Copenhagen must be a turning point


Today we face a global challenge whose solution, for decades until now, has appeared beyond our reach — impossible, unaffordable and unworkable.

But catastrophic climate change is no more a matter of untameable fate than slavery, women’s oppression, mass unemployment or nuclear war. And over the next two weeks we have the chance to come together, as a truly global community, to take the first decisive action needed to change its course.

And today, together with Norway and Australia, the UK is taking a further step to a Copenhagen agreement: publishing a framework for the long-term transfer of resources to meet the mitigation and adaptation needs of developing countries. If we can summon the political will to secure the ambitious agreement we need, Copenhagen is poised to achieve a profound historical transformation: reversing the road we have travelled for 200 years.

Low carbon economy

Over that time we have based our prosperity on burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests. Now we need to create wealth and quality of life, not by putting carbon into the atmosphere but by taking it out. We need to build, in short, a low carbon economy. And not just at home: our aim must be to do this in every major economy of the world.

This will involve change: a shift from the energy dictatorship of oil and traditional fossil fuels to the efficiency, self-reliance and security of low carbon energy systems, which will be the engine of growth and job creation over the coming decade.

Inevitably, as with every great project of social and economic progress in the global and public interest, there will be vested interests who seek to oppose it. And so I will take on with evidence, argument and moral passion all the anti-science and anti-change environmental Luddites who seek to stand in the way of progress. While we have made huge progress over recent weeks, there is still movement required.

First, all countries need to reach for high level ambition in their commitments to reduce their emissions and their emissions growth. Many countries have put forward offers that are dependent on the ambition of others. So in Copenhagen we need to ensure that all countries move to the top of the range of their ambition.

Second, we need a financing agreement that enables developing countries to tackle climate change. Money is needed for both adaptation to climate change and for its mitigation.

That is why at the Commonwealth meeting last weekend I proposed, and the Commonwealth agreed, a Copenhagen Launch Fund to provide financial assistance to developing countries. I am delighted that US President Obama is not only going to Copenhagen to help conclude the deal, but leading the way on this.

At Copenhagen we also need to address the need for financing in the longer term, to support adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. But that means developing countries must to be able to plan their investments with confidence. So we need to consider a system of ‘payment for results’, in which low carbon and sustainable forest mitigation plans are financed over the long-term for the emissions reductions they achieve.

Third, we need to design a ‘transparency mechanism’ by which all countries can see clearly what is happening, not only in their own countries but in others. In a great global project of mutual ambition, we all need to be confident in one another. Sometimes history comes to turning points. For all our sakes, the turning point of 2009 must be real.

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