Navigating the Copenhagen Sustainability Vacuum

The man who founded the climate change talks reflects on the fatigue that could cripple upcoming discussions among world leaders in Cancun.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: What were the positives and negatives that came of out the talks in Copenhagen? 

Erik Rasmussen: It’s hard to tell about the positive elements. If one could talk about the positive part, it really is clear that the politicians by themselves will not be able to sort that complex problem. We have to create much stronger alliances and that us and politicians have to take a much stronger role. For example, businesses, they have to be much more upfront, clearly demonstrating the benefits of climate action, and through that, place much stronger pressure on politicians to act fast and firm. So it was the message from Copenhagen that we have to approach climate change problems much wider, much more stakeholders, much more committed in the process and not just being a side event. The negative part is, of course, that right now, we are without a global treaty on how to regulate the climate change issues. This is really a bad situation because we then face a climate fatigue. A lot of people say it can’t be done and now we have a discussion of climate change issue, so it has raised a lot of negative questions, which really is a barrier for acting as fast as possible and necessary, so I think that the negative part comes from more than the positive. Right now, we have this vacuum, we have a stand-still situation and we can’t afford that, so therefore, we have to move ahead. One of the drivers in this process has to be business, because they have a self-interest, they have the power, they have the resources to take up that challenge.

Question: Is there any hope of making the upcoming talks in Mexico more worthwhile? 

Erik Rasmussen: I’m not very optimistic about Mexico. It’s too close to Copenhagen, and the fatigue, the political fatigue, and the climate fatigue following Mexico. So I don’t think we should have too high of expectations. One of the problems with Copenhagen was that the expectations were too high, and therefore, it failed, too. So I think we have to lower the expectations to Mexico and try to find out how we can orchestrate a new process for what will be a much more integrated partnership between the different stakeholders. 

Question: What are ways that we can begin preparing for that? 

Erik Rasmussen: I think that when we have really learned the lessons from Copenhagen and why it failed, then I think we should prepare a new road and Mexico will just be one step, but we have to engage four worlds. The four worlds that have to be united are science, business, politics and the general public. So far, we have been speaking four different languages. Nobody understood each language, and therefore, we were in four different worlds. Unless we are able to develop a shared language being understood and spoken, or these four worlds will never succeed. And now it is the time to unite these worlds and I feel that business should take a lead. The leading business leader frontrunners should take a lead to orchestrate that process and play the ultimate pressure on politicians to take part in that.

Question: What is one feasible goal we should have for that meeting? 

Erik Rasmussen: The feasible goal could be that we had a realistic discussion on where we are and where do we go, and try to re-innovate the way we deal with climate issues in the future. This is COP 16, meaning that we have 15 COP before and we haven’t reached agreement, far from it. So first and foremost, how should we, in the future, plan Cop processes and being realistic about what that could develop, who else should be much more integrated in this process, not just being side events at big summits, but being more integrated. So we sat down, followed up on what could be followed up, the so-called Copenhagen Accord, what came out of Copenhagen, see how that could be processed. But besides that, develop a new common understanding on how we could integrate the different stakeholders. It’s a much more committed process in the future if you do that, and then create a new understanding, a new positive energy optimism around the whole climate change process. Then I think it will be worthwhile and then even Copenhagen could have had positive impact. Therefore, we have to see Copenhagen and Mexico as a joint effort, one where we had an awful lesson learned, but we learned from it and what we learned and how we used our new knowledge should be demonstrated in Mexico. 

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