turn it into an even stronger global commitment to meet the challenge of global warming. There is a general understanding that it will be very difficult to agree on a new fully-fledged treaty or a protocol in Copenhagen. What we must do now is to engage fully and create maximum momentum, so a politically binding agreement is reached in Copenhagen - clearly setting out what the Parties can and will do to combat climate change.
So I can only repeat what my Prime Minister of Denmark said some weeks ago: Let’s do it! And let’s do it in Copenhagen!
The author is the Danish Ambassador to the United States.