Beyond Copenhagen: New Pathways to Sustainable Development

Speech of the Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Andreas Papandreou in Sustainable Development Summit 2010,  New Delhi

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. I would like to thank the Energy and Resource Institute, Dr. Rajenda Pachauri and of course the IPCC for the work that you have been doing.

Obviously in Copenhagen we had a chance to create a binding global agreement. It was within our reach, but we did not deliver the results we were hoping for. The Copenhagen Accord does not set global long-term or mid-term reduction targets that are legally binding, something which both the European Union and, of course, Greece which I represent, have been supporting. 

Although the Accord is an acknowledgement by the international community that greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced radically, it lacks a credible compliance verification system to ensure that these commitments are implemented. So urgency is lacking, and it could cost us our Earth.

I would, however, like to say a few words about what one might call the elephants in the room, concerning the challenges we have politically, because this is a political project and it is challenging our democratic institutions.

I would say the first challenge is that the decisions we politicians make, decisions taken today will have an impact on tomorrow’s world. Although we know that our day-to-day politics and election cycles are foremost in our minds, we must create a very different mindset to look at the future.

This is a new challenge, a challenge to be able to go beyond the day-to-day crises of unemployment, financial crisis or poverty and education issues – to see that we can in fact establish policies which will link the greening of our economies with day-to-day issues of our citizens.

So one first challenge is how do we translate the green economy, which I very much believe in, into the politics and practices of our daily lives, of our citizens in a way that will be showing them that we can create jobs, we can deal with challenges and create institutions for some of the major crises we may be facing, whether it’s migration or desertification or other problems.

This challenge may be even more difficult in emerging and developing countries, where there are more pressing, not only financial, but also social and societal problems.

A second problem, or a second challenge, I would say, is that our citizens, and particularly our youth, are becoming much more conscious of this problem, this issue, the spectre of climate change. That is a sign of hope. I might even say that it’s perhaps the first time we are creating a global consciousness, and the youth are doing this, in fact, using very much the Internet and the Media.

This is strength, but it also reveals a deep weakness and it creates a sense of powerlessness and frustration, because this consciousness does not translate into policy decisions at the global level. It shows that we are still profoundly national in our governance, our governments and institutions. Our democratic institutions are also profoundly national.

This is the first time in history we are challenged to govern this planet together, collectively, in unison, or otherwise perish.

And Copenhagen revealed the deep weaknesses in global governance, which could lead to a world divided and disabled.

The third challenge pertains to historical responsibilities, but also our future capabilities. The western developed world quite rightly is being asked to carry the burden of financing this major shift to the global green economy, to redistribute both wealth and know-how, to support developing countries and their new obligations to also become green economies and shepherding our common wealth.

Yet today, after this financial crisis, economic power is shifting. The developed countries are carrying higher and more difficult deficits, while emerging economies are much stronger, both in reserves and in surpluses.

This in turn begs another question, that of creating the necessary new financial institutions, which are representative, more equitable, and which can promote, mobilise and invest capital around the world in a planetary project for greening our economies.

It also begs the question of how we can combine development aid with the greening of our economies. I think this is why Copenhagen was, again, a failure because, as the President of Slovenia said, we need clear messages, even to the markets, to the investors, if we want to create the incentives to mobilise capital for the greening of our economy.

And in this perspective, I also am chairing the Socialist International, 170 member parties, and we have created – and Ricardo Lagos is here – a commission on a sustainable world society, presided by him and also by the former Prime Minister of Sweden, Göran Persson. You can find the Commission’s report, which is called ‘From a High-Carbon Economy to a Low-Carbon Society’, on the Web. It has been unanimously approved by these 170 parties, and we have some very, I think, important suggestions, which show both the responsibility of the developed world but also the responsibilities of the developing and emerging economies, in creating solidarity and trust, but also proposals which I think can deal with some of these divisions that we have, such as cancelling foreign debt of poorer states or transforming their debt into equal funds, as one option, or a global carbon tax, another option, which would allow us, those who commit to this, to receive, and particularly developing countries, to receive a percentage of tax revenues from developed countries, from this carbon tax, to help fund green technology, forest preservation, reforestation, adaptation to climate change, but other tools such as green bonds or transaction, the so-called Tobin Taxes, must also be discussed, and this will be an issue which we’ll be bringing up even in the European Union, I believe, next week, when we meet at the summit to talk about both the economy and Copenhagen.

The fourth challenge, which has to do with our democratic institutions, is that technology, in the end, is not neutral. We know that by now. What we will choose, even in our renewable energies, will have an impact on our institutions, our democratic institutions.

I was talking with a friend of mine yesterday from India, Ajay Mehta, who reminded me of the great tradition of India of volunteerism, in local communities, in NGOs.

Are we going to create technologies which will decentralise power and mobilise our societies, or will we have passive citizens, more authoritarian structures?

And because I believe in participative democracy, I believe that to tackle the problem of climate change we need to mobilise our citizens. They need to be part of this project. Otherwise, the complexity is so vast that we politicians alone cannot do this.

So I would finally add a suggestion, that because of this huge task we need to create awareness, awareness both for the politicians, and understanding and education of the politicians, but also the education of our publics, our citizens, of the types of problems we are facing.

In doing so, I would suggest that the scientific community, such as the IPCC and others, the political community, the NGOs, the business community, work together in creating I would say a global curriculum, primarily for our schools but also for our universities, for the greening of our education. Greening of our education so that we can become worthy stewards of our planet, build collective skills and skills for collective action, create a commonwealth of knowledge accessible to all, empower our societies to become active participants in facing the challenges, but also a conscious constituency, a political constituency, which will be demanding and supporting policies from our institutions.

In this context, Greece sees the challenge of the greening of the economy as an opportunity. We also see it as an opportunity to bring our country out of recession and create long-term prospects for growth. We have been taking initiatives in the Mediterranean and in the Balkans of South-eastern Europe, working of course within the institutions of Europe, the European Union, supporting the 2020 strategy that we have.

So let us work together. Let us work together towards Mexico but also post-Mexico, in this landmark battle against climate change, but also making it an opportunity for greening our economies and making our globalised society a humane, sustainable and democratic society.

Thank you very much for your attention.”