As leaders from every nation of the world come together in Cancun today to chart a path toward a healthier, more sustainable future, we should pause to recognize the gravity of decisions that will be made here in the meeting’s final hours. These decisions, however visionary or short-sighted, will have profound impacts on life on Earth for generations to come.
Climate change is an epic challenge that will affect every nation on Earth if temperatures continue to rise, natural resources continue to dwindle, and humanity is forced to adapt to degrading homelands. Science tells us this. Economics tells us this. And species that are disappearing from the planet after millennia of adaptation, tell us this.
The 194 parties and country representatives who have gathered here from every corner of Earth have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove themselves as leaders who are willing to confront epic challenges, and chart new pathways toward solutions. It is on this day that we will either commit to move beyond political haggling to take bold decisions and actions commensurate with the daunting climate challenge or fail to fulfill our responsibilities as leaders, parents and stewards of our planet. This is not a political debate. This is the most important decision our leaders will ever make. This is the day that they will demonstrate their worthiness to lead us; the day that will mark an historic moment of success or failure in humanity’s integrity and resolve to address the global climate crisis. We have put our trust, our very lives and the well-being of our families, our children and our grandchildren in their hands. Our leaders must prove that they are up to the task. If we don’t reverse climate trends this decade, we will all lose.
At Conservation International, we have long described ourselves as having our feet in the mud, and our heads in the sky. We are committed to practical solutions and visionary leadership. Today will have its muddy moments as delegates struggle to reach difficult compromises for the benefit of all humanity, but they must keep their heads in the sky, and their eyes on the future, if we are to solve the enormous challenges that climate change poses to the all life on our precious Earth.
A REDD+ decision is within reach. But we need more than REDD+ here in Cancun. Agreements on robust commitments to mitigating emissions, mobilizing urgent responses to adapt to global change and secure the well-being of human and natural communities are possible. With sound decision-making for our collective well-being in these final hours, we can immediately transition from dialogue to action to reduce emissions, adapt to changing climate conditions, protect humanity and conserve biodiversity. We need a commitment from all countries to take action, and a plan for how countries will finalize a comprehensive climate agreement next year. Wherever the stage, Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, we cannot afford to keep kicking the can down the road.
This is a moment when the boldness of our actions will be the measure of our integrity as leaders and stewards of our collective future. Success and security for all life on Earth is within our reach. Let us not fail to rise to this challenge — let us act, united to resolve this global challenge.
Dr. Fred Boltz is CI’s senior vice president of Global Initiatives.