Copenhagen climate summit expectations

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The COP15 takes place at the Bella Center, Copenhagen (Image: © www.mysona.dk (cc: by-sa))

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Story by Marco Werman, PRI's "The World"

As if the world really needed it, there's another report out this week on the consequences of delaying significant action on climate change. This time the warning comes from the International Energy Agency, which tracks energy trends for industrialized countries. The report says without a dramatic change of course, the use of fossil fuels will soar, and along with it CO2 pollution, global temperatures and the risk of conflict over energy supplies.

The report comes as negotiators are preparing for a global summit on climate change in Copenhagen, which is supposed to produce a new treaty to address the rising threats from global climate change. Prospects for a new treaty have not been looking good recently.

Connie Hedegaard, Denmark's Minister for Climate and Energy says the world must stick to its commitment to forge a strong agreement in December. Hedegaard will be chairing the climate conference

"All of us back in 2007 in Bali said let's make Copenhagen December ‘09 the common deadline, and I think we should deliver on that," said Connie Hedegaard. "The consequences if we don’t start acting, will be even more severe, and the economic cost will be even bigger. And I think people out there expect it from us, now the pressure's there, we should try to use the window of opportunity and get the things done."

Hedgegaard sees two main obstacles to getting a satisfactory agreement, and they involve what developed countries will need to deliver: The first is substantial CO2 reductions; the second is the substantial funding that these countries must provide to finance new technologies and adaptation challenges, among other things.

She says it's critical the US take the leadership role in addressing climate change, and adds that US businesses will lose out if it doesn't.

"The whole world acknowledged that there is a real challenge with your senate. But, I believe that the biggest loser, if we don’t get a binding framework on this, will actually be American business. Because China will be doing this no matter what.

"This year, China will be the world’s largest installer of wind capacity, they will be the world’s largest installer of solid capacity. They are also going to be the world’s largest exporter of energy efficient technologies. So, I would fear that it would be American business that will suffer the most, if the United States hesitate. Whereas if the United States really address and embrace this agenda, it will also tremendously benefit your energy supplier, energy security."

Denmark has gone from zero to 19 percent of all its energies coming from renewables in the 30 years that it has taken on climate change, according to Hedgegaard. She says thousands of jobs have been created in the process.
 
Hedgegaard believes that often what gets results when it comes to international agreements, is when a lot of pressure is placed on those who don't cooperate.

"That you make the political price for not delivering so high, that nobody can afford to pay that price. And for that, we need NGOs, civil societies, citizens and business to help us make the pressure as high as possible, if we really want to, it is still doable to make an ambitious deal in Copenhagen."

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston.

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