CONNIE HEDEGAARD, COPENHAGEN CONFERENCE PRESIDENT AND NEW EU CLIMATE COMMISSIONER

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28 november 2009

[4C note: As Danish Minister of Environment, Connie Hedegaard has been honored by the UNFCCC and the Danish hosts of the Copenhagen meeting with the position of Conference President. Since Manuel Barroso has also appointed her to the newly created position of Climate Change Commissioner in the incoming team of European commissioners, her remarks on Copenhagen, which were recorded in an interview last October, are reproduced here. She is highly rated by environmentalists.]

Failure in Copenhagen is not an option

If the world fails to deliver a political agreement at the UN climate conference in December, it will be “the whole global democratic system not being able to deliver results in one of the defining challenges of our century”, says incoming COP15 president, Connie Hedegaard.

Will there be a global climate deal at the UN climate conference COP15 in Copenhagen in December? With the clock ticking and a host of major political issues yet to be solved, some people have voiced their doubt.

One hand that is not shaking, however, is the one belonging to Connie Hedegaard, Danish Minister for Climate and Energy. As incoming COP15 president, she faces the daunting task of swinging the baton in front of delegates from all over the globe, thereby making them play the same tune and hopefully, after a concerted effort, end with an accord.

And while thousands of negotiators are still struggling to narrow the score down to something playable, Hedegaard is adamant that Copenhagen will “seal the deal”.

“If the whole world comes to Copenhagen and leaves without making the needed political agreement, then I think it’s a failure that is not just about climate. Then it’s the whole global democratic system not being able to deliver results in one of the defining challenges of our century. And that is and should not be a possibility. It’s not an option,” Connie Hedegaard tells cop15.dk in an interview.

She calls Copenhagen a “window of opportunity” which should not be missed, arguing that it may take years to rebuild the momentum.

“If we don’t deliver in Copenhagen, then I cannot see when again you can build up a similar pressure on all the governments of this world to deliver. So I think we should be very, very cautious not to miss the opportunity,” says Hedegaard, adding that “it would be irresponsible not to use the momentum now”.

Connie Hedegaard is basing her optimism on the fact that nations, after months of political stalemate, began to come forward in September and show their positions. Japan, China, India and Indonesia are some of these “key players” who, according to Hedegaard, have brought new momentum to the climate negotiation process.

“In that sense,” she says, “Copenhagen has already delivered results. If we hadn’t had that deadline, these governments would not have come forward with their targets. They are doing so because they know the deadline is coming closer, and they must start to deliver.”

To effectively break the deadlock, however, two more requirements must be fulfilled. Politicians, including heads of state, need to become more actively involved. And developed countries need to come forward with specifics on finance.

“They cannot just continue to talk about finance. They must show – prove – to the developing world, we know that we are going to pay, or there will be no agreement. And the sooner the developed countries deliver on finance, the better.”

Hedegaard admits that the technicalities of the negotiation process are extremely complex, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for not striking a political, binding deal.

“We know what we ought to do on mitigation, on reductions, on adaptation, on technology and on finance. Well, yes, it’s difficult. But my bet is, it’s not going to get any easier by postponing decisions.”

In order to reach an agreement in December, “as little as possible” should remain to be solved when negotiators arrive in Copenhagen. The high-level section of COP15 is only three days, four at the most. Therefore the negotiation text must be rid of “square brackets” – at this point there are still 2,500 remaining – and the political options must be made very clear before the politicians arrive on the stage, says Connie Hedegaard.

Her personal success criteria for Copenhagen?

“I think what matters is that we, when we depart from Copenhagen, with credibility can say we brought the world on the right track, on a track that makes it credible that we can stay below the two degrees average increase in temperature worldwide. That is basically the success criteria we must try to deliver on.”

During the actual conference, Connie Hedegaard sees her own role as that of one who will be trying to mediate, find solutions and look for possible compromises. And provide a push or a nudge where it’s needed.

“It’s not so that the COP president, the host country, can just tell China or the United States or India what they are going to do. They will decide for themselves. But of course we will argue as strong as we can, push as strong as we can and try to seek solutions as much as we can.”

All through the year, Connie Hedegaard has been working to grease the climate wheels by participating in bilateral talks and informal meetings, thereby making herself acquainted with the positions of as many players worldwide as possible. Her own Greenland Dialogue is one of several series of climate discussions running parallel to the main UN track.

It’s a round-the-clock job and the fervent dedication Hedegaard demonstrates as a minister and one of the world’s chief climate whips carries into her personal life as well.

“You can’t separate that. When you have a job like this, it’s a hundred percent. If you didn’t think that this is really, really important, then you couldn’t work as much, and I also think that your family wouldn’t let you work as much. I’m not only talking on my own behalf, but on behalf of the whole team behind me. People are doing this because they think it’s the most important issue in the world.”

José Manuel Barroso, re-elected President of the European Commission, has announced that he would appoint a climate commissioner under his new presidency. Connie Hedegaard, a 49-year-old conservative politician, mother of two and former journalist, has been mentioned as a possible candidate. Would she be interested, once COP15 is wrapped up?

“I’m really not thinking about what is going to happen after this. A lot of things will still have to be done, and Denmark will actually be president of the COP throughout 2010. These weeks and months are not suited for concentrating on anything else but how to land a deal in Copenhagen.”


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