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Food for Thoughts UNFCCC 2009, Strong Words

by Felix Dodds Executive Director Stakeholder Forum
December 11th 2009, UNFCCC in Outreach

In June 2009, the Global Environmental Governance Project brought together for the first time, all five successive Executive Directors of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Maurice Strong, Mostafa Tolba, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Klaus Töpfer, and Achim Steiner  to take part in a forum of 80 environmental leaders in Glion, Switzerland. It was a gathering from four generations of environmental leaders, GEG brought people together under the vision of “Reflecting on the Past, Moving into the Future” and sought to rediscover the past, analyze the present and imagine the future of global environmental governance.

For me the most interesting contribution came from Maurice Strong who is of course not only UNEP’s first Executive Director but also Secretary General of both the Rio and Stockholm Earth Summits. His  cv is one of the most interesting one might read. Constantly he has fought for the environment over the past forty year whether as a Canadian Government official, a UN junior security officer – returning later to his second UN job as Secretary General to the Stockholm Conference, or as President and Chairman of the Extension and Inter-movement Aid of the World Alliance of YMCAs or as Chairman of the World Resources Institute not to mention his work in business as head of Petro Canada and CEO of Ontario Hydro.

Over the last year as we approach Copenhagen he is starting to outline a link between Copenhagen and Rio+20 he has said that:

“By  2012 hopefully such binding commitments and the economic changes required to effect to them will already have been achieved in Copenhagen, although this is far from certain.  Then in a very real sense Copenhagen will be part of preparatory process for 2012.  

It is my conviction that 2012, both in its preparations, and its goals, will need the full involvement of those responsible for the economic, industrial and financial policies, including industry itself.  As you well know it has always been difficult to secure participation and commitment of these parties in UN events and processes, including the CSD.  While the CSD and other structures now in place can contribute to the process, the decisions to be taken on behalf of governments must be at the highest level. 2012 must go well beyond the environmental and sustainable development communities to include the principal policy and decision-makers on the range of systemic issues that will determine the future and sustainability and security of life as we know it.

 2012 may indeed be the last opportunity we have to achieve such ambitious but necessary goals before the risks we face become irreversible.  Thus I see 2012 as a milestone in the process of ensuring sustainability and security and we must learn from past conferences and processes, which have not produced commitments that governments observed, that we must create a new and a more effective model that will produce binding commitments that address the importance and urgency of the issues it must settle.  "

 Are we ready for that honesty? For a call to arms? After all climate change is not the whole picture the need to focus on changing the economic model is what would address how we can live sustainably on this planet.

We need not only Strong Words but Strong Action.

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