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As founder and CEO of Scandinavia's largest think tank, Monday Morning, and founder of the Copenhagen Climate Council, Erik Rasmussen is a leading figure in the public debate over climate[…]

The founder of the Copenhagen Climate Council’s biggest fear is that we’ll get discouraged by the steep environmental challenges coming our way.

Question: On a personal level, what does sustainability mean to you? 

Erik Rasmussen: Sustainability to me is a natural way of life. It’s a natural way of using the given resources on both a short-, medium- and long-term perspective. For me, there’s no alternative to sustainability. The alternative end sustainability, who wants to work with that, so sustainability is the best way to use all available resources in a way which really means that resources on long-term will develop, be even stronger, and better integrated. 

Question: How has your outlook evolved in the past year? 

Erik Rasmussen: I have mixed feelings. In the past, due to what we experienced around Cop 15, due to what I’ve seen happening after Cop 15, where people were really enthusiastic after Cop 15 and right after, we almost dropped the issue... Climate was not a hot issue anymore. We almost closed it down for new issues. This is really a dangerous path because climate change will not stop. It will accelerate. Therefore, it has been discouraging but I am very optimistic that even these problems could be turned into a new opportunity. I’ll do what I can and I know that a lot of companies and our stakeholders have used this failure on Copenhagen as a new driving force for innovating the issue, re-thinking the issue and then, on a longer perspective, we might look back and say, “Yes, this was a bad situation, it was negative but we learned so much from it that.” And after that, sped it up and then met our goal and ensured that we solved the climate change problem and therefore prepared a better life for the next generation. 

Question: What is your biggest fear about the future of the planet? 

Erik Rasmussen: The biggest fear is that we got so discouraged by what has happened so far that we start: "Climate change, it was a political issue, it failed in Copenhagen, forget about it, the scientists couldn’t agree, and let’s continue as we used to do and forget about climate change.” Let us pass the tipping point and that we will not be able to influence the future of our globe, the future of the next generation. So instead of being pro-active, we’ll be reactive and using our resources to adapt ourselves to problems we can’t solve. We are on a very slippery road, so I feel that we are blindfolded, and that we’ll be blindfolded and lose influence on our own destiny. 

Question: How do you picture our world in five and twenty-five years? 

Erik Rasmussen: I’ll be very optimistic, both on the five years term and the twenty-five years term. I believe in that perspective, that businesses learned the lessons from the Copenhagen and Cop 15 issues and took the lead and developed green strategies, made green growth a winning strategy and therefore turned the tide and was the driving force in a new industrial revolution, which really created millions of new jobs and a better quality of life for billions all over the world. So after five years, in 2015, we look back at this point in time and say, “Yes, it was a tough times. We had climate problems, we had financial economic problems. We bundled them and found out that these issues had shared solutions, and we developed this revolution and we already in 2015 have some of these revolutionaries who changed this.” In 2025, we harvested foods from these frontrunners who really performed in 2015 and then changed the huge risk—the biggest risk ever to mankind, the climate change problems—into the biggest opportunity ever. And historians will look back at this period in time and say, “That was when we really developed what could be called the "fifth industrial revolution." We have had four previous revolutions that created and threatened the modern civilization but the fifth one inaugurated, taking off around 2010, developed it, made it secure and created a new civilization based on a new quality of life.” We will honor them, looking back. Historians will write a lot of fantastic books about what really happened in these times of crisis, so it is just a matter of turning risk into opportunities. The difference between risk and opportunity is being discovered and as we discover it now, we have opportunities we have never seen before.

Recorded on May 6, 2010