Palampur Award Ceremony 9.6.2006
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I feel extremely honored for this award.
I think that environmental management and leadership belong to the most crucial issues for our future. It is important to understand that humans are a part of the life on this planet and that ecosystems form the very basis of our life.
Climate change, our biggest global environmental challenge, is not only an environmental problem – it is a challenge for everything, for industry, for agriculture, for economies, for health, for development, for societies as a whole.
The planet is warming at a rate which is extremely rapid in the geological time scale, possibly unforeseen on this spaceship, which we all share. Warming is showing itself dramatically in high latitudes. Since 1979 the ice cover in the Arctic Ocean has shrunk by an area which is more than the combined area of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The melting of Greenland is accelerating. It is possible that in the lifetime of our generation a tipping point will be crossed, after which the melting of Greenland ice becomes inevitable. This would eventually raise the sea level by 7 m, and drown the homes of one third of present humankind.
Global warming is visible also in Himalaya. Some weeks ago a report by the Chinese Academy of Sciences told that Tibetan glaciers are decreasing by 7 % every year, which means halving in a decade.
Many of the great rivers in Asia start in the Himalayan glaciers, among them Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Yangtze and the Yellow River. These rivers ensure a year round water supply to 2 billion people. In the Ganges, the loss of glacier meltwater would reduce July-September flows by two thirds. People in India understand what it would mean.
Mountain glaciers are melting also in Africa, in Europe, in South and North America. Half of all people are dependent on rivers starting from mountain glaciers.
There is a long list of threats linked to climate change. But I think that the changes in the freshwater supply of hundreds of millions of people are one of the most worrying, keeping in mind that one third of all people already live in countries with water stress.
Thus it is our urgent task to curb the greenhouse gas emissions which are warming the planet. Climate scientists say that the global emissions need to be halved by 2050 and cut by at least two thirds by 2100.
This is one of the most difficult challenges ever for humankind. In the name of fairness it is right to say that present day rich countries have mainly caused the problem, it is their our duty to sort it out. This is why Kyoto Protocol, the first step of climate protection, demands emission reductions only in industrialized countries. Unfortunately in the coming decades it is not possible to reduce global emissions rapidly enough by the efforts of rich countries only, gradually major developing countries need to limit their emissions, too.
On the other hand, 10 average Indians, or 5 average Chinese are needed to produce the greenhouse gas emissions of one average European.
This means it is extremely difficult to find a fair global model of emission reductions and limits. I think this task can be compared with the nuclear disarmament talks in the 1980ies. Also that was extremely difficult, but crucial for our survival.
To succeed, a lot of wisdom and a lot of political will is needed, in all countries.
There have been, and still are, numerous firms opposing emission limits. But it is encouraging to see that more and more firms see this just as a new way to do business. One sign of this was visible in Germany last month. In Bonn there was a meeting of the so called subsidiary bodies of the UN Climate Convention, government experts negotiating the next climate protection step after Kyoto. In nearby Cologne there was a business event, Carbon Expo. For the first time there were more participants in this business climate event than in the government negotiations. Some companies have even presented their own proposals for global Post Kyoto emission reduction model.
We still have a change. But there is no time to be wasted. Much of the technology needed to reduce emissions in the next 30-40 years is already there. It is the task of political decision makers to give the right incentives for business to encourage the companies to invest in clean technologies. And it is the task of business leaders to understand that this is necessary to ensure their businesses in the long run.
In the “rich North” we have to reduce our emissions rapidly. We have no right to say to Indians that you must not invest in fossil power production. But also in India it is wise to invest in energy efficiency, which means doing more while consuming less fuel. Actually I would like to speak on energy productivity, we need to improve energy productivity in all countries. Also in India it is wise to promote renewable energy. And, indeed, India is one of the biggest markets for wind power. But I think that you have a great potential to exploit solar and biomass energy, too, and with modern technology it is also more and more often cost efficient.
We have to create a global carbon market. When there is a price for emissions, all players are motivated to minimize this cost. The market is a very powerful creative force, and can bring a breakthrough of new technology, if incentives are right. The European Union started European carbon trading last year. It has already changed the thinking of energy, paper, steel and cement companies. I hope that other rich countries will join carbon trading, and sooner or later, also China, India, Brazil and South Africa, and all other major nations.
There are several proposals on how to divide the emission quotas between countries. The Contraction and Convergence proposal has been developed in India. Its basic idea is climate equity, everyone has the same right for the planet, and it is approaching population based quotas for countries. Personally I think this is a fair proposal. One proposal is based on GDP, measured with purchase power parity. There are several proposals where countries are divided in different sub-groups according to their level of economic development, and the targets are differentiated.
It is up to the governments to negotiate and decide the model. But for all models of the future global climate regime good governance is needed, as well as transparency and accountability, in other words good management in all levels, in companies, in governments, in international institutions. A lot of work and political will is needed to achieve all this.
The climate challenge is extremely difficult, something faced never before. But we have resources which previous generations did not have. We have the knowledge. Satellites, sophisticated instruments and scientific analyzes tell us what is happening in our planet. The question is, if we as societies are able to use this knowledge and turn it into action. We have technologies never before seen to do this, and we are able to develop technologies further.
Dear friends, everybody plays a role in forming the political will. Business leaders play a very special role, because governments are listening to business leaders, politicians want jobs for their electorate.
I hope that every one of us is doing his and her best to create the political will which is needed to save our planet and the future of our children and grandchildren.