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Negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals: A transformational agenda for an insecure world by Felix Dodds, Ambassador David Donoghue & Jimena Leiva Roesch

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BBC Green Room Article December 2009 Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Environmentalists Felix Dodds and Michael Strauss use this week's Green Room to pass on a message from a seasonal contributor. They write: "Though he usually prefers to act anonymously, he has been rumoured to be active in many different countries under various personae that include Father Christmas, Pere Noel, and San Nicolas."

 

A little girl peering through a decorated shop window (Getty Images)
The production of all the toys, being in the North Pole, needs a lot of heating and lighting

Dear children,

As many of you know this time of year is very busy for me. The elves are also really busy, making the Obama dolls (although they appear to be less popular than last year), the train sets, and the computer games.

But before I pack up the sleigh and set off on this year's big ride, I wanted to share with you an update on how things are going.

I wanted to share with you some worries I have, because here at the North Pole it has been a difficult year.

Dancer hurt a leg earlier this year and almost had to be replaced in this year's team.

It happened during a spring training run, when the ice - which had always been very strong here - turned out to be much thinner than we expected, and she almost fell all the way through into the Arctic Sea.

Fortunately, she was soon on the mend, but it did give us quite a scare.

But the thin-ice issue really got my attention. I had already been noticing how much the weather had been changing over the past 10 years.

Changing times

The polar bears keep pointing out to me that they've had to travel much further to find solid ice and snow. The Arctic terns and puffins have been flying away and back at unusual times of the season. And the permafrost has been turning to mush near the coastlines, which means it no longer is permanent at all.

Polar bear (Image: AFP)
Some of Father Christmas's neighbours are finding themselves on thin ice

I've had to re-route the take-off and landing patterns on all my maps, and each year that has been making delivering the presents much more difficult.

So I decided to find just what was happening. And guess what I found out?

It is this thing called climate change.

I hadn't realised how much damage that all this travelling around had been doing and how much our lifestyles had impacted on the Earth. It seems to me as I looked back that we have been dashing to disaster.

But you might say what would I know? After all I am just Father Christmas.

Well, I read these Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Reports, which I have to say they were a little boring, but all these scientists from around the world have been saying the same thing and each of the reports they produce says things are getting worse.

They tell us that people's use of oil, gas and coal has been putting thousands of extra tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air. It's causing the Sun's heat to build up in the atmosphere of the Earth. The reports say things are getting worse and worse.

Well, now it's starting to affect everything all over the world. Giant storms are flooding coasts and valleys, even big cities.

Farmers aren't getting enough rain for their crops, so they are having trouble growing enough food for people to eat in many countries. Even those hot -weather animals like elephants, tigers and lions, are struggling terribly as their natural homelands disappear.

Green Pole

I have to say it put the frighteners under me. I thought what can I do. After all, I am just one person with a lot of elves and reindeer.

President Obama meets Father Christmas (Image: AP)
Has President Obama been a good boy this year?

Well the first thing was to find out what my carbon footprint might be. Well blimey, it was a lot!

I mean, if you are delivering to all the good girls and boys around the world, that's a lot of methane from the resulting reindeer poo. Then there is the production of all the toys and, being in the North Pole, we need a lot of heating and lighting most of the year as it is cold and very dark.

I then thought I would see what the experts had to say, so I asked them to carry out an energy assessment of our operations. They found that most of our power needs could be delivered by renewable energy.

So, this year there has been lots of building work around the grotto.

We now have wind turbines, which are powering most of the workshop and the housing. The reindeer have fun racing around it.

I bought some nifty electric cars for the elves to move around in, and a small methane collection plant for the… well, you know, with reindeer, we do get a lot of it, for the heating.

Of course, with reindeer powering the sleigh, my air travel is extensive so I still needed to deal with the methane. I found a nice offset scheme that enabled me to contribute to a forest in Brazil.

I am proud to say we may not have reduced yet all our fossil fuel uses but we are close to doing so. I always say, where there is a will there is a way.

Brazil, one of my favourite places, is hosting a new Earth Summit in 2012.

And that brings me to the plea. I watched that chap Al Gore in Copenhagen who says we have to cut our emissions if we want to stabilize our temperature at 1.5-2.0C above pre-industrialised levels.

We had better do it, or I am going to have to replace the reindeer with camels if I am going to be able to deliver presents in the future.

So I am asking all of children out there - and you adults too - to let your president or prime minister know your views. Copenhagen was a start but not enough.

I will also keep an eye on those politicians too. I think some of them will not be on my list of good boys and girls next year. I hope I am wrong on that.

Anyway, I hope you each have a peaceful and wonderful holiday this year. Let's all try to make it a very merry green Christmas.

And let's remember to enjoy what we have, and to share it together.

Father Christmas