One Young World Returning Ambassador Hans Balmaekers
reports on the Sustainable Development Plenary.
Sustainable development: steering our ship into the future
During their sessions earlier today, astronaut Ron Garan and secretary-general Kofi Annan both compared the earth with a ship. They painted the picture of us all on board of one ship, flying through the universe.
If you take on this view of the earth as one big ship, problems in one small part of it, are problems for all of us. Only by collaboration globally we can tackle the “issues without passport” we face on this ship. One of these issues as addressed in the plenary of sustainable development was fossil fuel subsidies and their impact on climate change.
Currently, the fossil fuel industry is generously subsidized despite the fact that it’s already the most profitable business on earth. During the first quarter of 2012, the big oil companies earned $368 million per day. It’s as if the industry is being awarded a bonus for driving climate change. Fossil fuels are subsidized at nearly six times the rate of renewable energy. The simple but profound effect is that we’ll never get to renewable energy if we keep offering cash to oil, coal and gas companies to continue business as usual.
In the very same convention center in Pittsburgh, some years ago during the G20, countries pledged to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. Both delegates Parker and Dogukan referenced the fact that little action has been taken so far. This year these subsidies amount to $775 billion. Imagine what we could do with that money when spent else, on top of to the enormous environmental impact.
Is a challenge like this too big to overcome? Parker rightfully argued, we must not be intimidated by the size of it – although for some (and thus for all) sustainability means survival, as we heard from Barkha. A world without subsidies on fossil fuel would be a big step in the right direction. But let’s not stop there.
During the summit, we have been told lots of times that we are the leaders of tomorrow, together creating the future of this ship we are on. I was amazed by the commitment of the 1200 fellow young leaders from all across the world, dedicated to bring about change.
So let’s remember the amazing orbital view of our earth ship. And when back home, let’s drive our actions based on the answer to this crucial question as posed by Ron and fellow astronauts: what kind of world do you want? What earth do we want to pass to the children of our children? Because we need that vision to steer our ship safely into the future.