photo: Lizette Kabré/Copenhagen Climate Congress
Dr Rajendra Pachauri (chairman of the IPCC, director-general of the The Energy and Resources Institute, and now head of the newly formed Yale Climate and Energy Institute) was one of the speakers who kicked off the Copenhagen Climate Congress's opening session. One of the most interesting things to come out of his presentation was the notion that rich nations' efforts to push rapidly growing nations to cut their carbon emissions would be more effective if the focus was also on more rapid technology transfer and green economic development.
After his speech, I had a chance to sit down with Dr Pachauri and ask him about this in greater detail:Focusing on Emissions Reductions Alone Will Get Negative Reaction
The language that is being used is totally wrong. Essentially in the developing countries--of course there are differences between developing countries--the big challenge is how to get rid of poverty. The big challenge is, 'how do you promote development?'
I think the language that should be used is: 'How do we make your development more environmentally friendly; and in doing that, if there are financial or technological resources that are required, can we make those available to you?'
Because if the developed countries are going to be pushing the developing world to reduce emissions, that I am afraid is going to get a negative reaction.
So what we should really be focusing on is that the pattern of development in the poor countries becomes more environmentally friendly.
Define Dangerous Climate Change From Point of the Worst Affected
Dr Pachauri was asked by another of the journalists present about how he would define what a dangerous level of temperature increase would be:
What is dangerous should really be defined by some of the most vulnerable regions in the world. You're not going to come up with an average value of what is dangerous. What is dangerous is what is going to happen to the Maldive islands. What is dangerous is what is going to happen with water supply in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions of the world where people will not have enough water for even their biological needs. To me, that represents danger.
And that's what the world should be focusing on: Who are the worst affected victims of climate change. We should really be defining dangerous from their point of view, rather than try to look for some average value. But, unfortunately, not enough attention has been paid to this issue.
I put it to Dr Pachauri that what he was talking about was really the ethical element of climate change and agreed that we haven't paid enough attention to this. He interrupted,
Why has the world been so concerned with human rights violation in Darfur, or some other place, when the same criteria don't apply to something like climate change? I mean, we are really causing human misery, and will be causing human misery of unimaginable proportions if we don't do something about the problems. And why is the world not focusing on it? That's what worries me.
Climate Change and Economic Revival Can Be Tied Together
Dr Pachauri also highlighted that the problem of climate change is also a chance to change our societies for the better,
You have a remarkable opportunity to restructure the economy and moving towards a much greener future. Yesterday's Wall Street Journal...said that the auditors of General Motors have come up with a report that perhaps General Motors cannot be saved. Then why are we wasting billions of dollars giving taxpayers' money to these companies?
This is an opportunity when we can bring about change. If we don't bring about change then you spend more and more money of the public supporting the same industries which have caused a problem in the past. Even if you were to look at revival of the economy, there is a real opportunity to bring about a shift where we move towards greener jobs, greener economic output; and that's what the world should be focusing on.
I must say...President Obama has realized that, because he is focusing on it: His revival package, which will bring about improved efficiency of homes, of government buildings, of greater investment in solar and wind, and essentially seeing that the economy becomes less dependent on fossil fuels, or at least imported fossil fuels.
I think the two objectives [reviving the economy and combatting climate change] can be tied into together. They don't have to divert from one another.
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