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An introduction

The United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 (Conference of the Parties – COP 15) will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark from December 7-18, 2009. This will be the event where world leaders and thousands of others come together to form a new international agreement on climate change.

COP15’s goal is to enter into a binding global climate accord that will apply to the timeframe after 2012. The ambition is for the agreement to include as many countries as possible, and that the agreement must contribute to a reduction in man-made greenhouse gases (GHG) that have a negative effect on the climate. The agreement will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which is due to expire in 2012.

It cannot be overstated that this is a critical point for the planet. The agreement that is forged in Copenhagen must set the world on a path to a truly sustainable, low-carbon future by committing to GHG reductions that will prevent atmospheric disruption and keep global temperatures from rising on average no more than 2 degrees Celsius.

Climate science states that global GHG emissions need to peak and start to decline before 2020. The Copenhagen deal will cover, at a minimum, the years from 2013 to 2017, the vital period in which global emissions must plateau and then start falling. No deal or a weak deal in Copenhagen could lock in drastic impacts on the climate and, subsequently, on human health and security, and the world’s economy.

The three main areas in which a progressive agreement must be reached are: 

  • A science-based limit on global warming.
  • Adequate mid- and long-term GHG reduction target ranges for industrialized countries’ emissions. 
  • Financial support for climate action and adaptation in developing countries.

The current Harper government has a deplorable record on climate change. Canada is often listed among the world’s worst countries for taking action on climate change. But the Harper government does not speak for all Canadians. CUPE members and other progressive citizens of Canada must take part in pushing our government to work to reach a strong and equitable agreement in Copenhagen.