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GC Today - 18 February 2009

Coverage of the Day's Proceedings:

Ministerial Consultations

Speakers: Mr. Robert Watson, International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development; Minister Eng Khalid Al-Irani, Jordan; Ms Lamed Mendoza Lambiz, National Environment Authority, Panama; Minister Batilda Burian, Tanzania; Minister Eric Solheim, Norway; Minister Hilary Benn, UK; Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, France; Mr. Jos Delbeke, European Union; Yvo De Boer, UNFCCC; and Kathy Sierra, World Bank (moderator).

Mr Watson gave a very detailed and compelling presentation and ‘set the scene’ for the discussions centred on the theme: ‘Emerging Policy Issues: Global Crises: national chaos? – coping with multiple challenges and capturing opportunities’.

“Moving to a low carbon economy in this time of multiple crises throws up challenges and opportunities,” Dr Watson said. “Food production needs to increase but in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way, we also need to conserve our environmental assets – forests, water. The planet is definitely warming and such temperature rises threaten security,” he said.

Mr Watson posed the question: “How can we meet these challenges?” and the suggestions were wide ranging: put a price on carbon; use present technological solutions efficiently and be innovative with new ones; we need behavioral change; use clean energy, i.e. gas instead of coal and invest in renewables; capture and store carbon; use nuclear where it is already politically acceptable, and care for forests and reforest.

“In addition, a legally binding climate treaty that is equitable needs to be put in place, voluntary measures are not enough,” he told the forum. “Inaction will be costly. Good governance is critical. Adapting to climate change has limited value, so we must also mitigate. The world needs an International Panel on Biodiversity Services.

“Environmental protection and economic growth go together, if we get the economics right and have the political will,” Mr Watson said.

The discussion was ably moderated by Ms. Sierra of the World Bank and the panelists brought great insights to the debate from their rich experience and country perspectives. The presentations from the floor were equally insightful. Many countries spoke of their national efforts to put in place sound policies, institutions and incentives. Others spoke of a lack of finance, of poor governance or a simple dearth of know-how and capacity.

Poland gave a snapshot of the past 20 years on how that country has pulled itself up from being a highly polluted nation to a much cleaner one and one that has seen its industrial production and GDP climb substantially. In brief, CO2 emissions have reduced by 30%, sulphur dioxide by 65%, and particulate matter by 80%. Rivers, which were heavily polluted are now only 10% polluted. This change came about not just through more funds or through joining the European Union but because of political change, enacting ecological/environment laws and establishing an Inspectorate but through charging ecological taxes and setting up Ecological Funds throughout the country.

In summing up, Ms Sierra spoke of concern, urgency, hope and leadership for what was a multifaceted challenge that was seen differently by peoples all over the planet. The crises – food, fuel, energy, climate and financial – had thrown up opportunities, not least for new policies and strong leadership, she said.

“The private sector, public-private partnerships and governments have to work together. Much was being done at the national level and even bilaterally but more needed to be done if we were to build capacity in developing countries and if we were to win the battle against poverty. We must remember the MDGs, the role of women and local communities.

“The sheer scale of the action needed to tackle the crisis is what is so pressing. Communities need to be supported in a bottom-up approach and leaders must learn to trust the people. Within countries the various ministries need to work together not in isolation,” Ms Sierra said.

However, as repeatedly mentioned by Minister Solheim of Norway – “The time to act is now when the world’s leaders are ready to listen, when the world’s people are aware and concerned about climate change and countries have, through various ‘economic stimulus packages’, decided to invest in the environment and in tackling clean energy, resource efficiency and ecosystem conservation.

“The international community must match national enthusiasm, unlock the financial puzzle and invest in a low carbon economy,” Minister Solheim said.

 
 
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