2011 Forum

A strategy for soil restoration - Luc Gnacadja, Benin, Executive Secretary, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

Land restoration in China – Loess Plateau - John Liu, USA, Founder, Environmental Education Media Project

Renewable energy bridging continents - Tom Duncan, Australia, Director of Policy, ASEAN-Australia, Desertec Asia-Australia Research Organisation

The motivation for environmental advocacy - Jennifer Helgeson, USA, Grantham School of Climate Research, London School of Economics

2009 Forum

Prem Shankar Jha : India, author, columnist
We are sitting on a time bomb – abrupt climate change. At a certain point the factors behind global warming become self-reinforcing and then you cannot stop the process even if you bring down carbon emissions to zero. The algae in the sea capture two thirds of the carbon dioxide that the earth is capable of capturing, while the icecaps reflect 90% of the heat which strikes them. Analysis suggests that the tipping point for both icecaps melting and the algae in the sea dying is a temperature rise of three degrees, though it may be less. We cannot look to future technologies to prevent this. We need to reappraise current technologies in the new circumstances of cost, returns and the alternatives that we face today. <Download his speech>

Robert Glasser : Australia, Secretary-General, CARE International
Wealthy countries have strong resources to deal with changes in climate variability. The one billion who live in absolute poverty do not. They are enormously resilient and resourceful. But they, who are the least responsible for the problem, are going to suffer the greatest consequences. <Download his speech>

Jennifer Helgeson : USA, Environmental economist, Grantham Centre for Climate Research, London School of Economics
The IPCC estimates that 85% of the finance needed to respond to climate change will need to come from private investors. Copenhagen needs to convince the world that the private and public sectors will work together. Hurricane Katrina showed that even in developed nations, we have people too poor to deal with the effects of climate change. Some insurers are considering starting micro-insurance schemes for the disadvantaged in both developed and developing nations. This could strengthen their resilience and enable them to cope better with crisis. <Download her speech>

Philip Herzog : France, President of civic movement Confrontations Europe
If we are to cope with these huge changes in our way of life, we need to start making massive changes in urban planning. This depends on financing. Using pension funds and insurance funds for these purposes will prove a valuable investment in the future.

Marco Keiner : Switzerland, Chair, UN Environment and Security Initiative
The processes developed by the Copenhagen climate change conference must include managing the unavoidable – enabling climate refugees to survive. Most of the developing world’s mega-cities are located at sea level. Many of their inhabitants will need to be accommodated by the countries which have caused this mess. Europe needs millions of workers to balance our continent’s demographic change. <Download his speech>

Chad Briggs : USA, Senior Fellow, Institute for Environmental Security
A stable environment is crucial for maintaining food and energy security. It is now changing much more quickly than expected. We can’t wait for droughts to occur, for people to start migrating, for people to lose their sense of cooperation. We can create win-win situations. We can create communities which don’t have to rely on cars for transportation, where people know their neighbours, in which they enjoy increased real estate values, and lower stress. <Download his speech>

Geoffrey Lean : UK, Award-winning pioneer of environmental journalism
We have 10 years to turn the situation around. We can do it. Renewable energy offers the biggest economic opportunity of the century. Last year 155 billion dollars was spent on renewables while only 110 billion was spent on fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas – and nuclear combined. <Download his speech>

Initiatives

Luc Gnacadja  Benin 
Executive Secretary, UN Convention to Combat Desertification

Our generation will set human history on the path either to sustainable development or self-destruction.  All that stands between us and extinction is 20 centimetres of topsoil. This irreplaceable resource feeds us, keeps us clothed, the air and water clean, the land green and pleasant and the human soul refreshed. Yet 12 million hectares of land are lost every year – an area three times the size of Switzerland. We can still choose sustainability but there is no time to waste.

The frontline agents of this sustainability are those who live in the drylands, which make up a third of our land mass and are home to a third of the world's population. In 2007, 80% of the world's major armed conflicts occurred in these vulnerable ecosystems.

The north Sudan desert has advanced by 100 kms in 40 years. Rainfall has dropped by 16%-30%, forcing the nomadic Zaghawa tribe to migrate southward. Their encounter with the farming tribes of the Fur and Masalit ended in conflict.

But the people of the drylands are not helpless liabilities, they can be vital agents of progress. Their lands can be made productive if they are empowered with the appropriate policy frameworks, incentives and innovations.

Duke of Montrose  UK 
House of Lords

I have been a spokesman for my party on environmental concerns including marine conservation and climate change. During our debates on climate change, many argued that we should not impose price disadvantage on ourselves without global agreement. But the Climate Change Act, finally achieved with complete agreement, requires all future British administrations to reduce our 1992 level of carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. The Government now faces the task of developing the practical steps to achieve this.

Ian Robertson  Zimbabwe 
Agricultural scientist

With a small team of university students, we have developed methods of eliminating the virus from basic food crops, so that yields are dramatically increased. We have just supplied five million virus-free sweet potato vines to the Food and Agriculture Organisation for distribution across Zimbabwe. When you feed your family you have dignity. When you feed the whole country you have economic independence. When you help your neighbours to feed their families you build a trust that puts an end to war.

Rishabh Khanna  India 
Co-founder, Indian Youth Climate Network; former South Asia Coordinator, 350

As young people, our future is at sake. We can't wait for our political leaders to act.
We have launched the Great Power Race – a race to a low carbon economy – between students in India, China and the USA (www.greatpowerrace.org).
Already over 800 colleges in all three countries have signed up.

Mano Aghali  Niger 
President, HED-Tamat NGO

Climate change threatens the survival of Tuareg culture. We cannot cope with the constant droughts of recent years, interspersed with an occasional massive downpour which sweeps away our land. Half of Niger's population is enduring famine conditions.

HED-Tamat focuses on training for community development, and we are building schools, health centres, wells, cereal banks, grain mills. This year we have had to spend twice as much on emergency relief as on development. But this is only mitigating the crisis.

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