14 days to change the world

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14 days to change the world

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next five to 10 years.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress toward one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of U.S. obstructionism.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree to the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June’s UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: “We can go into extra time but we can’t afford a replay.”

At the deal’s heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided - and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tons of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Social justice demands that the industrialized world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance - and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

The shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: Last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation. Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”

We implore the politicians in Copenhagen to make the right choice.

[The above text is an abbreviated version of the editorial published on Dec. 7 by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages.]
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