Laureates from 44 countries propose two-speed model instead of search for the lowest common denominator within the international community

Freiburg, Germany, 16 March 2013 – Until this coming Sunday, the 2nd International Convention of Environmental Laureates is being staged by the European Environment Foundation EEF in Freiburg, Germany.  Today a declaration in which the participating environmental laureates urge a fundamental change in environmental and climate policy was signed. The constant search for the lowest common denominator within the international community must be replaced by a two-speed model. The participants at the convention specify four concrete fields of action in their declaration.

What distinguishes the EEF International Convention of Environmental Laureates from other conferences and summits is the diversity of its participants. Eighty winners of internationally renowned environmental prizes have come together from 44 countries. The conference delegates cover a wide spectrum, from scientists to environmental and civil rights activists, from successful ecological entrepreneurs to publicists and critics of capitalism. The EEF is convinced that such a broad base is necessary to put global environmental and climate protection on a new, workable footing.

The EEF does not see its convention as a contrary model to the major international environmental and climate summits. The laureates are of the opinion, however, that developments have reached a point at which the field should no longer be left entirely to career politicians. “The environmental and climate summits in the international political arena scarcely go beyond mere bartering over emission limits and volumes”, explains Eicke Weber, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the EEF and Head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE). As Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Member of the Board of Trustees of the EEF and Co-President of the Club of Rome points out, “These international negotiations must continue, however, since they have indeed long been generating important impetus for initiatives in individual countries, bilateral agreements and vital technological developments. If we continue in this way, though, we are unlikely to succeed in finding the lowest common denominator within the international community on the subject of global environmental and climate protection.”

In their declaration, entitled “Call for Action to Policy Makers and Pioneers of Change”, the participants at the convention express their alarm in the face of the current accumulation of crisis situations. These, in their opinion, are closely related on various levels and mutually detrimental. They are the imbalance in wealth and poverty, the problem of hunger and malnutrition, climate change and other ecological crises, financial crises and excessive debt in many countries and, finally, high unemployment particularly among young people. According to Rainer Grießhammer, Member of the Board of Trustees of the EEF and Head of the Institute for Applied Ecology in Freiburg, “These undesirable global trends can no longer be tackled in isolation. The current standard growth model does not deliver the necessary control information and impetus for a sustainable future.”

The participants at the Freiburg convention are suggesting concrete solutions and fields of action. Their assumption is that the search for the lowest common denominator on the subject of global environmental and climate protection has brought us to a virtual standstill. The environmental laureates advocate a two-speed model in their declaration. “The pioneers in global environmental and climate protection should not wait, but rather press ahead and demonstrate to the international community the economic benefits of the sustainable use of natural resources”, says Peter W. Heller, Member of the Board of Trustees of the EEF and Head of the Canopus Foundation.

With its convention, the EEF has created a platform to make successfully implemented solutions to environmental and climate protection problems more widely known and accessible. “An important objective of the EEF, and a key factor in the success of our cause, is the creation a network of these highly successful laureates from the most varied fields”, explains Chairman of the Foundation, Bernd Dallmann. “In this respect, the International Convention of Environmental Laureates is a unique global event.”

The declaration specifies four concrete fields of action:

  1. Universal access to modern energy supplies in conjunction with the formulation of positive targets for energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies, such as the doubling at least of the proportion of renewable energies in the global energy mix and a significant increase in energy efficiency. Progress should be monitored by an international agency.
  2. Accelerated development of sustainable innovations in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable energies which have global significance, in other words, those which are relevant to people. The technologies in question are generally already in place, for example, energy-efficient buildings and electrical appliances, solar-powered cooling systems, solar-powered desalination facilities for the production of drinking water, efficient public transport systems, zero-emission vehicles, highly efficient and economical renewable energy systems and storage technologies. First and foremost, these are products which are targeted at the needs of poorer regions, such as simple power supplies and water purification systems. The convention cites international business competitions such as the “Golden Carot” program in the US and highly effective market-stimulating feed-in tariffs started in Germany and adopted in more than 60 countries worldwide as positive and particularly successful examples of suitable incentive programmes.
  3. Financing of innovation and infrastructure development by the abolition of environmentally harmful subsidies, the introduction of financial transaction taxes and green taxation such as a CO2-tax, reductions in military spending including the abolition of nuclear weapons, and an exclusive focus on sustainable innovations and infrastructure in future economic stimulus programmes.
  4. The acknowledgement by the planet’s leading corporations of the environmental and social impacts of their business practices, and their subsequent adoption of the systems and technologies necessary for a sustainable and equitable future.

The environmental laureates participating at the convention see the current critical situation as a failure of imagination. It is not the dream of a sustainable society that is unrealistic, but the blind belief that the status quo can be prolonged with marginal adjustments.

About the European Environment Foundation:

The European Environment Foundation founded in 2011 intends to provide new impulses for environmental and climate policies. It has set the aim of promoting communication and professional exchanges between society, politics, research and business across the globe and across all disciplines. The founders and chairmen of the Foundation are Dr. Bernd Dallmann and Dipl.-Ing. Rolf Hiller. The Board of Trustees of the Foundation is composed of 13 well-known persons from the sectors of environmental and climate protection. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees is Prof. Dr. Eicke R. Weber, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE. The Foundation headquarters are located in Basel, Switzerland.