Vida Wagner Ogorelec (Umanotera): Politicians are not aware of the importance of climate change
Published 02nd October 2009 - 6 comments - 1464 views -
I sat down with Vida Wagner Ogorelec, the head of the Umanotera NGO which deals with climate change and sustainable development. We talked about COP15, the Slovenian attitude towards the climate change and the media aspect of the subject.
How is COP15 perceived in Slovenia?
I think different interest groups are perceiving the meeting differently. NGOs are very aware of the potential Slovenia can achieve at the summit, not only as a EU member state but also as an independent entity, which has no major lobbying interests compared to other member states (USA, China...). Unfortunately, the slovenian political elite has been putting this topic off for quite some time and if you look at the slovenian position on the matter, you can see that the climate change is almost entirely connected with the ministry of environment. In our opinion, the climate change is something that the whole government should get involved with. Slovenia recently got a new department within the government that will deal with climate change exclusivly, but we expected that they would at least appoint another minister, since the department has no real power.
I guess we can say that generally the slovenian politics do not recognize the opportunity for the whole country, since there is no coherent approach on the subject which would resonate across different fields and would be in general more strategic. We are seeing Kyoto as a burden, where we should be seeing it as a challenge to move away from the fossil-fuels based society. Surprisingly, the industry sector is overall much more interested in the enivornment. Even on the municipal level, the understanding is very big, but sadly, none of them participated in the shaping of the official position of Slovenia.
How much is this interest a consequence of a growing »green fashion« and how much is this interest connected to the real wish for a change?
The politicians are being very defensive and their reaction is mostly a response to the growing pressure of the public or the international community. We have yet to realise that the real change is morally and ethically correct and at the same time also very good for the social development. The Economist magazine is saying that the change from fossil fuels based society is a great job opportunity but still, our politicians are being very defensive about it. When we did the analysis of the programs last year, we saw some perspective in them but then the real politics changed completely.
Most of the media mostly reports on climate change with a series of shock journalism. They are reporting on natural disasters, but do not put them into a context. That is one of the problems, on the other hand, compared to a few years back, the shock journalism is still better than no journalism. Al Gore was one of the first who brought the subject into the focus of the mass media and from there, it slowly took off. Nevertheless, the media got saturated with the same type of reporting over and over again and they need to decide and take a step forward – reporting on climate change from different angles. Compared to our media, the British media is light years ahead of us, since they apply creative ways of reporting thus making the subject interesting.
Another problem in Slovenia is the lack of specialized journalists, since the climate change topic »deserves« its own department within the media company. The media has its problems with shock journalism and ignorance, but on the other hand the scientics cannot agree upon climate change being fact, prognosis or fiction. Why is that? I think that is the perception of society which tracks science mostly through the mass media. A team of scientics which includes over 3000 people from all over the world and is working within the UN department for climate change two years ago unanimously agreed that there is a 95% certainty that the climate change in the last fifty years is human-related and that it is not in any way related to the sun activity or other natural phenomenon.
The problem with science is that the media is covering the subject the wrong way – they are giving equal opportunites to the majority that is claiming the climate change is human based and to the minority which is claiming the climate change is a myth. By covering the subject the wrong way, the media distorts the reality and confuses the public.
In your own opinion, what will be the result of the Copenhagen summit?
I think the key lies in the bilateral relationships between the big international players (China, USA, EU). The road to success definitely leads through the american senate which right now has its problem with the health legislation and with the continuing politization of the climate change politics. I am being optimistic and I hope that a breakthrough will occur, along with the realisation that we have to do this together. If the agreement will not be reached in Copenhagen, who knows what the better thing to do is. Is it better to wait for a different opportunity or is it to aim for the lowest common denominator? There is no way predicting what will happen, but the dynamics of the bilateral relationships between the big players change significantely in the past few months (China especially), which gives me hope that we might just come to a breakthrough. The main problem are of course the details of the agreement.
All countries support the principles but when it comes down to actual commitements, each of them is rooting fo itself. There is no clear definition of »overheating« in the documents and we do not know how the countries will divide the global burden. I think each of the countries will try to act on its own, which is what we are seeing now in Slovenia. Not to mention the sanctions which were not included in the Kyoto agreement and, if implemented in the COP15 agreement, will radically change the rules of the game. The general problem is that we have no succesful mechanism of solving the global problems. Climate change is the first in line.
Your organisation, Umanotera, has recently started to collect signatures for a petition which says that the prime minister and not only the minister of environment should go to Copenhagen. Is the pressure working or is this the only mechanism of pressure available to you?
Well, the results are clearly showing since the politicians are reacting to the media as well as the public. We decided to lauch our campaign now and to address the politicians which are not paying enough attention to the fight against climate change. On the other hand, the topic is very much alive in the public sector and we need to get the politicians to realise that. We wish to achieve several goals, besides getting the prime minister to Copenhagen, we also wish to prove to the politicians that the topic of climate change is not to be dealt with lightly and that the people expect a firm reaction from its government.
Promo video of the campaign:
If the COP15 agreement does not happen, what`s next? Who do you think should carry the burden?
I think we have no backup plan. The agreement must be reached since there is no other international player that can be compared to the government representatives. I think that is why the governments must be aware of their duties and their powers. The industry and individuals can interact with eachother, but compared to a political agreement, they are powerless. In many countries the pressure from the bottom up is so strong, that it starts to border on chaos. Government needs to step in and set an example for the whole country.
I apologize for not including the subtitles in the video, it proved to be too much of a hassle. If anybody has any useful tips on how do to it, I am all ears. I will post some remarks on the interview later on, but for now, I want to hear from you. What did you think about it?
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