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It’s all about us, and what we will do.

December 16, 2009

Dr. Pachauri speaks at the Bright Green Forum in Copenhagen, a side event that highlights innovative solutions to climate change.

After getting lost in the city centre at 0°C, 3 musketeers and I finally made it to the Bright Green Forum venue. Missed out most of the presentation by Steven Chu, Head of the US EPA, but we still got to hear from Dr Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC. Despite it being a short 30 minute speech, he has highlighted many important points about the role that civil society and businesses play in this problem of climate change.

First of all, we all must recognise that each of us has a unique role to play in the issue of climate change. This is not a problem that can be solved by politicians alone; Businesses and civil society has a equally important role in it as well. Looking back in history, the Industrial Revolution was successful because we politicians promoted (or rather did not restrict its development) , businesses took up the idea quickly and consumers welcomed this change. Everyone saw the benefits of moving into the industrial age, therefore  the idea caught on quickly and it revolutionised many aspects of our life.

Now, the current revolution that needs to happen has a slight difference to the former. First of all, the benefits to move to a green economy is not that clear. Take renewable energy for example: the cost of opting for renewable energy is high, many of them are unable to provide a stable amount of energy, thus not feasible for countries to adopt it as main source of energy. The installation and maintenance of Photovoltaic cells in many countries are also unsubsidised, thus only minority of the consumers will be inclined to buy it.

To complicate the issue, climate change has a delayed feedback effect, which means to say whatever we do now, both for the good and bad, will only come into effect in the next generation. IPCC statistics have shown that heating of the sea alone will cause a sea level rise of 1.0m – 1.4m as global warming continues and this will not stop even if we are able to reduce our carbon emissions to optimal levels. The decision that needs to be made here requires foresight and, to a certain degree, selflessness. Therefore, convincing people to make this switch is a difficult task.

It is exactly because of this that everyone has to play their part to effectively fight climate change. As Dr Pachauri has said, ” The politicians have to develop the policies to pave the way for green alternatives to come in, businesses have to quickly take up the concepts and push it into commercialisation, and the civil society has to prep and convince the consumers to change their habits and start to consume these products.” Also, civil society have the duty to feedback to governments and businesses that we want a green economy. Businesses go where the money goes, so if we can convince people to start adopting green practices and buying green products, more businesses will come into the market to increase product quality and reduce the price. Politicians will also need our votes to get into the government, and that is also where we can make our voices heard by voting pro-environment politicians in.

The bottomline that I am pushing here is that politicians have a significant role to play in this fight, but so does everyone else. We cannot afford to be inactive or reactive now; A proactive approach needs to be taken by all of us to make this fight a success. Policies need to be complemented with grassroots movement so that change can be implemented quickly and effectively. Together with the commercialisation of green products, we can make the switch to a green economy and green lifestyle materialize quickly and with ease, hopefully quick enough to win this war.

This is the fight where we can only be all winners, or all losers. We only have one chance to make it right, and lets make sure we, together as one people, are remembered for making the right one.

Live from COP 15,

Zhi Kai

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