Climate change: Talking about the elephant in the room


June 4th, 2010

Here in Bonn at the UNFCCC talks there has overall been rather little going on – not many arguments between governments, yet not a lot of progress on agreeing a text for negotiation, and no sense of urgency.

So I went for a change of scene to Klimaforum, organised by Friends of the Earth Germany, to talk about some of the REAL issues on climate change. And the first of these is that global climate change cannot be tackled just by green investment (alongside economic growth). The key reason for rapid cliamte change is our economic system of consumption-fuelled economic growth, since growth and production involves the unsustainable use of fossil fuels and many other scarce resources. Sufficient emissions reductions in developed countries, to prevent dangerous climate change will almost certainly involve consuming less in all areas of our lives, for middle class people everywhere.

Of course an alternative economic system is hard to envisage, and there are huge issues to discuss – if the economy doesn’t grow, then many people lose out – not just big busienss, but lots of ordinary people and of course often the poorest in all countries too. But ignoring the issue doesn’t mean it will go away.

Other debates today were about the dominant global food production system, that is also high in greenhouse gas emissions AND is contributing to hunger for at least 1bn people. Another workshop discussed how to mobilise people to put pressure on their governments – given that without pressure, there will be no movement on difficult policy decisions.

No easy answers today (sorry about that!) but at least, a refreshing discussion. And that meant I felt able to re-enter the gloomy Maritim conference centre, for an evening session on one positive area of work under the UNFCCC – the Nairobi Work Programme – a programme to build understanding, and share experiences, around the issue of adaptaiton to climate change. Practical Action has been an active partner in the programme, sharing case studies, and speaking at workshops. It’s a lovely evening now, so I hope to join some climate change friends in a nice biergarten.

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