A New Climate for Copenhagen
It’s hard to miss the fact that the world is likely to see a new treaty on climate change emerge from the fifteenth conference of parties of the Climate Convention in Copenhagen this December. Considering the negotiations have been underway for some time now, hopes are high that the treaty will be strong enough to have a real impact. Several factors now seem to be in play.
Less money, more problems
The global economic crisis puts the rhetoric about climate and sustainable development to the test. Do our politicians dare to decide on measures with harsh, short term economic consequences, but that are necessary on the long term? Are we prepared ourselves for the consequences of these decisions? How will business manage to stick to codes of Corporate Social Responsibility and environmental strategies as the need for profitability gets more urgent? Finally, are we really prepared to include the most vulnerable people in the measures needed to meet the effects of climate change? If we are, how will we do that?
A successful treaty most somehow overcome the serious crisis of trust between rich and poor nations. Too often, commitments and promises about resource allocation have remained only words on paper. The Monterrey meeting with the 0.7-goal is just one example. Both rich and poor countries must work at closing the confidence gap between them for the treaty to engage all stakeholders. In some case, the elite in developing countries will need to reconsider their privileges and contribute resources of their own.
Efforts for the climate
During the year, a range of global meetings will happen outside the climate change agenda. These can be important checkpoints for preparing messages for work in Copenhagen. The first of these meetings is the World Water Forum in Istanbul in March, whose organisers are hoping for a political declaration firmly putting water issues on the climate negotiation agenda. CSD-17 in New York in May has agriculture as its main theme and is a perfect stepping stone for increasing awareness that efficient water use in the entire chain field to fork – not least in the consumption of virtual water- is a crucial adaptation measure in water poor regions. In August, our own World Water Week takes place with Sweden as the new chair of the EU and when the run-up to Copenhagen has begun for real.
Apart from technique and research, something more is needed: the political will to see and move beyond national and economic interests. Everyone needs to agree on the ethical grounding for what we want to achieve and why. This will require everyone to contribute based on their own strength and areas of influence.
Even caught in a time of global economic unrest and difficult conflicts, many of us greeted Barack Obama’s presidential accession with great joy. Not that we have illusions about everything changing suddenly, or that the USA has a more “European” president. The most important breaking point between old and new in Washington is that the most powerful leader in the world is now someone who clearly sees real global leadership as something founded on equal rights, dialogue and common humanity. Obama summed it up in his inauguration speech when he declared that his nation has “chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord”.
change...yes we can?
Whether the Copenhagen meeting will succeed or not depends on if we want to see new possibilities in this challenge - and if we choose to let the economic crisis pave the way to new strategies and ways of thinking – or if we choose to return to an outdated view of growth and safety, and thereby step into a dead-end. The civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. said in one of his famous speeches about equality between people of different colour that worse than the evil deeds of the wicked people, is the appalling silence of the good people. This year and coming years, the driving force of all people with good will is needed. The year 2009 has started in hope – and in despair.
Now it is time to role up the sleeves and make sure that the rhetoric about sustainable development is translated into brave decisions that make a real impact on real lives.
by Karin Lexén, Director, Swedish Water House