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Let Copenhagen's story of hope continue
By Zhu Qiwen (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-19 07:19

With only one round of talks left before the global leaders meet in Copenhagen this December, efforts to craft a new international agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions are unfortunately making more headlines than actual headway nowadays.

If the world is to save itself from the undesirable consequences of global warming, all countries must work together now to reach a climate accord out of hope, not out of hard but usually short-sighted political calculation.

Though obstacles on the road to Copenhagen climate accord are never so obvious as nations just wrapped up two difficult weeks of UN climate talks in Bangkok early this month, the strongest message I got during a recent visit to Copenhagen is that we mankind must combat climate change, and we can do it.

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Themed "From Kyoto to Copenhagen", the Global Editor's Forum I attended was an endeavor to rally media support and thus public support for the all-important new climate accord. Some 200 reporters and editors from more than 100 countries had gathered in the capital of Denmark, to examine and exchange their ideas about the challenges and opportunities to be found in all aspects of the climate change issues.

On the one hand, like in the real world, opinion is divided among the participants about the exact cause and effect of global warming. In spite of the scary scenarios scientists, economists and decision-makers on the panel described, a spot survey found that quite a number of these media people were still not convinced of the severity of the global warming. If that is the case, it is not strange that there are still so many climate change skeptics around the world.

However, the need for action still prevails for a simple but significant reason that there is no plan B for Copenhagen because we do not have Planet B. No matter what evidence you may find against the necessity of taking immediate and drastic action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the danger of inaction far exceeds that of over-reaction in the face of the indisputable long-term trend of global warming.

On the other hand, unlike in the real world, journalists displayed more common faith in mankind's ability to fight climate change.

To see is to believe. A pre-conference tour had taken us to a commercialized low-carbon Danish community that boasts higher energy efficiency and much reduced emissions than typical buildings. The overall building cost may look prohibitively high to journalists from developing countries, but promotion of such houses in Denmark does persuade us that there is a credible path toward a low-carbon economy for rich economies if they try to find it.

This concrete evidence contrasts sharply with the United States' reluctance to take action based on miscalculation about the cost-benefit of carbon emissions reduction.

A key reason why the US has so far shirked its obligations in combating climate change is domestic worry about the cost that may be imposed on its economy. Yet the problem is that either such calculation is hijacked by industries of vested interests or it fails to analyze cost and benefit from a developmental point of view. The additional cost for some specific industries is often exaggerated compared with the overall benefit of a low-carbon economy for the country. And, the fight against climate change is a story of development for both poor and rich countries. Any economy that refuses to adapt to the low-carbon future will only be futureless. In this sense, as one speaker at the forum put it, those who fail to fulfill their emission cutting targets will only be punished by themselves.

By choosing Copenhagen to be the city that will witness the climax to two years of international negotiations over a new global climate treaty, mankind has signaled its willingness to transcend domestic interests to act as one in saving their own planet. Don't let down the Little Mermaid that sits on a rock in the Copenhagen harbor. Some years later, when our children and children's children are told the fairy tale of the Little Mermaid, they should be proud that mankind has lived up to their high hope in Copenhagen this December.