Bill Clinton: Fight Against Climate Change "Must Capture the Imagination of Ordinary People"


Photo: World Economic Forum via Flickr/CC BY

In order for climate solutions to work, president Bill Clinton says it's imperative they capture "the imaginations of ordinary people."

Speaking to a panel of world leaders and an influential audience gathered for his annual Global Initiative, Clinton emphasized the need to engage ordinary citizens around the world with climate issues in new and stimulating ways.The message needs to be made clear to all: Addressing climate change isn't a burden -- it's an opportunity.
The Clinton Global Initiative 2011 is underway in New York City, and the international elite has once again gathered in Midtown Manhattan to forge new commitments that attempt to tackle the planet's most pressing problems. The opening plenary session gathered heads of state from both wealthy and developing nations, and served as a precursor to the COP17 climate talks approaching in Durban, South Africa.

Leaders from poorer nations like Bangladesh, Grenada, and Mali, all called for a legally binding global framework for reducing carbon emissions. The President of the European Commission said that the EU is willing to sign on to such a framework, but only if other major carbon-polluting nations around the world are too.

Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister of Bangladesh, pointed out that the projected one meter of sea level rise that's slated to hit under the current emissions path will displace 30 million of her people. Tillman Thomas, the prime minister of Grenada, noted that global warming will likely destroy the tourism industry so vital to island nations like his.

The discussion yet again highlighted the familiar themes of climate diplomacy: That developing nations understand quite well the grave threats posed by climate change, and are desperate for action--and that global inaction stems from the most industrialized, most polluting countries. Primarily, that'd be the U.S.

Clinton took the floor at the end of the debate to suggest some ideas for moving forward. "We have to make ordinary people understand that this is not an economic problem but an economic opportunity," he said. He praised President Felipe Calderon of Mexico, for launching an effort to plant millions of trees.

"He found a way to capture the imagination of his people," Clinton said. He found a good, popular way to engage citizens on the climate issue. And that's what we need to see happen around the world, from Mali to Slovenia to Mexico.

"We have to make this work on the ground for ordinary people," Clinton said. "If you want it to work in Mali, people have to imagine how they can be a part of this."

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