Copenhagen Must Put the Planet on a Path to a Decarbonized Economy


(E) Continuing the path to an ever-expanding carbonized economy is taking the risk that global society will not flourish anymore.  We all know that. The world’s current ecological developments are unsustainable. If we continue living and working in the developed countries as usual, and if we start working and living in the developing countries as the developed countries do, we are taking a significant risk of future humanitarian, social and economic crises. Mankind present disruption of the Earth’s climate and depletion of the Earth’s resources are causing the rapid destruction of life-vital ecosystems. And those two trends can only become worse with a growing human population and access to higher standards of living in the developing world. We can only use the Earth’s lands, water, biodiversity and energy in a sustainable way. Further disruption of the Earth’s climate and further depletion of the Earth’s resources will at least limit, if not endanger economic prosperity for ALL on the planet.

Every nation has not contributed in the same way to the present concentration of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But climate change is borderless. Every population, society, and nation is affected in various and subtle ways. Change to the climate by one nation will affect itself as well as all other nations. Climate change is breaking a century of diplomatic games. Cultural, economic, and military competitiveness are no-sense in the context of climate change. Actions to block the consequences of climate changes must be shared globally with the same determinism and anxiety across world nations. Climate change is the business of every nation. And of EVERYONE!

If you are seating comfortably in front of your computer in your house in Silicon Valley, the chance are pretty high that you belong to the 95% of the world population that has not been affected yet severely by climate change. But if you have lived in New Orleans during Katerina and intend to stay there for the next hurricane, if you are a fisherman in Patagonia who cannot find any fish in the warmer Antarctic waters, or if you are a family struggling to find everyday food in Sudan, incoming changes to the climate have already changed your life forever. But let be realistic, the decisions of the world leaders in Copenhagen will soon impact 100% of the world population. So let’s hope that they will make the right decisions:

I) The world needs to cut its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions sooner rather than later and sharply rather than lower to avoid a potential increase in average temperatures from 1820 below 2 0C or 3.6 0F considered as the tipping point beyond which climate change becomes uncontrollable. That goal translates on a different scale, that the world’s governments must succeed to cut worldwide CO2  emissions in half, from the 1990 levels, by 2050 with specific targets mostly for 2010, 2015 and 2020 and not for 2030 and 2040 when it will likely be too late!

II) Nations should be accountable to ensure their emissions targets. This is to avoid the failure of the Kyoto protocol where most of the 38 industrial nations (the EC, Japan, and Canada) which committed to reducing their emission targets of 5% in 2012 might not honor their commitments. Lack of reduction of emissions shall result in the payment of a national carbon tax to a Global Climate Change Fund (GCCF). Examples of carbon taxes (32 Euros per ton of CO2) have already been successfully implemented in Sweden, Denmark, UK and lately France on a national level.

III) Deforestation, which is responsible for around 20% of the concentration of CO2 into the atmosphere, should be stopped in particular in Brazil and the Amazon, Indonesia, New Guinea, and Congo. Appropriate programs and funding should be investigated and implemented to help those countries to fight deforestation by breaking up the demand for the lands and the wood and providing alternative economic developments that are not linked to deforestation.

IV) Together the United-States and China emit 40% of the world’s greenhouses. China is now the first worldwide emitter with 6 billion of tons or 4.58 ton per habitat and the United-States the second emitter with 5.9 billion of tons or 19.78 ton per habitant. As the two economic leading powers of the world, both the United-States and China shall lead the world to a decarbonized economy. Both the United-States and China are the world’s heavy coal-using economies (others are India, Russia, and Australia). 50% of the electric power is generated by coal in the US and although China is clearly leading in renewable energies, it is still building a coal power plant every ten days (coal is primary, by its molecule structure, carbon and so generates more COthan oil or gas do).

V) In order to realistically achieve emission targets, nations shall investigate, co-operate and implement bottom-up policies and practical measures to ensure decarbonized economies first by maximizing energy savings and second through the development and financing of large-scale sustainable cleaner technologies for power generation, industry production, transportation (both for aircrafts and cars and trucks) and heating buildings.

VI) The rich countries (the most CO2 emitting countries) should help the poor ones  (the least CO2 emitting countries) in particular in the South Hemisphere, in Africa and in tropical regions that are the most vulnerable to desertification and water stress to quickly introduce new programs to adapt to climate change. Funding to that end shall come from the Global Climate Change Fund (GCCF).

VII) The path to a decarbonized world can only be built with global cooperation between countries. The world needs to put the research and development efforts and the financing for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), technologies that will provide environmental sustainability, in parallel to operational policies and tactical measures for climate-change mitigation and adaptation.

“After the final no there comes a yes
And on that yes the future world depends.”

So wrote the poet Wallace Stevens and “so goes our generation’s challenge to turn the world from its unsustainable course” wrote Jeffrey Sachs in the Power of One, the last chapter of his book Common Wealth.

 The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
 Jeffrey Sachs, Director Earth Institute Columbia University, “It’s too late to seal a global climate deal. But we need action, not Kyoto II”, The Guardian, September 29th, 2009 
 Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, “We Can Do It”,  The New York Times, October 25th, 2009

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Categories: Sustainability