One who does not look ahead always remains behind

Green Group urges a step forward in climate negotiations

The Earth is a unique, interconnected system that mankind has always tried to understand. Although there have been great discoveries made in science, there are many aspects of our planet that are beyond our understanding or control. However, there is one fact we know: we need to live in harmony with nature.

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Green Group* support efforts by the international community to find ambitious solutions to the challenge of sustainable development. In light of the forthcoming meeting in Durban in the Republic of South Africa, we would like to share our views on what the international community needs to do to deal with the challenges of climate change.

The greatest challenge facing us today is unbridled degradation of the environment.  We have to recognise that global prosperity and social stability cannot be achieved by exhausting natural resources in an environmentally unsustainable manner.

Our success in addressing climate change depends on creating a sustainable and resource-efficient economy. The transition to a low-carbon society has to be built on the three pillars of sustainable development, namely environmental, economic and socio-political sustainability. To reach the global goal set in Cancun of limiting the rise in the average global temperature to below 2°C, we need to change the way we think and act, both as individuals and as nations.  We need to increase awareness and education on sustainable development issues.  And we need to harness renewable energy sources and develop innovative technologies to assure sustainable growth for the future.

Creating strategies at the national level will require a coordinated, coherent and multi-sectoral approach.  Each sector, such as energy, transport, construction, industry, services, agriculture and forestry, will need to work with stakeholders to formulate innovative and sustainable solutions to address the challenge of climate change.  It is also timely to re-examine the negative effects of subsidies in various sectors in order to support environmentally friendly solutions and to encourage sustainable consumption.

We stress the need for the development of a green economy. It does not only bring social and environmental benefits but also economic growth. The promise and potential of green growth will not be fulfilled if we do not respond concurrently to the objectives of expanding economic opportunities, developing new technologies, creating new jobs and enhancing the standard of living for our peoples. 

We recognise that different countries have different national circumstances and natural resource endowments.  We also recognise the constraints faced by some countries in undertaking mitigation actions and in switching from fossil fuels to renewables and alternative energy.  Correspondingly, strategies for switching to a low-carbon society have to be diverse. Although the pivotal questions in the upcoming Durban climate negotiations are political, the challenge posed by climate change is of concern to all stakeholders in society.  Only by combining the knowledge, passion and engagement of all players - nationally, regionally and internationally - can we create a durable consensus on the way forward. In that context, all countries need to take a gender-sensitive approach when designing and implementing climate change policies and ensure an active role of women at all levels of decision-making and financing.

The international community has already taken many steps in the climate negotiations.  The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change provides a strong multilateral framework for our collective action.  We need to send a clear signal in Durban that we are all committed to strengthening our multilateral system to deal with climate change issues. A clear vision and timeframe has to be put in place for a new global agreement as the Kyoto Protocol in itself is not sufficient. A second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol will bridge the gap towards a new global agreement, but we also need signals of action from all countries.  Ultimately, climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution.  Each one of our countries can and must make a contribution to this global solution.  We need to act today to deal with the challenges of the future. As an old Nigerian saying goes, “One who does not look ahead always remains behind”.

H. E.  Dr Jorge Alberto da Silva Borges, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Cape Verde

H. E. Jose Enrique Castillo Barrantes, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Religion, Republic of  Costa Rica

H.E. Össur Skarphéðinsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Iceland

H.E. K Shanmugam Minister for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Singapore

H.E. Samuel Žbogar, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Slovenia

H. H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, United Arab Emirates

* The Green Group is an informal group of six countries: Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Iceland, Singapore, Slovenia, and the United Arab Emirates, acting together in favour of ambitious foreign policy action in addressing climate change, promoting sustainable development, renewable energy and sustainable water management.

Read about the OECD's involvement in the Durban Climate Change Conference

©OECD Observer 1 December 2011

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