Saturday, March 03, 2012

"A Critical Mass of Leaders Wanting to Think Different"

Today I attended a public seminar called "The Climate for Development: Where Next on Climate Change?", at the World Bank in Tokyo. The speaker, Dr. Andrew Steer, special envoy for Climate Change for the World Bank Group, did a wonderful job presenting a realistic and updated diagnosis about this global conflict, as well as new windows of opportunity to move forward.

I found it remarkable that, according to a recent global poll, much more people are concerned with climate change in developing countries than in developed countries. It ranges from 48% concern in the United States and 68% in European countries, to 80% in Latin America, 90% in Africa and the Middle East, 93% in Southeast Asia and up to 99% in small island countries.

This statistics made me wonder if richer people think climate change will in fact affect poorer people first or more, when the truth is that we cannot ascertain that as a fact. Furthermore, it is my belief that the lifestyles of the rich and famous will be affected more dramatically than the lifestyles of the less privileged societies in the world. I mean, those of us living beyond our global footprint per capita will be forced -by nature, by law or by ethics- to reduce our consumption of material possessions drastically.

Dr. Steer raises an interesting question: why is the World Bank concerned about climate change if the main purpose of the institution is poverty reduction? He makes the case that climate change will make us all poorer, not richer. Therefore, it represents a great global threat to poverty alleviation.

When he shows the figures of the money required for climate change needs (US$120 billion for adaptation + US$220 billion for mitigation annually = US$340 billion), I do not find it a very a big figure, considering that, by 2010, the world was spending US$1.6 trillion in military armament. This means that the money we as a civilisation are spending on guns and weapons exceeds by 5 times the amount needed to transform climate change effectively according to experts. So there is hope if we think about addressing the issue by shifting expenses in armament to expenses in forests, water treatment plants, soil fertility, sustainable agriculture, renewable energies, capacity building in ecosystems and biodiversity conservation, etc. Then we could say we are preparing to fight the global battle that we really need to fight together, and not us versus them.

I reminded Dr. Steer that I have been appointed as Ambassador to Japan to develop a green growth strategy between Costa Rica and Japan. I also reminded him that, while the global diplomatic community is working on a legally binding deal to curb carbon emissions worldwide, Costa Rica launched in 2007 an initiative to achieve carbon neutrality by 2021. It is not a public policy. There is no law behind it. It is simply the result of bold, ethical leadership by former president Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and the embrace of the challenge by the organized civil society including private corporations, academic institutions, not-for-profit entities, and of course, the government. This scenario reminds me of Emile Durkheim, the famous French sociologist, who said: "When values are sufficient, laws are unnecessary; when values are insufficient, laws are unenforceable."

A country like Costa Rica, that abolished its military army in 1948 (yes, 64 years ago), who is a world leader in environmental conservation and sustainability, is poised to lead the world in the endeavour of swapping guns for trees. We need to reduce our militaries and at the same time increase our forests. We need to prioritize and focus on the real battle human civilization needs to fight.

As Dr. Steer reminded us at the end of his seminar, "what it takes is a critical mass of leaders that want to do things different."

I hope you too are one of us.

1 comment:

Mart7724 said...