After four days the picture already becomes clear: it is going to be very hard for the world community as assembled at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen to reach the desired consensus necessary to halt global warming. African countries cannot even agree amongst themselves, Brazil, India, South Africa and China come with their own joint perspective as leaders of the developing world and Western countries "secretly" work on a deal to exclude the Third World and take the whole conversation away from the UN.
It must have been easier to build the tower of Babel. Many voices outside the UN Conference nonetheless agree that the challenge of global warming presents a great opportunity for innovation and economic development. In fact it presents opportunity to lead meaningful lives. Isn't it much more interesting to develop and build the next sustainable renewable energy system than to design another "financial product"?
Humanity stands on the threshold of the transformation of the current economies based on polluting fossil fuels into sustainable renewable energy economies. This transformation will provide millions of new jobs. It will halt global warming. It will create a more fair and just world. It will clean our environment and make our lives healthier. In other words, the problem of global warming presents an inspiring opportunity to make our world a better place.
This is all going to happen. And there is one thing that we don't need, one event that may even present an obstacle to all these promising developments. That is the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen. Think about it. We have seen many technological revolutions throughout history that have reshaped the world with the digital revolution of the Internet as the most recent one. And yet none of these have been brought about through an international treaty that requires the consensus of the global community. That is not the way that such revolutions work. When big changes happen there are always vested interests that stand to lose a lot. These interests are not going to easily give way to the new opportunities. And exactly these interests are coming together in Copenhagen. That's why Hermann Scheer, member of the German parliament, says in a special free issue of Ode Magazine: "The current climate negotiations will never lead to the renewable energy economy that we need because they are based on the wrong premise. That premise is that the shift to clean energy will be an economic burden, so agreement needs to be reached on common solutions, common steps and common policies to share that burden."
Scheer's voice is important. He is a former minister in the German government and the president of Eurosolar, the European Association for Renewable Energy. But most importantly Scheer was the primary architect of the German Renewable Energy Act that has made Germany the world leader in solar power. Mind you, Germany, not exactly the country that captures the most sunshine in the world!
Scheer has shown what we need to transform our fossil fuel economies. We need to support new innovative industries with market access and we need to introduce taxes that punish polluting behavior. That's the simplest and most efficient way to generate the economic transformation that we need. But such measures will have to be local as the circumstances vary greatly. The generation of solar power in the Sahara requires a different supportive approach than the generation of wind energy on the North Sea.
So as far as Hermann Scheer is concerned we should quickly pass Copenhagen and go on with the real important jobs on the national levels. In his essay in Ode he writes: "The right premise is: The shift to clean energy has great economic benefits to all countries that embark on the journey. Arguing from the right premise, there is no need for a global contract." In other words: We just need countries to implement national and/or regional policies for new industries to grow. Then we still need to overcome vested interests and it won't be a simple task. But at least we don't need an impossible global consensus.