Doha COP18 blog: The diversity of action

La Trobe Institute for Social and Environmental Sustainability

COP18. Doha, Qatar. Sunday, 2 December

By Professor Simon Molesworth

Professor Molesworth is one of Australia's leading environmental lawyers. He is chairman of the International National Trusts Organisation, the collective voice for some six million people globally involved with cultural and natural heritage.  In June 2012, Professor Molesworth was awarded an Order of Australia in the Queens Birthday Honours list for 'Distinguished service to conservation and the environment, to heritage preservation at national and international levels, to professions and natural resources sectors and community health organisations.'

Diversity of appeals for action

SMBlog 8One cannot but be inspired by the extraordinary diversity of human kind drawn to a UN gathering such as COP18. With near to 200 nations participating, not surprisingly the full spectrum of human ethnicity is apparent.  There are clearly those amongst the delegations, especially some of the government delegations, who are not here to cooperate with other nations to the extent that, for one, I believe is necessary – (especially given the release today of another horrific scientific report from the University of East Anglia confirming accelerating global warming, with an almost certain rise of average global temperature of 5% rather than the 2% that global leaders are struggling to agree upon).However, for the most part, the human energy in the Qatar International Convention Centre is palpably pro greater action to address climate change.

It is the unity of intent or spirit that is so encouraging. I may be naïve in believing that there is such a shared vision – albeit diverse in its expression and preferred implementation – but certainly there is a shared realisation that much has to be done by way of mitigation and abatement – and very soon.  There are many industry groups here who may be driven less by altruistic vision and more by economic opportunism, but really does that matter? I don’t think it matters at all. If everyone is pulling in the same direction, irrespective of motivation, we’ll collectively assist each other to arrive at the necessary reforms.  So being driven by the opportunities that present themselves, these industry representatives accept the inevitable that significant societal changes in the face of climate change will lead to opportunities. I am convinced that the “Green Industrial Revolution” is here and that it is only the foolish who do not recognise the economic potential that it presents. It is also well to remember that given the scale of action and innovation required to have any chance of tackling climate change, will require a global partnership of all public and private sectors.

Amidst the 17,000 are some very interesting delegates. Yesterday our exhibition booth received a visit from His Holiness Shri Shri Soham Baba, an Indian-born Netherlands-based religious leader who has millions of followers or disciples in 128 countries (but he says not yet in the Middle East or North Africa). He has made it his mission to galvanise his followers to address climate change, campaigning to make the world a more liveable place. The Babaji, as he is informally referred to, despairs at the endless negotiations, asserting that “a single action is much more powerful than any of these numerous discussions”.  He was reported in the Gulf Times this morning as saying: “Meditation and healing are not enough. One needs to do something more and it is possible only through action”. He gives the example of his followers in the African country of Senegal who have followed his guidance and recently planted some 500,000 Acacia trees.    

HH Soham Baba had remembered the discussions he had had with me at COP17 in Durban and so came to COP18 bringing with him a gift to present to me of an Indian wall hanging. He explained that the patch-work of the hanging comprising hundreds of pieces of brightly coloured material, symbolised sustainability principles in that off-cut materials were used and the native craftspeople were being encouraged to maintain their skills and traditions that might otherwise be lost. After his presentation of the hanging, we then exchanged views and ideas with him putting questions to me about the principles of sustaining cultural integrity, exploring with me some of the potential reforms that are required and having a careful note made of each of my responses.

As HH Soham Baba left, I could not help but reflect on the extraordinary and rich diversity there is within the global coalition of interests calling for climate change action, as graphically illustrated with me being a conservatively attired QC with a professorial position at La Trobe University from Melbourne and the Babaji being an eastern mystic attired in the most wonderfully flamboyant and colourful robes, who annually withdraws to icy caves at the foot of the Himalayas with a following of disciples across the world.

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