I never pictured myself as a gift. Even if my contribution certainly was not the centre of the show, still I became a part of the celebration of former Prime Minister of Sweden, Göran Persson, given by the Social democratic party. The gift was an international climate conference: “Our Climate –invest in the future”. The conference was inaugurated by present leader of the Social Democratic party, Mona Sahlin and by Ylva Thörn, chairman of the workers union “Komunal” of Sweden. Stefan Edman, biologist, author and climate adviser was our host and moderator the full day.
Majora Carter, funder of Sustainable South Bronx, started out and gave one of the most inspired presentations of the day and considering the competition, this was an excellent performance. The message was that if we invest in people we also invest in the local environment. By giving trust and by having high expectations, self-belief is gained and great results are achieved.
In Majoras case it all begun when she went jogging with her dog Zena, that led her to a place she never visited before. The first project was to clear the dumping area and to convert it to a beautiful park at the waterfront. The neighbourhood grew confidence and the engagement of the people living in the area led to decreased crime rate better reputation and even local investments.
Majora Carter and Stefan Edman
Then a first panel of presentations followed:
Ricardo Lagos, former president of Chile, UN General Secretary special messenger in climate issues presented the background and urgency of the situation.
Sergei Mironov, Chariman of the Russian parliament, gave a broad review of the potential developments that we may have in front of us. It was not quite clear to me if he actually meant that the green house gases does not contribute to global warming or that he meant that the variation of the sunlight was a more severe problem.
(There have been some confusing press in Sweden on this matter recently so let me come back to it in the blog within shortly. It should be made completely clear to every one that there is no doubt what so ever that increased concentrations of green house gases increases the temperature in the atmosphere when subjected to radiation from the sun.)
Guy Ryder, general secretary of the international union organisations, said that change is required but it can not be left to the market. In addition new attitudes will be needed and we should have understanding for the needs of developing countries. He exemplified with the new low priced Tata car. (I understand that many that speaks about the new Tata does not know that Tata already, since long time, is a large manufacturer of low priced cars in India and that the new car is a new model with even lower pricing than the other cars in the series.)
Åsa Westlund from the European Parliament gave a picture of the work towards new legislation for sustainable fuels and the energy directive. Obviously the European car industry is not prepared to lower the fuel consumption further and conservative and liberal parliamentarians support the automotive industry while the socialists have more focus on lowering the green house gases.
After a short coffee break a second panel was introduced including: Ylva Thörn, Anneli Hultén (chairman in the climate council of the Social Democratic Party), Svante Axelsson (general secretary of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation) and I.
We had a vivid discussion and debate about the transportation sector, fuels, food, nuclear power, infrastructure and all sorts of issues that is a part of the climate debate in Sweden. While I have spent some efforts contributing to the debate in other parts of the world this active contribution to the Swedish debate was new for me. I had prepared a couple of sentences before the meeting intending to get the top three priorities through. The discussion however turned out quite differently, which was good for the audience.
Stefan Edman skilfully led the discussion to industrial contributions to the green house gas abatement. The high capacity buses, the hybrid buses and the Volvo environmental work were covered. To my surprise it does not seem to be as evident in Sweden as in the rest of the world that alternative fuels should not be allowed to compete with food in order to avoid famine. Even if Anneli clearly explained the dependence of starving people on low food prices the conclusion did not seem to be fully supported by all. My top priority was to explain the need for long term decisions with broad support from all political parties as we need to make investments that should pay off in 20 years time.
Göran Persson directly after the meeting
Göran Persson held the most engaged speak of the day. He expressed his sincere worries about the lack of pace, the wait and see mentality. He walked from the changes in every day’s life to the scary effects on exposed groups of pore woundable people. He talked 40 minutes without interruptions in an excellently enjoyable demonstration of rhetoric. It is clear that climate change is an issue that still is of great concern for our former Prime Minister and that he intends to pursue the work on the international arena. An instrument or institution will be needed to intensify the work towards harmonisation.