By Ethan Goffman, http://earthtalk.org/interview-alexander-ochs/
For the past 15 years, Alexander Ochs has been an important figure in international efforts to fight climate change and develop green energy, working with United Nations and other international agencies. Among many endeavors, he is President of theForum for Atlantic Climate and Energy Talks, is Founding Chair of the LEDS-GP Energy Working Group, and is an adviser to the German Government’s International Climate Initiative. Ochs’ academic career is also distinguished; he teaches at Johns Hopkins University and has co-edited three books and published dozens of research articles. As Senior Director of Climate and Energy at the Worldwatch Institute, Ochs has developed a series of sustainable energy roadmaps and implementation plans that are helping bring clean energy to Central America and the Caribbean, with plans to expand to new regions. Ochs also participated in the Paris climate summit. EarthTalk’s Ethan Goffman interviewed him via Skype in his Berlin, Germany office…
Or read the full transcript below…
EarthTalk: You’ve worked at the Worldwatch Institute on a series of sustainable energy roadmaps to help countries transition to a clean economy. Why are such roadmaps necessary?
Alexander Ochs, published as Worldwatch Institute blog
Many of us still remember the images from the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, which was launched as “Hopenhagen” with great expectations and concluded in the “Flopenhagen” fiasco: the disappointment of freezing environmentalists lining up in front of the Bella Convention Center; the desperate faces of exhausted negotiators; the Danish sherpas trying to argue small successes in the summit’s failure.
But America’s political superstars would not succeed if they didn’t manage to emerge as winners, even in moments of defeat. U.S. president Barack Obama somehow thwarted the image of Europeans marked by the poor results of months of negotiations. Obama flew in to Copenhagen by helicopter, cut through the icy Scandinavian winds toward the conference venue, and assembled those around him whom he decided were the chosen few.
It is this other image that we conjure up when remembering Copenhagen: the U.S. president, with his sleeves rolled up, surrounded by the representatives of Brazil, China, India, and South Africa. The message: “We saved what could be saved.” But to anyone familiar enough with the negotiations to look behind the façade, this image actually showed those who had sabotaged the ambitious plans of Europeans and their coalition of “more willing but less mighty.” The picture was deceptive: What was rescued was not the climate, the environment, or sustainable development, but a minimal consensus to continue talking. After that, the world became relatively silent on climate diplomacy. But the talking did continue, and it led to much more progress than could have been expected shortly after Copenhagen.
Von Alexander Ochs
- Am Ende des Klimagipfels von Paris könnte eine tatsächlich historische, die Welt verändernde Einigung stehen.
Manchem Beobachter sind heute noch die Bilder von Kopenhagen präsent, vom Klimagipfel 2009, der als “Hopenhagen” mit so großen Erwartungen gestartet war und im Fiasko von “Flopenhagen” endete: Die Enttäuschung der Umweltaktivisten, die Erklärungsversuche der dänischen Verhandlungsleitung, die leeren Gesichter der erschöpften Verhandler. Doch US-Präsident Barack Obama schaffte es, im Moment der Niederlage als Sieger dazustehen. Er vermittelte dieses andere Bild von Kopenhagen, auf dem die Europäer nicht auftauchen: Obama, mit hochgekrempelten Ärmeln. Die Message: Hier wurde gerettet, was zu retten war. Gerettet wurde nicht das Klima, sondern lediglich ein Minimalkonsens. Danach wurde es für Jahre wieder deutlich stiller um die Klimadiplomatie.
Bis jetzt. Der Klimagipfel in Paris ist keiner der Zwischenjahre, in denen nur vorbereitet und debattiert wird – er ist wieder einer der Wichtigen, “a big one”, so wie Rio 1992, Kyoto 1997 und Kopenhagen 2009. Aber diesmal deutet vieles darauf hin, dass am Ende tatsächlich ein Sieg für alle stehen könnte; dass sich die Regierungen aller Staaten auf weitreichende Maßnahmen zum Klimaschutz werden einigen können. Am Ende des Klimagipfels von Paris, am 12. oder 13. Dezember 2015, könnte eine tatsächlich historische, die Welt verändernde Einigung stehen; eine Einigung darüber, wie Staaten wirtschaften, wie sie Energie produzieren und nutzen, wie sie mit ihren Wäldern umgehen, wie sie sich für Umweltveränderungen wappnen; und noch weitergehend, wie sie bei alledem miteinander umgehen.
Worldwatch will contribute to the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) starting in Paris, France today by advising governmental delegations, participating in high-level consultations, and speaking at conferences for the general public. We invite you to follow these events as they unfold, either with us in Paris or through our blog and Twitter account.
“The Paris climate summit has all the ingredients to make history: an almost universal understanding of the urgency to act, an agreement on the final document within reach, and governments worldwide determined to act,” says Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy and Worldwatch’s head of delegation.
“A quarter century after the world embarked on protecting the atmosphere, we are closer than ever to making real change happen. Paris can alter the way we generate and consume energy; manufacture goods; produce our food and treat our forests and peatlands; run our transport systems; respond to the ecosystem changes already underway; and, maybe most importantly, work together across borders when confronted with problems of global scale,” says Ochs. “Let’s seize this opportunity!”
Worldwatch will be among the international civil society organizations at the COP21 that will lead in debates and discussions about solutions to climate change. Check out our event lineup below and keep an eye on this critical moment.
From 30 November to 11 December, representatives of over 190 countries gather in Paris to reach a global agreement on how to deal with climate change after the expiry of Kyoto Protocol. The talks take place in a city that has been shaken by the Nov 13 terrorist attacks, under a state of emergency, and high security detail for a COP. (…)
We asked experts from a variety of sectors what they expected to see after COP21. We’ll continue to update this from the conference in the next two weeks. (…)
Alexander Ochs, Director Climate and Energy Program, Worldwatch Institute. Washington – Berlin:
“We will continue helping individual countries and municipalities transform their energy systems, including in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Why the focus on developing countries? Because this is where the development needs are the strongest and the pressure not to embark on a development path dependent on fossil fuels is the greatest. In Haiti, for example, 10% of Gross Domestic Product is squandered on fossil fuels while two thirds of the populations still do not have reliable energy access. In at least four out of five countries worldwide there is now a clear economic argument to move from conventional fuels to renewables and to boost efficiency. There are challenges also in North America and Europe, but the most suffering from today’s unjust, unaffordable, and unsustainable energy system is in the regions less developed.”
Full text [here]