By Afia Salam –
Dr R K Pachauri, Nobel laureate.
Up until 2007 when former U.S. vice president and environmental campaigner Al Gore, and Chairman of U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the debate and discourse about Climate Change had essentially remained within the academic and scientific circles.
The Nobel peace prize catapulted it to the centre stage, with NGOs and civil society organizations ‘owning’ the agenda to address it. Despite facing criticism on the body of work contained within the report, it is a measure of Dr. Pachauri’s credibility that he has continued to be the IPCC chairman since 2002.
As Climate Change is a global, transnational issue, he, and the institute he heads, The Energy & Resource Institute, have been busy raising awareness, building coalitions and finding solutions to shared problems that transcend boundaries.
The organization of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit is part of the exercise to bring regional cooperation in finding solutions to the problems posed by Climate Change. Herewith excerpts from an exclusive interview Pique conducted with Dr. Pachauri in New Delhi:
What are the actual objectives of forums like Delhi Sustainable Development Summit? Are you looking for a knowledge shift, policy changes or is an attitudinal change a fair enough objective?
I think it is a combination of all of these. Firstly, we need to focus on issues that normally don’t get comment on or are analyzed, and these are issues of long term relevance to human society. Therefore, we feel we have a responsibility to shed some light on them and get people who are thought leaders, and who have the intellectual capacity to contribute to the articulation of these issues.
That is one major objective, and the second is to see that the policy makers are equipped with information and knowledge by which they can take some action in the right direction. And thirdly of course, to bring about a change in attitudes and human behaviour.
And how effective have you found such platforms to be?
To be honest, it is very difficult to measure what the effectiveness of this whole effort has been but what we do find particularly heartening, are two things; firstly, there is growing interest all around and we find more and more people want to come so I suppose we are doing something right. Secondly, the extent of awareness on these issues has really grown and that is about the best one can do, as you can’t push people to take action. If you can create awareness on what needs to be done, that certainly is the first step in seeing that something will happen.
But such forums have at times been criticized for just ‘preaching to the choir’ as the segments or sectors which are identified as the problem are usually missing from them, so there isn’t a lot of dialogue taking place. Do you think that is an unfair criticism?
No, I think there is some element of truth in that, there is no question about it but it is for that reason that this year we have introduced these parallel tracks so people can discuss issues and you don’t just have speeches. In any case, the audience is allowed to ask any questions and, at times, some very tough questions have been posed by people who have not really been pre-selected to attend this forum.
If we are pointing our fingers at the industry or the corporates, they have only now, recently started coming to these forums…
Yes, but by rubbing shoulders, they also gain something because otherwise, people come with mindsets that are often very rigid but when they listen to others when they get new information, new knowledge, I am sure some of it rubs off. It’s not as though you have people coming here with set views and going away with those same views.
Do you think that rather than global conferences, if regional forums which tackle transboundary issues through multi-lateral agreements, would be more effective?
I don’t think that one is the enemy of the other. You really need to have both. I mean there’s a place for global initiative, global awareness, and global understanding, and there is a distinct place for action at the regional and sub-regional level. The very fact that you had someone from Bhutan and Seychelles share their experience convinces us they we could do the same —state by state, or province by province. It gives some level of confidence that these things can be implemented.
This region is particularly high on the vulnerability scale. Would you like to see the issues addressed at forums other than the Council of the Parties?
Absolutely! I would like to see Saarc to be more active in these areas. In the Saarc meeting that took place in Bhutan, it was clearly decided that Climate Change was something these countries would work on. Unfortunately, nothing much has happened.
The writer is an environment specialist based in Karachi