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Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives in Copenhagen to attend the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference. Per Daugaard/Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Copenhagen Day Eleven

Nowhere else to go

By David MacDonald

The debates these past two weeks have been intense. The amazing thing is that almost no one has said, “We don’t need to deal with this.” That’s the kind of answer you get when there is a plan B. But there is no plan B. The undisputed fact here is that we must deal with climate change, and the sooner the better.

Expressions such as, “Moving back from the brink” have been bandied about without anyone challenging them. Yes, there are some throughout the world who would rather not deal with climate change or say it is not a problem. But apart from those who are defending vested interests and the status quo, not many are taking that view seriously. I can’t think of one head of government here who has said climate change is not a problem.

More and more key players and heads of state have arrived. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put forward her country’s best offer. As one of my American colleagues observed, “Hillary the Hammer has arrived, now we’ll see some action!” Overcrowded facilities and accommodations here have not distracted folks from attempting to find common ground and a viable solution.

So it seems the ability of people to deal with climate change is the issue, not climate change itself. And that is because there are such deep divisions and disagreements between rich and poor countries. For many, confronting climate change really means confronting hunger, poverty and homelessness.

Until recently, environment ministers have been the ones doing the negotiating. By now it must now be dawning on people that the negotiations should really be among ministers of finance. Any meaningful climate change agreement will have to address the global development gap. That means money.

It’s difficult. Fear of climate change will not cure climate change. We in wealthier countries will need to fire up our imaginations and create much more positive ways of living and working. This is especially true in cold climates such as ours.

Limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius or less is the critical challenge; allowing the planet to heat up any more than that would be catastrophic. We are on the brink of imagining what a 2-degree limit might look like. For the young and the young at heart it may well be the most important and exciting task of our time.

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