Sunday, 6 December 2009

Newspapers unite in the face of COP15

By David Michael Barnwell

In an effort to join forces ahead of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, 56 newspapers from 45 countries tomorrow publish a common editorial, encouraging politicians not to waste what is called an unique opportunity. 

The joint editorial, named 'Fourteen days to seal history's judgement on this generation', will be brought simultaneously in all 56 newspapers tomorrow on December 7th, 2009 in more than 20 languages, including Chinese, Arabic, French, Italian and Russian.

The editorial is the first of its kind and was originally drafted by a Guardian team after more than a month's consultations with editors from more than 20 of the papers involved. Unlike regular editorials, tomorrow's call for a united voice on the COP15 will be printed on many of the papers' front pages.

"Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone."

- from 'Fourteen days to seal history's judgement on this generation'
Among the involved papers are several major media players from all over the world, such as La Repubblica, Le Monde, de Volkskrant, El País and the Argentinian Clarín.  According to the Guardian, the process of drafting a common editorial on this highly political matter caused some initial problems but after overcoming these early hurdles, the project quickly gained pace, and the result will be read by tomorrow millions of readers worldwide:

"Given that newspapers are inherently rivalrous, proud and disputatious, viewing the world through very different national and political prisms, the prospect of getting a sizeable cross-section of them to sign up to a single text on such a momentous and divisive issue seemed like a long shot. But an early, enthusiastic, conversation with the editor of one of India's biggest dailies offered encouragement. Then in Beijing in September, I met a senior editor from an influential business weekly, the Economic Observer" writes Ian Katz, deputy editor of The Guardian.

"Notwithstanding the shifting boundaries of press freedom in China, he was sure his paper would participate (and another major Chinese daily would subsequently, too). If we could reach a common position with papers from the two developing world giants most commonly identified as obstacles to a global deal, then surely we could crack the rest."

According to Katz, the joint editorial is an indicator of how diversity doesn't need to stand in the way of agreement:

"If the editorial lacks the detail that will have to be cracked over the next 14 days in Copenhagen, it should be a source of encouragement that such a diverse coalition was able to agree about so much - not least the precariousness of our situation, and the need for Copenhagen to deliver a full treaty by summer 2010 at the latest."

The United Nations Climate Change Conference will kick off on December 7th and finish on the 18th in Copenhagen, Denmark. Among the participants from a total of 192 countries will be a broad range of the world's political leaders, including Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, US President Barack Obama and Russia's President Dmitiri Medvedev.


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