Denmark’s hope: a politically binding accord in all key areas

The negotiations have been through ups and downs over the last couple of years, as is always the case in such international negotiations. But much has changed since the enactment of the Kyoto protocol. The science has improved and evidence of climate change is unequivocal. Our improved understanding will lead to a much more comprehensive and effective effort. And last but not least, developing countries are taking increasing responsibility and are ready to contribute significantly.


In the last month, we have seen unprecedented positive momentum in the negotiations as all key emitters have put forward proposals about how they will contribute to curbing global warming. China announced it will improve its carbon intensity by 40-45 percent by 2020 compared to 2005-levels. Russia increased its bid from 10-15 percent to 20-25 percent. Brazil decided to reduce emissions by 36-39 percent compared to previous plans, and Korea similarly decided to reduce its emissions by 30 percent. India has declared it will increase its carbon intensity by 20-25 percent between 2005 and 2020.

Two weeks ago, the White House announced that the U.S. is prepared to put provisional contributions on the table in line with the energy and climate bill passed by the House of Representatives in June. Last year, the EU adopted legislation to reduce emissions by 20-30 percent in 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

 The Danish government’s ambition for a Copenhagen Agreement is to leverage the current momentum to produce a politically binding agreement that covers all key areas in the negotiations with a view to setting a path to limiting global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius, as recommended by science.

 The Copenhagen deal must include specific commitments of developed countries to emissions reductions and of developing countries to actions. We also need to find solutions to long-term financing, adaptation and technology. Finally, the agreement must also provide for immediate action from 2010 to 2012 by financing support up front for early adaptation and mitigation efforts, as well as capacity building and technology cooperation.

 We cannot settle on a partial agreement in Copenhagen, where we agree on some issues and postpone others until later, because many of the key issues are intertwined. An agreement will also have to be specific and include numbers for reductions and financing. The goal is to provide the political breakthroughs that will pave the way for a legally binding document in 2010.

 The current momentum shows that there is a global understanding that we must act. Changing the course toward a clean energy economy requires political courage and vision. Denmark’s experience certainly shows that reducing emissions does not come at the expense of economic growth — quite the contrary. While our economy has grown more than 80 percent since 1980, our energy consumption has not increased. We have reduced emissions by 15 percent since 1990, yet our unemployment rate is only around 4 percent. Our investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency have created thousands of green jobs. Energy technology is our fastest growing export and many Danish companies, including Vestas, Novozymes, Danisco, Velux, Grundfos and Danfoss, are now investing and creating local jobs in the U.S.

 Not only are there positive benefits to acting, as the Danish example shows, but according to the International Energy Agency every year lost to inaction will cost us $500 billion. If we do nothing about climate change we will leave an enormous bill for our kids and grandkids to pay.

 There will probably be ups and down during the next two weeks of negotiations. Such is the nature of negotiations. But we believe it is doable. There is a unique window of opportunity right now. The stars are aligning and we must seize the moment. More than 100 heads of state and government will be coming to Copenhagen on Dec. 17-18 for the conclusion of the negotiations. This global level of engagement is unparalleled and it shows that the political will is present. Let’s finish the job and seal the deal in Copenhagen.

Petersen is ambassador of Denmark to the United States.