04 November 2009

German Chancellor Begs Congress on Climate Challenges

German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel gave what may someday be remembered as one of the great speeches of our time before a joint session of Congress yesterday. Here is the relevant part:

Ladies and gentlemen,

The fact that global challenges can only be met by comprehensive international cooperation is also shown by a third great challenge of the 21st century, by a wall, so to speak, separating the present from the future. That wall prevents us from seeing the needs of future generations, it prevents us from taking the measures urgently needed to protect the very basis of our life and climate.

We can already see where this wasteful attitude towards our future leads: In the Arctic ice­bergs are melting, in Africa people are becoming refugees due to environmental damage, and global sea levels are rising. I am pleased that you in your work together with President Obama attach such significance to protecting our climate. For we all know: We have no time to lose! We need an agreement at the climate conference in Copenhagen in December. We have to agree on one objective – global warming must not exceed two degrees Celsius.

To achieve this we need the readiness of all nations to assume internationally binding obli­gations. We cannot afford failure with regard to achieving the climate protection objectives scientists tell us are crucial. That would not only be irresponsible from an ecological point of view, but would also be technologically short-sighted, for the development of new tech­nologies in the energy sector offers major opportunities for growth and jobs in the future.

No doubt about it – in December the world will look to us, to Europe and America. It is true that there can be no agreement without China and India accepting obligations, but I am convinced that if we in Europe and America show that we are ready to accept binding obligations, we will also be able to persuade China and India to join in. And then, in Copen­hagen, we will be able to tear down the wall between the present and the future – in the interests of our children and grandchildren and of sustainable development worldwide.

Most American new media didn't even cover the speech, which had unfortunate timing. Though close to the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, this first Tuesday in November generated a lot of election news, which pushed the Bundeskanzlerin's remarks far off the front page.

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