Lessons from Durban: How To Create a Successful UN Climate Summit
Part 2: Putting an End to Climate Change's Niche Status
In addition to environment ministers, economics, foreign and defense ministers should also attend these summits in the future. That would at once spell an end to climate change's status as a niche environmental issue. Future summits should focus on the roots of the problem. How can the global economic system and economic policies be changed in order to foster environmentally friendly growth? An agreement to eliminate the $410 billion in subsidies for fossil fuels would be central to that. It will only be after fair and modern competitive conditions have been set that the "Green Economy" and CO2 reductions can become economically successful. At that point, the current postponement of alleged burdens would transform into a race for business opportunities.
A Human Energy Project
Positive, tangible and constructive projects are also needed instead of abstract emissions reductions targets. For example, a Human Energy Project could be organized under the auspices of the United Nations that would bring together researchers from around the world in the same way the Human Genome Project did. They could join forces in research into renewable energy sources and efficiency technologies and also place the patents for such procedures in the public domain so that they could be used by everyone. Another project could be a concrete plan for filling the world with environment schools in which much of the education would be completed in nature itself or in school gardens. That would be more effective than 90 percent of the text found in the summit's closing statement.
Most important would be for future climate summits to be transformed into forums for public and mutual learning rather than just the site of brutal haggling. Instead of the usual attacks against each other, each country should also present its own contribution to finding a solution. This would enable the Japanese prime minister, for example, to explain how his people are able to live well without giant, overly heated homes. Or it would provide India with the opportunity to share the fact that hundreds of millions of its people are vegetarians. The US president could also present the very promising findings of American energy research. Meanwhile, an African government leader could report on what he plans to do in order to supply his country with renewable energies. Finally, the Chinese prime minister could present his blueprint for a sustainable "Chinese Way of Life". Instead of CO2 technocracy, these summits should focus on developing a joint and attractive scenario for life in the 21st century.
That wouldn't just be pseudo harmoniousness, either. It would foster a positive negotiating atmosphere and also enable climate policies to be conducted not just in a way that passively averts danger, but also as a means through which the future can be shaped.
When the strategists at the UN now begin considering future climate summits, they should design events that don't just drive the partcipants away in the end. The summits so far have lacked rituals that reflect how valuable and important these meetings of humanity actually are. At the beginning and at the end of the "Conference of the Parties," a colorful and lively celebration should be held in the future, a "Party of the Conference," where countries offer the best food their culture and nature has to offer and where the best musicians from around the globe perform. If the ministers and negotiators would want to stay on at the end of the summit in order to celebrate together, it would serve as a sure sign of a better path than the one taken at Durban.
- Part 1: How To Create a Successful UN Climate Summit
- Part 2: Putting an End to Climate Change's Niche Status
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