Taking the Long View

NEW YORK – The coming year will be a narrative of tension – a series of difficult choices between the imperatives of the present and those of tomorrow. How we resolve this tension will be the measure of our vision and our leadership.

As a community of nations, we face three immediate tests in the coming year. The first has just begun. Not the global financial crisis, important as it is. I am speaking, here, about climate change, the one truly existential threat.

We have only 12 short months until a key summit in Copenhagen, where world leaders will gather next December to reach an agreement to curb global warming. We need a deal that will extend, deepen, and strengthen the Kyoto Protocols. We need a new treaty for the twenty-first century that is balanced, inclusive, and comprehensive – one that all nations can embrace.

We took an important step in early December in Poznan, Poland, where climate ministers and experts met to hammer out a work plan toward the future. The negotiations were difficult. They promise to become even more so. Some argued that, amid our current difficulties, we cannot afford to tackle climate change. I say we cannot afford not to. The future of the planet is at stake.