It's (Still) Doable

11/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Look at the leaders of our time. That these are tough times can be read in the lines of their faces, in their stern looks. The responsibility weighs heavy when the economy is in crisis and people are laid off in huge numbers. Nobody bears the responsibility heavier than political leaders.

But govern we must. Day after day, efforts are made to find a way out of the crisis. The light burns late into the night in government offices around the world.

So ... couldn't that "climate thing" wait for better times?

No, sorry. That's not an option. The world has already waited so long that the issue needs urgent attention. And the deadline set by all nations of the world is the COP15-summit in Copenhagen this December.

As the consequences of climate change become more visible, more and more people have come to realize that the longer we hesitate, the more expensive the problem becomes. The longer we postpone action, the bigger the bill we pass on to our sons and daughters and grandchildren.

And, at the same time, we understand that the sooner we deal with the challenge of climate change, the smaller the risk of chaos and catastrophe: droughts, hurricanes, sea level rise and huge numbers of climate refugees. As such, climate policy is also security policy. The more we reduce our use of coal, oil, and gas, the more we increase energy independence, the less we risk fights over energy and resources. Again, that's security policy.

The faster a country and its businesses find new, innovative technologies, the stronger they stand economically. The cleaner the energy sources upon which we build our growth, the greater the reduction in air and noise pollution it creates. Sustainable energy and energy efficient solutions give cleaner air, cleaner water, and cleaner environments for our children to grow up in. Thus, dealing with climate change is not an anti-growth agenda. On the contrary, it is the only growth we can afford in the 21st century.

Simply put, those who deal with the climate challenges first and best will have the best starting point for political and economic strength in the 21st century.

So, no, "that climate thing" can't wait. It must be solved right now. And the deadline isn't just set by the Danish government, which is hosting December's UN climate summit. No, the world's countries committed to that two years ago in Bali. Even if the global economy is in bad shape, it doesn't mean that the other challenges have become smaller. In fact, regarding the climate, the problem is growing. But solving the problems with our climate is not in opposition to fixing the economy. Actually, we have two challenges that should be met with one answer:

I believe that getting an agreement in Copenhagen will be vital in order to pull ourselves out of the financial slump that has hit the world. In these times of financial crisis, Denmark's green corporate world sets a good example. The latest figures from 2008 show that Danish export of energy technology rose by 19 percent. This is approximately four times the corresponding number for ordinary export. This shows that it pays for the corporate world to go green -- both now and in the future.

In 2050, there will be nine billion people on our planet. And of those, eight billion will be living in what we now call developing countries. If they are all to have access to the same resources and economic growth, we are forced to find a better way to make use of our resources. We cannot continue polluting our planet and overusing fossil fuels the way we do today. That is simply not viable, scientists tell us.

The people of the world expect their leaders will take responsibility to come up with an ambitious, truly global climate agreement. The deal should involve binding medium and long-term greenhouse gas reduction goals for developed countries. And it should put the big developing economies on a cleaner and greener path to prosperity. Finally it needs to provide assistance for the vulnerable countries -- those who are hit hardest and hit first. The deal should bring new and truly additional finance on the table -- some of which needs to fund adaptation in developing countries -- and an agreement needs to be reached on how we can work together to share technology and knowledge.

The world's leaders should give out a clear signal: now is the time for leadership -- and real leaders are ready to take responsibility. The cost of not delivering in Copenhagen is high, ethically, economically, and politically. We must do it. We must bring the world on the track to a sustainable future. If we have the will it is doable.