“Climate change is not just about the environment – it's about human rights”
In December 2015 the countries of the world agreed on a new global and legally binding climate agreement after the final negotiations at the United Nations COP21 summit in Paris. Anna Lindstedt, the Swedish Ambassador and Chief Negotiator for climate change, played a key role within the Swedish delegation.
– It´s a historic agreement. We have managed to bring virtually all countries in. It is also a revolution in itself that countries that before haven´t thought about it, now have climate action plans, says Anna Lindstedt during the conversation with Kimberly Nicholas, an associate professor of Sustainability Science at Lund University.
Anna and Kimberly talked about the global climate agreement at the public library in Lund earlier this week. In their conversation they tried to pinpoint the keys to success for the climate negotiations in Paris, and also what lays ahead when the world must move forward together towards a world of low greenhouse gas emissions.
The French diplomacy was very much appreciated by Anna Lindstedt. She described the process they used to host the negotiations, with the aim to be as transparent as possible.
– The French team really tried to listen to everyone and bring them together, Anna Lindstedt said. It is important that every country can go back home after such a negotiation and show what they have achieved. The warming of the climate is also an issue that affects all aspects of society, and you must listen to different perspectives and countries to be able to bring everyone together.
What helped out in Paris, among other things, was the introduction of facilitators from other countries. For example Sweden had the task of helping out with questions on Adaptation and Loss and damage during the negotiations.
– The Swedish Environment Minister Åsa Romson and myself had special roles as facilitators, said Anna Lindstedt. We worked in the inner circle of the negotiations which was very interesting and extremely demanding. One successful example for me was a meeting with the Vice Minister of India. We had a very good dialogue regarding the access to research and green technology for developing countries.
Anna Lindstedt felt that Sweden, despite being a small country, still played an important role in Paris.
– People trust us as we have high ambitions when it comes to the climate agenda, and also a history of economic solidarity with developing countries, she said. Climate change is not just about the environment – it´s about human rights and how we organize our society, including aspects like energy, poverty, gender and so on.
The role of science, including decades of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was very important for the outcome of the negotiations, said Anna Lindstedt. She also highlighted the role of civil society.
– Civil society has played an important role over the years, said Anna Lindstedt. I admire the commitment. This year we also had two youth representatives for the first time in the Swedish delegation which came out very well, I think.
On Earth day, 22 April 2016, there will be a big signing ceremony for the global climate agreement, with majority participation required for the agreement to come into force. Could one key country (like the US) not signing it throw the whole agreement off? asked Kimberly Nicholas.
– It would of course make the agreement less efficient, but it would not undo the whole agreement, said Anna Lindstedt. On the other hand we shouldn´t wait until the agreement comes into force in 2020 to take action. I can see countries that are already strengthening their action plans. There are so many initiatives as well in the private sector, like investments shifting from climate pollution to green investments.
Towards the end of the conversation, Anna and Kimberly talked about what we can do as individuals.
– We have all a common responsibility – not to use too much energy, to cycle and walk if possible, not to use aviation too much, eat less meat, and engage in activities like putting solar panels on our roofs for example, said Anna Lindstedt.
Could you give students some advice for the future? Kimberly finally asked.
– Sustainable development will be increasingly important in all fields, whatever you want to do in the future – whether you work at a municipality, in a company, or a civil society organization, for example.
– That´s good, said Kimberly with a laugh. Then I am at the right place being a teacher in sustainability sciences.
Text: Nina Nordh
Anna Lindstedt has been the Swedish Ambassador and Chief Negotiator for climate change since 2011. Before that, she was the Swedish Ambassador to Mexico.
Kimberly Nicholas is an associate professor of Sustainability Science at LUCSUS, Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies. She was one of 8 observers from Lund University at COP21.