Monday, April 02, 2007

Sustaining the Earth and Humanity - Implications for the New UN Secretary General

Event Title: Sustaining the Earth and Humanity - Implications for the New UN Secretary General
Location and Sponsor: Woodrow Wilson Center International Center for Scholars
Date: Monday March 26, 2007
Time: 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Approximate Number of Attendees: 35
Intern Attending: Aramide Bajulaiye

Featured Speakers: Dr. Mohamed El-Ashry, Senior Fellow, UNF; Dr. Jessica Matthews
President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Moderator: Robert J. Berg, Trustee, World Academy of Art and Science

“These issues transcend borders. That is why protecting the world’s environment is largely beyond the capacity of individual countries. Only concerted and coordinated international action, supported and sustained by individual initiative, will be sufficient.”
– Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

This event aimed to address the growing gap between the daily evidence piling up showing dramatic climate change, and the small steps the global community is taking to cope with this crisis. In January, the outgoing UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, presented the report of the UN High-Level Panel on System-wide Coherence, one of the most far-reaching reform proposals in the UN’s history, to the UN General Assembly.

Dr. Mohamed El-Ashry brought up the idea that for centuries, most people believed that the world existed for the benefit of mankind. As stated by Francis Bacon, “The world is made for man, not man for the world”.

The global problem of climate change requires a global solution. The problem is inherently one on which each individual country can make little progress on its own. An effective solution requires that all countries agree to collaborate in light of the fact that climate change is a global security issue that transcends geographic borders.

Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon expressed hope that the U.S. would take a leadership role in combating climate change. According to the Secretary, “climate change poses as much danger to mankind as war and is likely to fuel future conflicts”. When we think of sustainability and the implications of governance for a more sustainable world the United Nations (UN) comes to mind. It is the place where the mega policies will have to be created and implemented.

In the discussion, several aspects of climate change were addressed, in particular, what institutions are required to address climate change internationally? What actions should the UN undertake in the next few years to better ensure the safety of the environment and people dependent on it? How should the UN organize itself? And, most fundamentally, what are the implications for global governance of the growing global environmental crisis?

Climate change is currently one of the top priorities with no formed initiatives for policy to be made. The panelists agreed that it is important to explore the financial risks and opportunities in global climate change and to develop effective responses. Global temperatures are rising due to the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions. There need to be clean alternatives towards energy. This can only be achieved with effective leadership to unite the world in addressing climate change and realistic steps towards reducing emissions. This leadership position could be filled by one of the major players in CO2 emissions such as the United States, China, or the European Union (EU), but also by multilateral organizations such as the United Nations (UN). Appropriate policy responses for this problem need to be developed and implemented as soon as possible.

Climate change is a good example of a global issue that fits in both the normative and operation responsibilities that are unique to UN, climate change should be viewed by the UN as global security issue. It is an example of environmental forces that transcend geographic border to threaten the health and economic welfare of people worldwide. Greenhouse gases that rise from the U.S. and other industrialized countries impact more than their own people; they are altering the climate of the whole globe.

Moderator Robert Berg closed with the comment that “the deniers of climate change its threats to our world are quickly being seen as not…fully rational.” We hope that this type of affirmation will quickly lead to action.

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