Country of residence: USA
How did you get to the role where you are today and what advice do you have for aspiring climate champions/or sustainable development champions?
I’ve been a climate change negotiator for thirty years, after having been an environmental specialist for the last 14 years. I began as an activist in 1972 and then became a minister in 1992. From 2007-2010 I was an ambassador. It was during this time that I thought that climate change negotiations lacked the view of the “big picture” and therefore I thought that Rio+20 was the right thing to organize.
What prompted your early interest in the environment?
My revelation, or “Road to Damascus” so to speak, began in 1969 when I saw the man walking on the moon and thought to myself “this is the curse that embraces the moon.” Additionally, I was an activist through being a cyclist. The President of the Republic of France, during that time, wanted to build a highway in the city and he said that you have to adapt cities to cars. With that, I decided to enter in the resistance in trying to say that you actually have to adapt cars to cities and by no means bring them into cities.
Describe your first attempt to save the planet
My first attempt to save the planet was when I went on a boat to oppose the French nuclear tests in the pacific. I embarked with some of my Australian friends and went sailing in the hopes of opposing the tests. In addition I took part in a bicycle demonstration with 10,000 people. The demonstration was a symbol of a new lifestyle, one of freedom that promoted a new way of living together in cities. We also argued that cities should provide free bicycles to all its inhabitants. The idea was to create a “velo-lution”
What is your favorite quote?
Chateaubriand “ Forests proceed humans, deserts follow”
What do you think should be achieved at Rio+20?
I believe that we have to create a new step in the history of international relations and this step is in terms of planetary policies and institutions. However, this cannot be accomplished in one day. Although global interests on mankind started back in 1972 and were carried on again in 1992, we have been struggling to invent new ways in managing global commitments while including the world population. The question of Rio+20 for me is “if we were one country, what would we do.” Would we be much more effective in helping people and in fighting degrading of our territories? But the question then turns to how do you do that? That is where the negotiation process fits in. However, we cannot forget about the mobilization of the planet and of the people of the planet. What we have to do is not only achieve a good outcome, but also gather and give hope to lots of people so that our children can have the same hope in the future.
How do you see your role in this process?
The way I see my role is to create as much enthusiasm as possible. My job is to get everyone engaged and to give a role and place to everyone. Additionally, it is to say that we are not only focusing on diplomatic missions within the U.N., but also focusing on all NGOs. Essentially, I’m here to see that in the headquarters we listen and try not to forget anything.
What does Rio+20 mean to humanity and its existence?
I’ve been around for both Stockholm and the first meeting in Rio in 1992 and for me these meetings have been a real pace of history, compared to the slow pace of business and politics. The whole world have dove into an incredibly short-term media and technology “forget what has happened yesterday” system. The reality of history and society is on the pace and the reality with our relationship to planet earth. Thus, it is history in the making.
What do you think the priorities for action should be in the run up in the Rio+20?
I’m very excited by the idea of sustainable development goals and believe that it’s a real global move forward. Additionally, I think it’s important to concentrate all this into views because people want action-orientated outcomes.