Connie Hedegaard: "Development, economic growth and climate action need to go hand in hand"
"The challenge of climate change has been known for several years. Why haven't you politicians done more to tackle the problem?" That was one of the questions Commissioner Hedegaard got from the audience when speaking to a crowd of more than 300 young people attending the Baltic Sea Project at a conference venue located in the hilly landscape of the Mols peninsula in Denmark.
The Commissioner explained that while a lot is already being done to tackle emissions in Europe, there is still a vast scope for domestic action and low-hanging fruits to pick when it comes e.g. to buildings, energy production and transport. She added that personal habits and choices could also be instrumental in curbing emissions, for instance when buying appliances, shopping groceries and choosing holiday destination. And that young people had an important role in speaking out in favour of climate change in their individual countries.
However, Europe accounts for only 11% of global emissions. According to the Commissioner, a crucial challenge is therefore to ensure that the countries responsible for the other 89% commit themselves to climate action. That includes the big emerging economies, such as India, China, and Brazil, that also face strong expectations from their populations to deliver growth and economic development.
"Development, economic growth and climate action need to go hand in hand", the Commissioner told the conference that had gathered participants from 10 different Baltic region countries to discuss climate change and the role of young people in tackling the challenge.
How do we make the other countries deliver, another participant wanted to know. "That is the key question", the Commissioner said. "It is a paradox: while China is not moving at the negotiating table, they are doing a lot on the ground because they can see that it benefits their economy."
But the emerging economies need to commit themselves as well, Connie Hedegaard stressed: "We cannot continue to say that the North must fix everything. In the world of this century, China, Brazil, India and others need to make international commitments. We are pushing for this, but it will no doubt be difficult", she said, but ended striking a more positive note: "I have been working with this for seven years. If we look back things have moved tremendously. The steps we take are not as big as I would like. But we ARE moving in the right direction."