56 newspapers across the world share one common editorial on Copenhagen
a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.
have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak:
11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is
melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future
havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to
blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the
world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.
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. This should not be a
fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate
change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.
to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to
peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C â€” the
smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction â€” would parch continents,
turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold
millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy
over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient
data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these
predictions are based.
progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the
White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world
finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot
fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.
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.”
world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided â€” and
how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon
that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.
until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so
far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the
atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must
now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will
reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990
and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will
increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable
action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent
commitments to emissions targets by the world’s biggest polluters, the United
States and China, were important steps in the right direction.
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 architecture
of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring,
fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of “exported
emissions” so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between
those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness
requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take
into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much
poorer than “old Europe”, must not suffer more than their richer partners.
out global finance â€” and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.
The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing
to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have
to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.
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.
and innovation to match anything in our history. But 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.
vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels
of our nature”.
this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives,
can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.
generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we
saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right
20 languages including Chinese, Arabic and Russian. The text was drafted by a
Guardian team during more than a month of consultations with editors from more
than 20 of the papers involved. Like
on their front page.