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“It’s not a contradiction to deal with climate issues in these times of crisis”

Translated Saturday 25 July 2009, by Helen Robertshaw and reviewed by Helen Robertshaw

The 3rd World Climate Conference aims for “better information for better policies”. Organisation committee member José Romero explains.

Geneva, special correspondent.

A few months ahead of the International Climate Convention in Copenhagen (Denmark), the World Meteorological Organisation will host the 3rd World Climate Conference in Geneva at the end of August. The first, in 1979, laid the foundations for the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The second, in 1990, led to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio (Brazil). This latest edition aims to “prepare for the future”. José Romero, a member of the conference’s international organisation committee, explains.

HUMA: How is the 3rd World Climate Conference different from the first two?

José Romero: The aim of the first conference was to analyse the already-apparent signs of the influence of mankind on the climate. The second established more firmly the scientific basis of the issue. The third conference aims to move onto the stage of making scientific tools available in order to adapt to climate change. This conference is about the evolution of the process.

HUMA: What type of cooperation does the conference aim to encourage between scientists and politicians?

JR: On the political side, politicians have recognised the need to take action in the face of climate change. To deal with the risks effectively, we must have the best possible forecasting tools. The purpose of this conference is to initiate interaction between the information providers – scientists – and the users – politicians. We want to set up a global framework for climate services. It’s a way of ensuring that science translates into immediate societal benefits in the field of food security, natural risk management, energy and health… This process of exchange between providers and users is important.

HUMA: How does this work in practical terms?

JR: Let’s take the example of agriculture, where productivity is very much dependent on climatic conditions. Depending on these conditions, we find greater or lesser numbers of predators, like the locusts in Sahel Africa for example, or certain insects which can proliferate and destroy forests. To anticipate and cope with this type of situation we need, in addition to weekly forecasts, to be aware of major meteorological trends. For example, studying drought frequency over several years makes it possible to plan for irrigation or opt for more resistant species. The availability of meteorological information over seasonal periods and over several years is extremely useful.

HUMA: Aren’t you afraid that the economic crisis will overshadow your aims?

JR: In the context of the financial crisis, governments are called on to define and clarify exchanges. Likewise, in a climate crisis, governments should adopt a leading role in order to set a regulatory framework for activities that contribute to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Let’s take the example of the European Union, which has decided that cars mustn’t emit more than 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre. This is advantageous from a financial point of view because we’ll use less fuel. But it’s also good for the climate because we’ll emit less CO2 into the atmosphere. At the same time, this will bring about technological innovations. A more rational use of resources and incentives for more efficient technologies are not contradictory. This will lead to a fall in costs, and will bring about job creation and industrial regeneration, whilst protecting the environment. It’s not a contradiction to deal with environmental issues in these times of crisis.

HUMA: A few months ahead of the International Climate Convention in Copenhagen, what will your message be?

JR: This conference aims to help find an answer to climate change. The conference slogan is “better information for better policies”. For example, insurance companies are very concerned because at the current pace of change, extreme weather events will increase and the impact will be enormous. They are thus very eager for information to help them assess the risks.
I’d like to add that there’s real consensus on the fact that providing medium-term climate information represents progress. It will prove that there are possibilities for action and that everyone will benefit.

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