Voices From Hopenhagen: Aimée Christensen
Image credit: Hopenhagen
Editor's note: This guest post is written by Aimee Christensen, Executive Director of Global Observatory and long-time climate change adviser.
Over the past months, and now as as we reach the deadline for governments to reach a global deal here at the climate talks in Copenhagen, I have been struck by the collaboration—across borders and oceans—occurring in so many places and in so many quarters. On an unprecedented scale, business leaders, faith leaders, mayors, governors, and NGOs are working together within their communities to take on the climate challenge. This gives me hope. As national governments work to negotiate an agreement, this action by sub-national governments and others will enable us to move further, to act faster, to meet the urgency the climate requires.In May of this year, hundreds of business leaders met for the World Business Summit on Climate Change to develop strategies for how business can grow its role on climate change, and released the Copenhagen Call urging "bold targets for emissions reductions by 2020 and 2050, limiting the global average rise in temperature to a maximum of 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels. This requires immediate and substantial action leading to an abatement of around 17Gt versus business-as-usual by 2020." In October, over 250 business leaders arrived on Capitol Hill from 150 companies—over 100 CEOs, to call for passage of climate change legislation. Today's Congressional Budget Office finding that the Kerry-Boxer bill will save us billions of dollars rather than cost our economy reinforces the message from business in the U.S. and around the world: action on climate change is good for business, is good for our economies now, and even more so will save us trillions in the future. And on December 12, global business leaders gathered at Kronborg Castle and there the sentiment was unanimous: we want action by governments to give us the rules of the road to invest in creating a more efficient, clean, and healthy world; we are already acting, we'll continue to act because it makes good business sense, but with national government action and a global deal, we'll do much more, much faster, which will benefit us all.
In September at the Governors Climate Change Summit hosted by California's Arnold Schwarzenegger, governors from around the world came together to develop climate change strategies in clean energy and forest protection. Thirty leaders from North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe signed a new declaration for action, and a smaller group launched a new collaboration on forests; many reconvened here this week to build on that initial commitment.
In November faith leaders from nine of the world's major religions announced new commitments to address climate change. Those from Africa shared their personal accounts of the impacts of severe drought, wiping out not only entirely livelihoods, but threatening millions—a harbinger of more to come. They announced new commitments to reduce emissions, and to engage and inform their communities. They also initiated new collaborations between faiths, setting aside their differences in theology and practices, focusing on their common care for the most vulnerable among us, for our natural systems, and for fellow living creatures with whom we share this planet. At dinner one evening the camaraderie in the room was inspiring: stories were being shared, new collaborations being hatched, and I felt if they can set aside such deeply held differences, we must be able to get this deal done!
This week here in Copenhagen the mayors gathered to share success stories and to develop new cooperation, building on their leadership to date. They long ago stepped ahead in taking on the task of reducing emissions, while finding energy efficiency saved their stretched budgets, and transit solutions improved quality of life and increased economic opportunity, showing the rest of us how it's done.
inally, hundreds of NGOs have come together to join TckTckTck to collaborate in this critical moment as a "flotilla" of diverse groups from environmental, labor, human rights, faith, and other communities mobilizing their forces for impact on the climate challenge.
On this final day of the talks, we are hopeful that world leaders will reach an accord, yet it is only with this scale of collaboration, within these groups and among them, that we will be able to accelerate action to the speed and scale that the climate challenge requires. And just as we cannot mitigate climate change alone, we cannot adapt to it on our own. This collaboration will serve us well because we will have built trust and learned what we can each provide; as the impacts grow, coming together to support and assist each other will be our safest and surest way forward.
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Aimée Christensen is currently CEO of the Global Observatory. Since 2005 she has been CEO of Christensen Global Strategies, advising clients including the Clinton Global Initiative, Duke Energy, Swiss Re, the United Nations Development Program, Virgin Unite, and Wolfensohn & Co.
Trained as an environmental and energy lawyer, Aimée has developed climate change and sustainability strategy in the corporate, governmental, and philanthropic sectors. She previously worked with Google.org, the World Bank, Environment2004, and Baker & McKenzie, and she negotiated the first bilateral and regional agreements on climate change while at the U.S. Department of Energy in the 1990s. She was a National Co-Chair of Cleantech & Green Business for Obama, and in early 2009 she co-founded the Clean Economy Network, whose collaboration with other business groups through the We Can Lead campaign brought over 250 business leaders to Capitol Hill in October 2009, to advocate for passage of comprehensive climate change and energy legislation. Aimée serves on several boards and advisory boards including the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Task Force on Sustainability and Efficiency advising Secretary Janet Napolitano; the Board of Directors of the American Council on Renewable Energy; and the Advisory Board of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy.
Aimée addressed the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and as a member of "U.S. Youth at Rio," introduced Al Gore at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. She has a BA from Smith College, and a JD from Stanford Law School, where she wrote the University’s “Climate Change and Investment Responsibility Policy” adopted by the Trustees in 1999.
Read more voices from Hopenhagen:
Voices from Hopenhagen: Al Gore
Voices from Hopenhagen: Adam Lowry
Voices from Hopenhagen: Laurie David