Sharan Burrow: Diary from Copenhagen 16.12.09

Cold, chaotic but critical is how I would describe Tuesday at the climate talks in Copenhagen.

As the leaders' summit opens,  positioning characterised by anxiety, caution and pockets of distrust pose serious challenges for the them to overcome. Yet it was always going to be the case that any agreement would depend on the political leaders to reach a deal.

It is worth listening to Al Gore’s presentation which contains several key messages.

He reminds us of our responsibility to future generations and the consensus by the overwhelming majority of scientists that the threat to our planet is increasing rapidly.

Political will, which Gore describes as a renewable resource, needs to be strengthened by the leaders coupled with mutual understanding across the developing, emerging and developed economies if we are to see a satisfactory agreement that will deliver a binding treaty within months.

And the message to the NGO community that while we need to drive ambition that meets the imperatives of the science we must also make a start – walk before we can run!

Under the banner of the Southern Cross Climate Coalition, John Connor of The Climate Institute, Don Henry of the Australian Conservation Foundation and I held a press conference this afternoon to recognise the role that Kevin Rudd has played in the lead up to these discussions and can play in breaking the deadlock
here today.

We identified three areas central to both a breakthrough and a satisfactory agreement:

1. To bring developed and developing nations together, Australia should support an extension to the Kyoto Protocol with our target set at a 25% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020.

2. To complement Kyoto and ensure that an agreement is binding, Australia should advocate a six month deadline to finalise a legally binding global treaty that includes fair commitments from the US, China and other major polluters.

3. Climate financing in the order of $US160 billion per year by 2020 including  a carbon price on emissions  from international shipping and aviation. This fund would drive new industries and development as developing countries address adaptation and mitigation challenges.

All nations need to do more to secure these negotiations.

Tuesday was a low point in these negotiations but today, Wednesday, we hope will be more optimistic. More than 300 union representatives are here to lobby their governments and work with the NGO community to promote an ambitious agreement, a deal on climate finance for development that sees wealthy nations commit to a fair share and  a process to achieve a binding treaty.

In particular we want an agreement to include a recognition of the critical commitment to a just transition where working people involved in necessary restructuring are assured of decent work.

More from Sharan Burrow's Diary from Copenhagen
17.12.09