September 13, 2008

This week I had a major learning experience.

Politics is a dirty game – and if we think that democracy ends at voting, we have it very, very wrong.

I joined WWF in Brussels for two days of intense lobbying of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on the upcoming EU Climate and Energy Package – essentially, EU policy on climate change and energy.

The EU was looking like it was backtracking spinelessly on it’s previous commitments, and going to signal that they expect the UN Climate Change talks in Copenhagen next year to fail. And all this while the world looks to us for leadership – on emissions trading, on renewable technologies and on cold hard cash to reimburse poorer countries for our large historic emissions, to pay for their adaptation to a changing climate.

I spoke to various MEPs, some obviously frightened of environmental NGOs, some taking a tougher (and politically impossible) stand for action on climate change, and some very hard-working and right-minded people, who have the unenviable task of bringing together very different interests.

Now remember, the auto-industry, power sector, cement industry, shipping, aviation etc etc all have their own lobbyists. Lobbyists with serious money.

Which is absolutely fine – everyone has the right to try and influence their decision makers. I might not agree with their opinions – but I certainly grant them the access I demand of my representatives (hey, if we sat down together, I would hold my own – my arguments are pretty damn hot!).

But what does make my stomach turn, is that those who have no voice here – those born in 2056, those indigenous peoples of the northern Arctic, those subsistence farmers on the Bangladeshi delta, the animals, those living in poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa – they have no voice here.

And I guess this is what we try to do – to speak for those who can’t pay for expensive dinners, who can’t employ teams of people to change a politician’s mind.

I found it difficult to know that when I walked into an MEPs office, armed with my story and the video of NASA satallite data from the Arctic, that I had to speak for those voice-less people. That is a heavy responsibility. Thankfully, I was not alone – the smartest brains were working on the nitty-gritty of emission trading economics, others writing articles and contacting journalists, others on the phones to various political parties helping them to exert pressure on their colleagues.

What this small team of people achieve is amazing, and when I sat in the Parliament, listening to the translation from Swedish-English coming through my headphone of MEP after MEP saying that we need to show leadership, I was proud of what can be achieved.

But this is not a done deal – this challenge is ongoing. Over and over, some try to weaken and delay policies that will actually reduce our mounting and dangerous carbon emissions. We have to put pressure, write letters, talk about, and talk to our representatives.

We are not all lobbyists, but we are all people.

And we can do better than sit back and wait for someone else to stand up and say what is right.


2 Responses to “Bruxelles”

  1. Evanne said

    wouw, casper. wat een blog, wat een verhaal, wat een ervaring! Heel fijn dat ik via jouw woorden toch een beetje weet hoe Brussel is :)
    spreek je morgen! Dikke knuffel!

  2. Great post, and great work over there. How did you get involved with the trip in the first place?

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