Road to Copenhagen

September 7, 2009 12:00 am

, As you probably know, Denmark will later this year host and Chair the 15th Conference of Parties on Climate Change in Copenhagen (COP 15). It does so with the overarching goal that this particular session of the COP will result in an ambitious global agreement that includes as many countries as possible and which sets ambitious targets for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

The Danish government’s goal is therefore to see a binding global climate agreement adopted by the Parties, which will apply to the period after 2012. The Danish government is therefore putting all its efforts into obtaining an agreement that combines respect for the environment, living standards and long term security of energy supply in the best possible way.

Ladies and Gentlemen – the dawn of the 21st Century has humanity standing at a crossroad. The decisions made by national governments, business leaders and individuals today will determine the extent of global climate change and the capacity of communities and countries to adapt to its impacts. The challenge before the international community is therefore clear—how will we meet global energy needs and development aspirations while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and responding to current and future climatic changes? The integration of climate change considerations into development priorities; creative responses based on solid research; knowledge-sharing; and urgent actions are all required to meet this challenge.

With less than 100 days to go, the process towards Copenhagen is approaching a crisis point. 
Despite the growing political consensus on the scientific imperative to limit global average temperature increases well below 2oC, the latest round of UN climate negotiations in Bonn (10-14 August) made clear that proposed emission reduction targets are inadequate, areas of convergence on finance are elusive, distrust is rising, and time is short. Strong leadership is needed from the world’s major economies to put the process back on track and Denmark is in the frontline to assure this.

Many African leaders have stated that the continent’s future depends on the outcome of the climate negotiations in Copenhagen. They argue that Africa needs a strong climate deal, now. They also call for strong mechanisms to support the continent move towards low-carbon development paths and to strengthen resilience to the unavoidable impacts.

The upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen in December provides all of us with a unique opportunity to address collectively today’s challenges of climate change. A positive outcome in Copenhagen can guide the global economy towards  green and low-carbon development. An ambitious agreement must support the poorest and most vulnerable countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

With this in mind the most recent message about climate change and the preparations for Copenhagen is clear:
•    Firstly, that time is running out and that urgent action to curb CO2-emissions is needed from all parties;
•    secondly, that a climate agreement must provide a solid framework and substantial financing for adaptation to climate change;
•    and thirdly, that failing to act now is a serious security risk for our future generations.

Denmark is pleased to learn of Africa’s move to align her interests and take part in the climate negotiations with a unified African voice to enhance Africa’s stance. This is being discussed with the Africa Union in Ethiopia today. As the host of COP15, Denmark looks forward to working closely with the representatives of the African delegation.  Let African countries be assured that Denmark will be everyone’s COP president. We are keen to continue the open and constructive relationship we have had with Africa as a group thus far. As host of the COP15, know that Africa is always welcome to come to us with your ideas, proposals and concerns.
Indeed for Africa, some priorities are self-evident:
•    A climate agreement must take on board African viewpoints to be efficient. It is therefore crucial that Africa is fully engaged in the process towards and during the COP;
•    Africa has its own legitimate interests in the climate negotiations and this is not always part and parcel of the G-77. It is important that the African voice is heard and listened to. It is imperative African heads of State and Government provide strong political support to the process and with a shared vision on efforts to combat climate change in Africa and Africa’s common negotiating position;
•    Striking the right balance between medium term national mitigation efforts and financing for adaptation and mitigation efforts in developing countries is the key challenge;
•    An efficient framework for adaptation action in Africa is key – but Africa would have a potential interest in also benefitting from mitigation mechanisms set up in a new climate agreement. It is important that technology, forestry and off-set mechanisms also contribute to climate friendly development in African countries without undermining the fight against poverty;
•    It will be important that the agreement that comes out of Copenhagen will create a financial architecture that will include incentives for provision of finance and for effective implementation of adaptation and mitigation efforts in all countries.

At this point distinguished participants allow me to address the three most pressing issues on climate change, which must be dealt with without delay:
The first point is about the need for urgent action. Climate change is a global challenge that requires a global solution. COP15 is our deadline, because the cost of inaction demands action. Global action is in everyone’s interest and a new agreement must have everybody on board.

The agreement must be ambitious, but it must also be fair. It must be sufficiently ambitious to save the world from the consequences of climate change. And it must be sufficiently fair to make room for developing countries to lift their people out of poverty.

It is critical that the developed countries take the lead in curbing CO2-emissions.  But if we are to reach a viable and long-term international agreement in Copenhagen, all countries must take part in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

We should all commit to turning our economies from high carbon to low carbon. A new climate agreement must facilitate the strengthening of technology development and deployment, and identify technology needs to fight climate change. Substantial financing must be mobilized to assist developing countries in the move towards a low carbon development path. It is encouraging to note that in many countries – also developing countries – energy efficiency and environmental issues are increasingly becoming a priority. We need to build on this towards Copenhagen.

The second point relates to the importance of adaptation to climate change. We must acknowledge that climate change is a particular challenge to developing countries. For Africa, the urgency of the matter is even more striking. The poorest countries are often the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change.
Agriculture and use of natural resources, such as water resources, constitute the back bone for the livelihood of the majority of people in most developing countries, and especially in Africa.  With agriculture and water resources being the sectors most affected by climate change the developing countries with their high degree of vulnerability are going to be hit the hardest. And widespread poverty, lack of financial means and weak institutions make it difficult for developing countries to counteract the negative effects of climate change.

A new climate agreement must therefore not only include a substantial adaptation chapter. It must specifically address the special needs of the poorest and most vulnerable developing countries. It must be a handle for those millions of people in the developing countries negatively affected by climate change and with the least capacity to adapt.

Action on adaptation requires substantial new financing. It is important that the need for substantial new climate financing does not side-track our focus on poverty reduction. Redirecting official development assistance to climate financing is not the solution. We must continue our fight against poverty and make sure that the hard-earned progress and results we have achieved in relation to the Millennium Development Goals are not lost as the climate agenda increases in importance.

To exchange ideas and discuss new tools for adaptation, the Danish Government is facilitating a global dialogue on land and water management for adaption to climate change. The aim of the dialogue is to increase resilience towards climate change for the most vulnerable. Integration of scientific and local knowledge on how to cope with floods and droughts in the poorest countries is vital. Policy makers, civil society, international organizations, negotiators, and scientists all have an important role to play in exchanging best practice cases and turning words into action.

My third point relates to security. Climate change is threatening our aim of achieving stability and security, human well-being, global freedom and prosperity. If unaddressed, climate change is a potential threat multiplier exacerbating existing tensions and instability, but may also in itself give rise to new security tensions. Denmark is very engaged in further analysing the consequences and potential policy responses to this challenge. For Africa, understanding the security implications of climate change will be of particular importance. The combination of water shortages and droughts in many parts of this continent will put pressure on land resources and food production and ultimately on people’s livelihood. It is critical that mitigation and adaptation go hand in hand to reduce the risks of conflict. We must ensure that foreign policy, security policy and climate policy is designed and implemented so that we maximize the synergies between these policy areas.

At this point I take the opportunity to thank the Greenbelt Movement for organizing this Climate Change Debate and wish to express my appreciation for having been invited to take part it. Denmark has been a strong supporter of bringing the African group of countries to a position, which clearly marks Africa’s priorities in the negotiations, and we will continue to provide our support, where necessary be it to African governments or civil society organizations.

Let me conclude distinguished ladies and gentlemen by re-stating the importance of building strong partnerships for addressing our environmental challenges. Climate change can no longer be considered a field for scientists, experts and environmental activists alone – it is everybody’s business. No individual, nation or region can afford to stand on the sidelines – we all must commit to a single purpose of mitigating environmental degradation within our means and capabilities.

Denmark looks forward to engaging further with Africa now, up to and beyond COP15 and to welcoming a united African government delegation as well as civil society.

Thank you.


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