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From Copenhagen to Paris: Climate Change and the Limits of Rationality, Multilateralism, and Leadership

Essays and Interviews
Penny Wong

"My most poignant memory of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009 is of a crowded and airless room.1 I sat behind Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in a room filled with world leaders. Opposite us was U.S. President Barack Obama, flanked by Secretary Hillary Clinton. To my right was President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, with Dilma Rousseff behind him, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Also spread around the room were British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, Chinese negotiator He Yafei, South African President Jacob Zuma, and Mexican President Felipe Calderón. Next to me sat the Bangladeshi delegation, whose Prime Minister made an impassioned plea for action in the late hours of that night. 

I thought to myself, this room could do anything. "

Senator Penny Wong is Leader of the Opposition in the Australian Senate and the Australian Labor Party’s Shadow Minister for Trade and Investment. She served as Australia’s first Minister for Climate Change and Water between 2007 and 2010, and Minister for Finance and Deregulation between 2010 and 2013.