Question 2: How can we bridge the gap between the competing narratives shaping the climate debate?

During CIGI ’10 Climate of Action’s first round table discussion, participants took stock of where we stand today, and more importantly, what is holding us back with respect to further and substantial progress on global climate policy. The different narratives and discourses that have shaped the global climate debate thus far have made it extremely difficult for world leaders to negotiate a deal that is perceived as equitable, legitimate and effective.

Some of these narratives deal with issues of global responsibility. While many actors in the global south perceive the developed world’s historical responsibility in contributing to the effects of climate change as justification of the developed nations’ responsibility to take a lead on global mitigation and climate policy financing, developed nations have pointed out that their contributions will be meaningless without significant cooperation from large emerging economies and powers such as India and China. These debates are characterized by a significant climate of mistrust, as representatives from developing nations perceive these arguments as an attempt to place a ceiling on the growth and development of the global south. In addition to this, discourses and narratives aimed at stimulating substantial further action on mitigation, adaptation, research and development and financing have taken many forms. While some forums have tended to address climate change as a standalone issue, climate change has also been identified as inextricably linked to issues of development, economics, energy and security.

Reformulating the debate is seen as a crucial step to bridging the divide amongst developed and developing countries. Climate change must be presented as an economic opportunity that has the potential to raise standards of living in the global South. Approaching climate change from a positive standpoint rather than focusing on the doom and gloom scenarios that prevail today is necessary in order to gain public support, and also to make government realize the economic potential that moving to a green economy presents. Very little progress will be made on climate change if it is not presented as a growth scenario. The time lag associated with climate change also makes it challenging for politicians to claim immediate progress. Thus, identifying short-term targets toward long-term goals will create incentives for our leaders to address climate change now.

Throughout the conference, we had the chance to sit down with some of our distinguished conference participants to engage with them on some of the important issues and questions raised in the roundtable discussions. In the following video, participants discuss some of the prevailing and emerging narratives that have come to shape the global climate debate, and identified ways to improve the negotiating environment.


Mr. Shayam Saran, Special Adviser, Prime Minister's Office (India)
Mr. Shyam Saran joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1970, and has since served as a diplomat in world capitals such as Beijing, Tokyo and Geneva. In the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr. Saran headed the Economic Division, the Multilateral Economic Division and the East Asia Division. After serving as Joint Secretary in 1991 – 1992, advising the Prime Minister on foreign, nuclear and defense policy, Mr. Saran was appointed India’s Foreign Secretary in 2004. Since his retirement in 2006, Mr. Saran has been appointed as Special Envoy for Indo-US civil nuclear issues and later as Special Envoy and Chief Negotiator on Climate Change.

Dr. PAN Jiahua, Director, Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies
Dr. PAN Jiahua is currently director of the Institute for Urban & Environmental Studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), and professor of economics at the CASS Graduate School. He is a member of both the China National Expert Panel on Climate Change and the Foreign Policy Advisory Group. In addition, he is advisor to the Ministry of Environment Protection and vice-president of the Chinese Society of Ecological Economists. Dr. PAN Jiahua’s past activities include working for the UNDP Beijing Office as an advisor on environment and development and being a lead author of the IPCC Working Group III 3rd and 4th Assessment Report on Mitigation.

Dr. Nathaniel Keohane, Chief Economist, Environmental Defense Fund
Dr. Nathaniel Keohane is chief economist at EDF, a leading non-profit advocacy organization based in New York. Dr. Keohane oversees EDF’s analytical work on the economics of climate policy, and helps to develop and advocate the organization’s policy positions on global warming. Dr. Keohane is also an adjunct professor at New York University. Dr. Keohane is the co-author of Markets and the Environment, and co-editor of Economics of Environmental Law. He also serves as a member of the US EPA’s Advisory Council on Clean Air Compliance and is a lead author of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (Working Group III). Before coming to EDF, he was associate professor of economics at the Yale School of Management.

Dr. Youba Sokona, Co-Chair, IPCC Working Group III for the Fifth Assessment Report
Dr. Youba Sokona is a Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III for the Fifth Assessment Report. He was the Executive Secretary of the Observatoire du Sahara et du Sahel (OSS) from 2004 to 2010. Before joining OSS, he was the Coordinator of the Energy Programme and the Executive Secretary for international relations of Environnement et Développement du Tiers Monde (ENDA-TM). Working predominantly at the nexus of environment and development, he has broad experience in policy development through research and analysis, and organizing and leading multi-stakeholder processes. Throughout his career, Dr. Sokona has served in advisory capacities to various African governments and organizations.

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