Kaj Embren

A message for the new year

In the final days of December, one finds oneself looking back at the year that has all but ended and looking ahead to the year that is about to begin. For those of us working in Sustainable Development, this involves reviewing 2012’s disappointing outcomes at the climate negotiations and anticipating the growing problems our planet faces in 2013 and beyond.

We have certainly had our fair share of disappointments, especially those of us who had hoped that national politicians would have the courage to break away from business as usual when the world is rapidly approaching a critical tipping point. President Obama is perhaps the biggest culprit. For all his soaring rhetoric, he has achieved next-to-nothing on the climate front. There is only so long you can continue to blame everything on the 25,000 lobbyists who barricade change in Washington.

My survival philosophy has always been to find positive signs in the world without being unrealistic. And, believe it, or not, there have been some positives.

Take the changes in attitude in the U.S. since superstorm Sandy, or the numerous instances of brave Mayors who have taken many wise local decisions despite the opposition from the Senate and the Congress at the national level, or, as I read in a recent article by Elizabeth Kolbert, in The New Yorker, about the positive perception of carbon dioxide tax by Republicans, Democrats and industry leaders.

But these hopes are tempered by Obama’s announcement that a proposal on carbon tax will never be on his agenda. And it is precisely here that we need courageous politicians. Climate change is a global issue and we need smart laws that indicate a desired direction. Our society needs to move away from a fossil-based economy. And that applies to all countries. Sweden is one of many countries that can demonstrate positive examples of the role that carbon dioxide taxation has had in reducing dependency on fossil fuels. Here, the use of bioenergy has surpassed the use of the fossil fuel, resulting in both a reduction in emissions and a better economy.

Can we hope that we, as responsible voters, will hold politicians to account, and as responsible consumers, will set higher standards for business?

As the generation who are the temporary guardians of this planet before it is handed down to our children, we have the obligation to try.

Hopefully these end-of-year thoughts can inspire for more positive action in 2013. One thing’s for sure, we’re going to need it.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year !

Kaj Embrén


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