By Denis McClean
Durban - UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström, told an exclusive gathering of 35 eminent scientists and politicians from around the world at the COP 17 in Durban that "there is a huge need to translate the best science on climate change into practical action."
Speaking on behalf of the disaster risk reduction community, she told the High-Level Dialogue and Adaptation Round Table: Global Sustainability in a Changing World that she was pleased to hear climate change being treated as a sub-set of the global sustainability crisis.
Wahlström who is also the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, added that the disaster risk community would welcome closer ties with the scientific community as an important part of developing a global risk management strategy that the world’s political leaders could use.
Kick-starting the dialogue, Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: “Staying below 2°C global warming is not just an environmental goal, but a crucial development goal. Beyond that line, the world could move into climate chaos, crossing many tipping points, like the meltdown of the big ice sheets and the disruption of the Asian and African monsoon systems.”
He said that climate change was a very unfair phenomenon as developing countries which had contributed least to causing it would bear the brunt of its impact. Prof. Schellnhuber warned: “there will be no real development if we cannot avoid climate chaos.”
In his statement the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, who is also Co-Chair of the UN Secretary General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, said: “Humanity has never been so profoundly aware of climate change and its impact and the necessity to reduce emissions to save the next generation. Africa’s vulnerability also comes from the prevailing dismal levels of poverty which limits the continent’s ability to cope with climate change.”
He added that sustainable development and economics should be at the heart of the climate change discussions and, in a reference to the ongoing debate about a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol or a new binding agreement on emissions reduction, President Zuma said that “without a multi-lateral rules-based system there can be no guarantee that countries’ commitments will be honoured.”
He also said that finance remains a big issue in the negotiations if we are to “build resilience.” Action on adaptation is an essential element for a good outcome for Durban especially for least developed countries, Small Island States and the African continent.
Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, said: “COP 17 and climate negotiations in general need to listen to the voice of science on sustainability, and get away from short-term and narrow interests. We can never meet the climate challenge with such a sterile approach. We need to spark interest in the science of climate change and on knowledge that has been developed in the field, and let them inform the negotiations.”
Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the 2006 Stern Report on the Economics of Climate Change, said: “Climate change and global sustainability are urgent issues that require immediate action – they cannot be delayed by endless political wrangling. All countries must seek to do their part, and move away from unsustainable development and carbon-intensive energy production and consumption.
“Given the disparities in wealth and resources in our world, however, it is clear that developed countries will have to take the lead in terms of finance, technology and investment, recognising that doing so benefits them as well; it will help secure the future of our planet and our species.”
Yesterday’s event was co-hosted by Johan Rockström, Executive Director of the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, who said: “The science clearly shows us that a safe climate future will not be achieved through emission reductions alone. We now urgently need a world transition to global sustainability.
“Conserving biodiversity, sustainable management of our landscapes and seascapes, reduction of pollution and nutrient overload – all of these goals need to be integrated with our responses to climate change. It is thus critical that the climate negotiations support these goals and connect with other UN-led efforts to promote sustainable development.”
Youba Sokona, coordinator of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, said: “When scientists call for sustainability and stewardship of ecosystems, many people feel threatened and presume that it will be done at the expense of development and human well-being. This is simply not true. We believe that sustainability and human well-being can be fully compatible, but only with large-scale, transformative changes in how we approach development, agriculture, energy production, and the overall use of our natural resources.”
The High-level Dialogue and Adaptation Round Table: Global Sustainability in a Changing Climate was held on 6 December in the Africa Pavilion at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban. The event builds on the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability, held at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm between 16 and 19 May, 2011.