EWEA's opinion: As Copenhagen conference approaches, the real negotiations begin

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In future years, people around the world may well look back to last week’s frantic and multi-layered political discussions in New York and Pittsburgh as the moment when world leaders peered into the terrifying abyss of global warming and decided to become part of the solution, not the problem.

With only about 80 days left until the start of the crucially important United Nations conference on climate change in Copenhagen, more than 100 prime ministers and presidents began their week in New York, where UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned delegates attending a day-long summit that the world drastically needs a new, strengthened post-Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gas emissions.

“Failure to reach broad agreement in Copenhagen would be morally inexcusable, economically short-sighted and politically unwise,” Ban said. “Now is the moment to act in common cause . . . There is little time left. The opportunity and responsibility to avoid catastrophic climate change is in your hands.”

As if underscoring the urgency, China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, acknowledged for the first time it would support the climate change fight by establishing a carbon intensity target in addition to making massive investments in clean energy.

“At stake in the fight against climate change are the common interests of the entire world,” Chinese President Hu Jintao was reported as saying. “Out of a sense of responsibility to its own people and people across the world, China fully appreciates the importance and urgency of addressing climate change.”

While Hu’s comments did not include hard targets to curb emissions, they hinted at a possible sea change in the seemingly stalled talks leading up to Copenhagen over who would pay for climate change mitigation efforts and what responsibilities emerging economies should assume with regard to global warming.

In addition, the comments followed a signal that India, like China a country with a huge population and a growing middle class wanting more access to energy, appeared to soften its hostile stance towards demands from wealthy, industrialised nations that the developing world also needs to do its bit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Several days later, as the G20 major economies meeting was being convened in Pittsburgh, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso also raised the thorny issue of money for climate change mitigation and emissions targets.

“Europe will be pushing hard for significant progress in the fight against climate change,” Barroso said. “If we do not win that fight, economic progress will ultimately count for nothing.

Barroso added that all nations have to share in the fight against global warming.

“Europe’s message to the developing world is that if you are serious about the challenge of cutting emissions, we will be there to help. Not with a blank cheque, but with a fair proposal.

“Our message to the developed world is that we need to make a credible financial commitment to the developing world together with our mitigation commitments. The equation is straightforward: no money, no deal. But no actions, no money!”

As a result of last week’s tumultuous high-stake developments, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) is cautiously optimistic that international negotiators will now be freshly motivated to reach a new treaty in Copenhagen that replaces the existing Kyoto agreement when it is phased out in 2012.

That’s because EWEA believes solutions to solving the climate change crisis already exist. One of those solutions is wind power. A proven and mature sector, wind energy in Europe is providing increasing amounts of local, clean, affordable and sustainable electricity without causing our burdened atmosphere any further damage associated with burning fossil fuels.

In addition, wind power in Europe provides security of energy supply to a region that has little oil and gas and relies on expensive imported fuels. Lastly, wind power creates thousands of well-paying jobs that help spur needed research while allowing Europe to remain a global leader in renewable energies.

Wind power, then, is one answer to global warming. Other renewables can also play a role, as can improved energy efficiencies. But realising an energy revolution requires international leaders to set aside their national differences and cooperatively embrace the beginnings of a healthier post-carbon world. Copenhagen awaits.

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