Nobel laureate warns of climate change ‘inertia’
Nobel Peace Prize winner Rajendra Pachauri warned in an interview with Emerging Markets that economic malaise threatened to undermine efforts to combat climate change
Moves to tackle climate change have run into public inertia in the face of economic uncertainty, mounting debts and the ongoing eurozone crisis, according to the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rajendra Pachauri.
Fear over the loss of jobs and pensions on an individual level have created a sense of weariness among many people when it comes to the pressing issue of tackling climate change, he told Emerging Markets in an exclusive interview.
People are preoccupied with other problems, said Pachauri, who chairs the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and heads TERI, an Indian research and policy institute.
There is inertia within the entire system, and we are seeing that inertia at work. Over the past few years people become more focused on other things, leading to a shift in motivation.
One sign of this apathy on a governmental level is the so-called Green Climate Fund, a financing initiative floated at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009. The GCF was created as a conduit to channel up to $100 billion a year into environmental projects in emerging markets by the 2020.
Pachauri said the project had not moved on much since then, noting that no concrete commitments have been made on [GCF so far]. I feel it will take some time before it really becomes something of major significance.
That lack of progress allied other political issues around the world such as a transition year in China and a looming presidential election in the United States, has put climate change on the back burner.
Pachauri said he was sanguine about the slowdown in public and governmental interest. Even though the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has warned that almost 7% of GDP could be shaved off the economies of Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines by the end of the century, he believes that ultimately humankind will come to its senses in time.
I dont think the [current inertia] represents a permanent shift in terms of how societies deal with climate change. Once the reality of climate change starts to sink in and spread, communities and societies will start to act.
He said multilaterals were helping member states stem or adapt to climate change, but added: You have to understand the limitation of banks like the ADB in terms of how much action they can take.
The ADB has a role no doubt but I dont see that supplanting the role of local governments. Theres no dearth of wealth in Mumbai, but theres something lacking there in terms of infrastructure, and not action is being taken in terms of these issues.
He said there was still a significant role for the ADB, notably in coming to the help of poorer Asian countries. Poor regions in Asia clearly lack the ability to take care of themselves, he said highlighting Nepal, which suffers from pollution to ecology and the bursting of glacial dams, problems that are being exacerbated by global warming.
Pachauri also said that Asia, along with sub-Saharan Africa and parts of North America and southern Europe, was on the front line of climate change. He pointed to the mega-deltas most affected by the threat of rising sea levels and the more erratic path of tropical storms and cyclones, highlighting low-lying cities like Shanghai, Kolkata in India, and the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka.