by Kennedy Graham
The final day of the World Legislators’ Summit was more focused, as I report in a separate blog. But it was not without its drama, either.
We kept being addressed by remarkable women from high on the podium, which was educative in the extreme for us (mostly) unremarkable men seated below.
Christiana Figueres heads up the UNFCCC secretariat, and is thus the key player on climate change in the world. She comes from Costa Rica which leads the world in so many ways. As a daughter and a sister of presidents, she knows how to play high politics.
This includes deftly batting back curve balls. I ask her from the floor, first off, whether she is concerned that, with due regard to the complexities of global emission mitigation, we have got ourselves into a situation where a binding legal agreement will, at best, come into force three years after the scientific community believes emissions must peak.
She responds by asking for more questions, with a view to answering them all together. More come, enabling her to wrap them all in soft tissues of generality. Our problems, she says, derive from excessive sequential thinking, insufficient creativity, many things. All countries will be affected by climate change. Some countries faced tough choices over Kyoto’s second period. The private sector needs to pitch in, along with MPs. There is no Plan B, because there is no Planet B. We’ll all build together, in a ‘synergistic cycle upwards…’
Same song-sheet as the Brazilian conference chair used yesterday. Perhaps they practise together. No answer to my specific question. Perhaps she forgot it.
Rachel Kyte is the World Bank’s Vice-President for Sustainable Development. She speaks softly, almost serenely, as she effectively freezes your heart. Our problem of twenty years, she says, is missing out on an ‘appropriate level of ambition’. This is dip-speak for screwing up on our Rio ’92 undertakings. The latest UN official text released last night did not ‘go far in this respect’. Dip-speak for: Rio+20 is setting itself up to fail. The principle of common but differentiated responsibility meant something in ’92 but “it is as if the last 20 years have not happened”. We simply have to raise the ambition level, and fast, or “we shall be speaking to a world that, I am afraid, may no longer exist”.
Adaptation is the name of the game again, today. As with Bangladesh, World Bank talk was all about adaptation, virtually nothing on mitigation. The extent to which the human psyche is becoming numb was subliminally conveyed by a British MP, an otherwise highly alert chap. Reporting in on the forestry workshop, he excitedly spoke of the ‘wonderful presentation’ by the expert: “it set the scene of global devastation that has been happening over the last twenty years”.
But the day was captured not by the UN high-flyers but by Brittany Trilford from the Wairarapa. Our 17-year-old compatriot from a Wellington high-school has won a global competition and is thus effectively the world’s youth representative to Rio+20. She is speaking to the UN conference later this week and spoke to us today. Brittany has the gift. Speaking from the same podium, she appealed, cajoled, scolded, and inspired the aging group of legislators arraigned before her to actually do something. It was an impressive moment. “Give me”, she says, “give me a future I can look forward to”.
So we all lined up and signed the Youth Appeal for a Better World.