Danish Ambassador Brings Climate Change Debate to Grounds

October 21, 2009

October 21, 2009 — Denmark's Ambassador to the United States Friis Arne Petersen brought his call for the United States Senate to pass a climate change bill to the University of Virginia on Tuesday.

In his opening remarks, Petersen said he did not come to U.Va. to argue the controversial question of whether global warming is occurring. "The proof of climate change is not one that I will spend a lot of time on." Instead, he told the audience of a bill before the Senate that, if passed, he said, could galvanize India and China, the world's biggest polluters, to agree to caps on carbon emissions.

The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, submitted by U.S. Senators John Kerry, D-Mass. and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., seeks to reduce carbon pollution by using cleaner technologies, Petersen said. He spoke to students, staff and faculty in the auditorium of the Mary and David Harrison Institute for American History, Literature and Culture in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

Denmark has a vested interest in gaining agreement on caps on carbon emissions because it is hosting the U.N. Conference on Climate Change Dec. 7 in Copenhagen. 'We need to have the U.S. do something in the next weeks, actually, that is so compelling and so credible that China and India will believe you when you come to Copenhagen.'

China and India signed a five-year bilateral climate change agreement today ahead of the U.N. conference, agreeing to hold regular ministerial meetings.

The Danish government, which has radically reduced its dependence on nonrenewable energy since the oil embargo that resulted from the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, is seeking a package of global agreements from attendees to the conference. These include limiting the rise in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, a binding overall political framework for future efforts against climate change and reduction targets by developed countries.

Petersen's talk was the second in U.Va.'s Ambassadors Speaker's Forum, which kicked off in September with Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani. Vice Provost for International Programs Gowhar Rizvi is hosting the forum as part of his effort to bring the international community to Grounds. India's Ambassador to the U.S, Meera Shankar, will speak here in November. The date of the talk is still being determined.

— By Jane Kelly