Environmental Leadership Reinvigorated

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Recently at a meeting in Switzerland a group of emerging environmental leaders pledged their personal commitment to creating a new wave of environmental action in the 21st Century. Speaking at the close of three days of intense discussions, the group set out their practical ideas on how to kick-start a deep change in the way the world economy works to prioritise human welfare and a to finally secure a long-lasting, sustainable, approach to the use and preservations of our environment, which is the fundamental basis of that welfare.

“This meeting sought to inspire and foster a new wave of leadership in global environmental governance, drawing on the knowledge of several generations of environmental leaders”, said Maria Ivanova, Director of the Global Environmental Governance Project.

This meeting drew together a stellar cast of environmental leaders over the past 40 years. They included Maurice Strong, the Secretary-General of the first United Nations conference on the human environment and the Rio Earth Summit; Mostafa Tolba; Elizabeth Dowdeswell; Klaus Töpfer, and Achim Steiner.

“This was the first time that all five Executive Directors of the United Nations Environment Programme have been gathered together in one meeting”, said Maurice Strong.

Other participants included Mohamed El-Ashry who was the CEO of the Global Environment Facility from its inception to 2003; Yolanda Kakabadse, the newly elected President of the WWF International; and Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director-General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Senior diplomats that shaped today’s international environmental laws and structures, and those currently involved working to reshape that system, all took part in this debate with a key group of young environmental leaders.

“While the issues are complex and seemingly intractable, there are also many reasons for optimism”, said William Ruckelshaus, the first Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency. “We have made important strides on environmental issues, and need to keep moving forward with new solutions”, he said.

Current challenges identified by the emerging environmental leaders stressed the need to secure greater accountability on environment-related commitments, and advocating for a more central place for environmental issues in decision making and structures. “We need to be making investments in the right places – investing in skills, in young people from all fields, and in our leaders”, the young leaders said. “We will need to be as radical in our thinking as the first generation of doers were, and take action through our networks, using new media and all the tools we have at our disposal.”

One thing I would like to point out and add here and that is the more I hear the word “global governance” as in Global Environmental Governance Project the more I get concerned as to what agenda is being pushed here as with so many supposed green and environmental projects.

Here we seem to have a “global governance” agenda. We have been there sometime already with the United Nations global governance program of some years back and that too had nasty undertones.

While the environment and a proper economy “as if people mattered”, as Schumacher put it, is in all of our interest, for sure, global governance of any kind and in any shape or form must be watched if we value our freedoms, often so hard won.

For further information see the website of the Global Environmental Governance Project at www.environmentalgovernance.org

© 2009