The Social and Legal Aspects of Climate Change
Edited by Anna Grear and Conor Gearty
Chapter 2: An interview with Connie Hedegaard, European Union Commissioner for Climate Action
CONOR GEARTY: How can we raise our collective level of ambition with respect to climate change? CONNIE HEDEGAARD: I think the minute that we start to understand that continuing business as usual comes with a price tag, then we will see that it would be wiser to spend some money investing in a more climate-friendly future. I had an experience recently at the World Economic Forum in Dalian. At the traditional leaders’ lunch comprised of heads of states and finance ministers, the new Leader of the World Bank, Jim Kim, was asked to give his view of the state of the world economy in 2013. He had ten minutes. He spent seven of those ten minutes talking about climate change. He said, ‘You guys do not understand. Climate change is not an environmental issue. Our response to climate change will define our economic growth in the twenty-first century’. In the room, the leader of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagard, echoed exactly the same message. The meeting was moderated by OECD Secretary, General Gurr'a, echoing exactly the same view. I believe that when the key economic institutions start to understand that climate change is not an environmental issue to be parked in some corner, but that it has to be integrated into our economic growth strategies – that is something worth noticing. CONOR GEARTY: What is interesting is that all of those people have huge responsibilities but not to electorates. Lord Nick Stern has been talking about the economic good sense of managing the problems generated by climate change for a number of years. So, how do we manage to deliver that moral imperative against a background of ‘political feasibility’ so often resistant to it? You’ve mentioned several names. I could mention Tony Abbott from Australia. I could mention Nigel Farage. There are all these political leaders who are not interested in the long term. They are interested in elections. How do they get persuaded by the kind of people you mentioned?
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