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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

SEA Change: On Copenhagen

Published: November 20, 2009
Section: Opinions

In light of the upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen, where the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Control will create a plan to prevent global warming and climate change, it is imperative that the United States works to create a plan that can reduce worldwide carbon emissions in terms that are internationally aware.

As a global superpower we have a responsibility to the global community to do as much as we can to save our planet.

It is quite a relief to read that the U.S. and China have been meeting and discussing ways to approach our problem in a comprehensive way. China needs to be respected for its position as a budding economic powerhouse, but it also must be reproached for its history of environmental un-awareness. There is no denying that China has repeatedly ignored environmental issues en lieu of economic growth such as foregoing clean alternatives and building unprecedented amounts of coal factories.

But then again, the U.S. does not exactly have a clean rap either. We are the second largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world, second only to–you guessed it–China. As countries responsible for releasing gigantic amounts of atmospheric carbon, China and the U.S. need to realize there is no way to reduce global CO2 emissions without serious reduction of their own release. How can we ask the world to consider green alternatives when we are leading the way to planetary destruction? We need to lead by example.

So far in the talks, the countries have considered three main targets: clean vehicles, energy efficient buildings and technology for capturing emissions from coal-burning power plants. The countries have reflected on vehicles that would run on electricity and various other fuels. Energy efficient buildings may not seem like an intuitive aspect to approach, but China and other developing countries are constructing new cities at an exceptional pace. It is vital that these cities are built to have the lowest environmental impact possible. The last idea, the technology for capturing emissions from coal-burning power plants, is arguably the most relevant. The technology in question would include coal power-plants that are already built. The world has a fleet of coal plants and we need to find ways to capture the carbon emissions from those plants or risk pushing our planet to the brink.

The main plan includes a budget of 150 million dollars to be split amongst the two countries. Headquarters for a clean energy research center would be built in China and the U.S. and top researchers from each country would be recruited to help consider “green” alternatives. Top U.S. administrators mention that clean energy has become a top priority for Chinese leaders. This is evident by their supposed commitment to greening our environment.

In the wake of the Kyoto climate talks we as informed citizens and students in a position to change our world need to ensure that this is not empty rhetoric. Kyoto was passed back in 1997 and considered a huge feat for environmentalists around the world. Unfortunately, we will not reach our goals as stated in the previous climate talks; in fact the U.S. will have raised its carbon emissions by 20% since 1992. China will have raised emissions by an astonishing 150%.

Copenhagen will be a wonderful opportunity for the world’s most powerful nations to lead the way in saving our planet. China and the U.S. should be encouraged to engage each other with regards to our environmental future. The mistakes of the past need to be addressed, and who better to approach them then the two largest contributors, who are also two of the most powerful nations.