Climate Week NYC Event Reflects on Prospects for Durban, Rio+20
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Speakers at an event titled "Economics, Environment, Security: It's All About Positive Energy" offered their views on the upcoming UNFCCC COP 17 and UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20).

The Vice President of the Maldives, one of the hosts of the event, proposed making a compelling case for renewables on energy security and economic grounds.

22 September 2011: Speakers at an event held during Climate Week NYC titled “Economics, Environment, Security: It’s All About Positive Energy,” which was hosted by the Government of the Maldives, the “TckTckTck” Campaign and the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS), discussed the prospects for the Durban Climate Change Conference and a possible outcome from Rio+20. The event took place on 22 September 2011, in New York, US.

Mohamed Waheed, Vice President of the Maldives, urged the highest levels of government to send clear policy signals, supported retraining and developing new expertise among engineers and other technical workers responsible for implementing an energy system, and proposed making a compelling case for renewables on energy security and economic grounds.

Henry Bellingham, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, highlighted the threat of climate change to global security and economy. Regarding UNFCCC COP 17 in Durban, South Africa, he said the question was whether a legally-binding approach was achievable, or whether participants would have to settle for a voluntary agreement. He said the UK favors an ambitious outcome and noted its legally-binding domestic targets to halve carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 2025. Noting that world leaders are distracted by the current economic crisis, he said he was not optimistic that a binding agreement will be achieved in Durban, but said “we must not give up.”

Brice Lalonde, Executive Coordinator, UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), reflected on the idea of adopting sustainable development goals at UNCSD that could converge with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He noted recent suggestions that goals could focus on universal access to energy, improving energy efficiency and doubling the share of renewables in global energy mix by 2030.

Peter Boyd, Chief Operating Officer, Carbon War Room, proposed focusing on: the “gigaton scale” and reducing the amount of carbon required to generate a unit of wealth; making profits from climate change solutions, on which he estimated that half of the proposed solutions to climate change are profitable right now based on current technologies; and how to play a catalytic role in helping the private sector find solutions, on which he highlighted the shipping industry’s recent efforts to reduce fuel wastage and emissions.

Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International, reflected on why climate activism is difficult. He suggested that the way activists speak about the science is exclusionary, and noted that terminology like “LULUCF” in the climate negotiations turns off non-specialists. He also suggested that activists are fighting the most well-funded, well-organized lobbyists ever encountered. He proposed engaging better with young people, recognizing trade unions’ role in forging a red-green alliance, and urging religious leaders to stand up for humanity’s role as global stewards. He said change happens not when we talk to political leaders or attend UN meetings, but “when decent men and women stand up and say enough is enough.” Stressing that “the struggle for climate justice is no popularity contest,” he supported peaceful civil disobedience. [IISD RS Sources]

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