Wikinews interviews Christoph Bals of the NGO Germanwatch after conclusion of climate conference

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Correction — February 25, 2008
 
Translation problems from German to English, see Talk page.
 

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cquote1.svg A year ago I would have found the current outcome almost revolutionary. ... A lot has been achieved, but the biggest hurdles are still in front of us. Cquote2.svg

—Christoph Bals, Senior Political Executive of Germanwatch

With the Climate Conference in Bali having come to a successful conclusion, Wikinews journalist Sean Heron interviewed Christoph Bals from the German NGO Germanwatch on his opinion of the outcome, and an outlook on the future negotiations. Christoph is the Senior Political Executive of Germanwatch, Co-Author of the Climate protection-Index and did lobby work on Bali.

The interview

Introduction to Germanwatch

Wikinews: Could you explain what defines the organization Germanwatch and what your targets are?

Christoph Bals: Germanwatch is a non governmental organization (NGO) that has the environment and north south justice/fairness as its main topics. We don't actually execute any projects in the south, but lend issues that are of relevance to the south - the so called developing nations - a voice towards politics, the economy and on the financial market.

WN: Could you go into more specifics on what it is you do on climate change?

CB: Climate Change is one of our main topics. Both the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate change is important. For these two issues we engage ourselves both with regard to Germany and the least developed countries (LDCs). We are intensively involved in national and international political processes, building up pressure on politicians and economic players and/or working constructively with them, depending on how greater achievements are to be made.

The Negotiations in Bali

WN: The next question, which is very much at hand, is of course how Germanwatch views the outcome of the negotiations? Have your expectations been fulfilled?

CB: We haven't been able to write in the reduction targets that we would have needed. But these targets can still be achieved in the negotiating framework that the Roadmap has put down. The biggest obstacle here were the United States. It won't be possible to agree to targets with this administration, but hopefully, in two years and with the next administration, we'll be able to agree to the necessary global targets.
Cquote1.svg It is to be hoped for ... that a coalition of progressive industrial nations, least developed countries ... and newly industrialized countries - for example China, Mexico, South Africa, India - support this. There were first signs for such a development in Bali. Cquote2.svg

—Christoph Bals

WN: Would you have expected this outcome yesterday? Or a year ago?

CB: A year ago I would have found the current outcome almost revolutionary. Compared with my expectations before the negotiation it's different though; I then still had the hope that there would be more extensive progress at the end of this climate year. If you look at the packages that have been agreed on: technology transfer and development, adaptation to climate change, financial mechanisms, forest protection; then you can see that quite a substantial process has been started. So a lot has been achieved, but the biggest hurdles are still in front of us.
What could cause some dynamics is that you need money for all these packages, and you can only really get that through strong reduction targets. Be it Climate charges or taxes, auctioning of emission certificates, or a sort of Tobin tax on international emissions trading. That leads to those nations that want money out of the packages having an incentive to work for stronger reduction targets. It is to be hoped for that movement for strong emission targets as well as for the financing of technologies, forest protection and adaptation measures develops. And that a coalition of progressive industrial nations, least developed countries (the so called LDCs) and newly industrialized countries - for example China, Mexico, South Africa, India - support this. There were first signs for such a development in Bali.

Outlook on the next two years

WN: How do things continue after this conference? What's the course of events until the Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark 2009?

CB: The four packages climate protection targets, adaptation to climate change, accelerated commercial launching of the necessary technologies and financing of technology, forest protection and adaptation have to be negotiated in detail now. Next year there will be four rounds of negotiations. The final conclusion is to be reached by the end of 2009, at the climate summit in Copenhagen.

WN: What needs to happen in this period of time in your opinion? What do the agreements that are hopefully to be reached need to look like?

CB: The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, so that a warming of more than 2°C (35.6 F) is averted, is central. The global average temperatures mustn't rise above 2°C in comparison with pre-industrial levels. We call this the aversion of the uncopeable, as the risks of such a warming would be simply too great.
To achieve this goal a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 50-85% by 2050 is necessary. For the middle term this means that the peak of global emissions needs to be reached in 10-15 years and that the output is cut considerably year after year from then onwards. The group of industrialized nations have to reduce their emissions by 25-40% till 2020 (compared to 1990 baselines) on average to make this possible.
Regarding adaptation, what we call coping with the inadvertable, the scale of funding is going to have to change. Roughly US$50 billion a year are going to be required.
Cquote1.svg We shouldn't think that the problem is just in the U.S., even if it is to be seen most clearly there. Many of us [Germans/Europeans] don't realize what the necessary emission cuts mean. Cquote2.svg

—Christoph Bals

WN: What do you see as (the biggest) obstacle(s) on the way to such an agreement? You've already mentioned the current U.S. administration.

CB: We shouldn't think that the problem is just in the U.S., even if it is to be seen most clearly there. Many of us [Germans / Europeans] don't realize what the necessary emission cuts mean. If we really want to achieve greenhouse gas reductions of the magnitude I have just described, we first need to become conscious of the fact that the wealth of the industrial nations is build on CO2. From the steam engine over coal power plants, the chemical industry up to cars and airplanes, the whole model of wealth is built up on fossil fuels and thus also CO2 emissions. Up until now more wealth also meant more emitted CO2. We now need to move towards an almost emission free model of wealth in large steps. And the role of leader seems to fall to Europe. If Europe manages to show it, the chances of the large newly industrialized nations following that lead rise enormously.

Possibilities for individuals to act

WN: Finally I, and perhaps the readers as well, are interested in how people at home can take a positive influence on the process?

CB: Well first, there is the possibility to engage yourself politically, working in an NGO like Germanwatch being the only option in that. What is encouraging in this area are the notable things that have already been achieved by an informed public. To name an example, the planning of multiple coal power plants has been stopped in recent times, just as well thanks to public pressure.
It should also be clear to everyone, that every banknote is also a ballot paper, with which you can decide for more or less emissions. For almost any way of spending money - be it groceries or mobility - there are climate compatible and non compatible choices. I can fly or take the train, or - if the later is not possible - at least compensate the warming effects via sites such as atmosfair.de.
But even when I save money, it's up to me if it works for or against climate sustainability. For every investment possible, by now there are also options that support the protection of the climate - often without needing to forgo returns. The money I put on the bank is used for investments and projects that contribute to or undermine the sustainability of our economic system.

WN: Does that mean the demand for a climate compatible life style?

CB: It's not about one climate compatible life style. It's more of a case of a climate compatible variant needing to be developed for each of the different life styles that exist in our society. The people in our society don't need to become uniform. Some will focus on protecting the climate through technical innovations and will bring their house up to the most recent level of efficiency, and massively use renewable energies. Others will see an increase in wealth in not having a car, instead buying a "Bahncard 100" [This is a flat rate for a years rail travel in Germany, at a cost of 3500 Euro, ed.] which also lets you take your kids along for free, and focus on a slower more conscious life. We don't need to prescribe one life style, what is necessary is to advance every life style variant in a climate compatible way

WN: Thank you for the interview and your time.


Sources

Wikinews
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.

External links

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