Ethics, economic transformation stressed at UN conference on climate change

POZNAN, Poland - The idea that the global response to climate change could offer a tool for social and economic transformation emerged as a significant theme at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, held here in December.

"Managing the global financial crisis requires massive global stimulus," said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in an address on 12 December 2008, the last day of the conference. "A big part of that spending should be an investment-an investment in a green future. An investment that fights climate change, creates millions of green jobs and spurs green growth."

Government ministers and other top officials from nearly 200 nations gathered here for negotiations aimed at reaching an ambitious global climate change deal next year. The two-week event marked the halfway point in efforts to reach agreement on a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol, the legally binding regime for reducing greenhouse gas emissions whose first commitment period ends in 2012.

Many at the event expressed concern that the global economic crisis could upstage the issue of climate change. "I am fearful that the movement to address climate change is losing momentum as a consequence of the economic crisis that is engulfing the world," said President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana.

Others, like Mr. Ban, suggested the economic crisis should be considered a transformational opportunity.

"There is no contradiction between economic growth and ambitious climate policies," said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Prime Minister of Denmark. "On the contrary, the policies needed to address climate change are the very policies that can help to rebalance and revitalize our economies."

Government ministers at a high-level round table similarly agreed that the "right to development - to sustainable development - also presents an opportunity to transform the global economy, decoupling economic growth from emissions growth, strengthening climate resilience, diversifying economies and reducing vulnerability."

The conference drew over 9,250 participants, including almost 4,000 government officials; 4,500 representatives of UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations; and more than 800 accredited members of the media, according to the Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

In its contributions to the Conference, the Bahá'í International Community stressed the importance of addressing the ethical and moral issues that surround global warming and its impact on the world's peoples.

"In the face of the destructive impacts of climate change - exacerbated by the extremes of wealth and poverty - a need for new approaches centered on the principles of justice and equity is apparent," the BIC said in a working paper issued at the Conference.

The paper, "Seizing the Opportunity: Redefining the Challenge of Climate Change," also suggested that the threat of climate change offers the possibility for the transformation of global economics.

"It is the opportunity to take the next step in the transition from a state-centered mode of interacting on the world stage to one rooted in the unity which connects us as the inhabitants of one biosphere, the citizens of one world and the members of one human civilization."

Representatives of the BIC also participated in two side events at the Conference. Both were organized by the Collaborative Program on the Ethical Dimension of Climate Change at the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State University, and both carried the title "Moral and ethical issues that must be faced in implementing the Bali roadmap."

On Monday, 8 December, Bahá'í representative Peter Adriance spoke at the first such side event on the topic "Summoning the courage: Arising to the ethical challenge of climate change."

In his remarks, Mr. Adriance stressed the importance of embracing the concept of the oneness of humanity as the overriding ethical and moral principle in addressing climate change.

"There is a great opportunity for the world to make the transition from operating only from a national perspective to a global perspective," said Mr. Adriance.

On Tuesday, 9 December, Bahá'í representatives participated in a day-long seminar, the second side event organized by the Collaborative Program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change.