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Positive Thoughts on Copenhagen

by Roger Harmer on 23 December, 2009

Its hard to get away from the view that the outcome of the Copenhagen summit was pretty depressing. Global leaders have failed to deliver a binding agreement. Instead we have a non binding pact or ‘Accord’ that most delegates merely ‘noted’. As the BBC’s environment correspondent, Richard Black said, this is unlikely to keep global temperature rises to less than the 2C rise that UN scientists say is the limit we can allow to avert serious climate change. Given that the science is accepted by the world’s leaders, their failure to respond to the challenge in a serious way, is little less than a crime against future generations of humanity – and not that far in the future either.

As I’ve said before, the crazy thing about it is that most of what we need to do to tackle climate change, are things that we will have to do shortly anyway, to respond to the rapidly decling level of global resources. Oil is the most important example, as much of our economy is designed around cheap oil and that is now pretty well history. Oil is currently trading at $70+ a barrel even though the world’s economy is staggering out of a traumatic recession. After the last global financial crisis at the end of the 1990s it was trading below $10 a barrel. The markets are telling us something about oil reserves, just as the dwindling arctic summer ice cap is telling us about global warming. So lets just get on with it.

The positive side of Copenhagen was away from the global leaders. Apart from the main summit were a number of satellite events. This included a series of events for local government leaders. A former work colleague of mine, Richard Sharland, who now has a senior role at Manchester City Council attended these and wrote as follows about them:

“For three days, the mayors and leaders of a hundred major world cities discussed the challenges of climate change, their ideas, plans, projects and responses and their shared focus on action and delivery. At no point did anyone question the need for urgent action or question their own individual – and shared – responsibility and there was a quite remarkable lack of competing, showboating or criticism.

This looked and felt like a team! They listened to each other’s plans, they openly encouraged plagiarism and replication, they fostered support for each other in a way that was uncontrived, open and positive. They discussed technical fixes, finance and resources, education and engaging citizens: they discussed mitigation and adaptation, economic opportunity and necessity: and they recognised they need to be leaders of substantial cultural change.

It was great to be there and be part of it. I wanted to share this and, in a small way, for it to be known: please feel free to share this note with friends and colleagues, particularly if they are feeling down at the news from COP15… people need to know that some leaders out there are focussed on making change happen, a good reminder that is the best place to put your head and your heart: just do it!!”

Councillor Paul Tilsley, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, also attended and came back buzzing with new ideas to take forward here. This may be how it has to be. If the national leaders can’t sort it out, the rest of the world, but especially the leaders of the world’s major cities and businesses just have to get on with tackling the problem. Now. 

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  1. […] something to cheers us up.  Forwarded to me by Dave Sharman, this quote comes from the blog of  Roger Harmer. “For three days, the mayors and leaders of a hundred major cities discussed the challenges […]

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