More Action! If there is one key message to remember this year’s R20 AUSTRIAN WORLD SUMMIT by, it is this one. On May 28, more than 150 speakers from over 30 countries, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, climate activist Greta Thunberg, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres, took the stage at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, to stress the need for immediate climate action. A message that was strengthened with the first Climate Kirtag, where over 5’000 people joined to support climate protection alongside artists and athletes.
A strong wake-up call
The conference kicked off with a strong wake-up call from 16-year-old climate activist, Greta Thunberg, who called on presidents, celebrities, politicians, CEOs and journalist to do more to inform the public about the real consequences of the climate crisis: “We children are not leaders, nor are the scientists, but many of you here are. People listen to you. They are influenced by you, and therefore, you have an enormous responsibility. And let’s be honest. This is a responsibility that most of you have failed to take.” She insisted that actions to tackle today’s climate crisis can only be taken if all people are properly informed about the actual problem. “We are not ruining the biosphere and future living conditions for all species because we are evil. We are simply not aware. But once we understand, once we realize the situation, then we act, then we change. Humans are very adaptable.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called for bolder climate action. “We need a post-carbon economy and a post-carbon society, a climate-smart development pathway that can provide inclusive prosperity for all on a healthy planet” he said. He called on governments to start taxing pollution, not the population, and to end subsidies for fossil fuels. “we need to decarbonize urban infrastructure, especially transport and buildings, and stop building new coal plants that poison the air we breathe.” The UN Chief also highlighted the importance of climate action at the sub-national level. “Not only because sub-national governments are the closest to the people, but also because regions and cities are the main engines of the world economy. You can send a clear message to people and to national governments that there is no viable high-carbon growth story in the 21st century.”
“It is the dreamers not the doubters that shape the world. Today, we must choose clean energy. We must choose the path of the doers, paved by the dreamers”
In an engaging address, Arnold Schwarzenegger celebrated the dreamers and the doers, such as Greta, who are fighting to break the status quo. “Today, instead of the usual environmental summit speech about carbon parts per million and rising sea levels, I want to uplift some of the dreamers, so we can share in their vision. I want to raise up some of the doers, so we can follow in their footsteps.” He ended with a firm message to the doubters and polluters, inviting them join the clean energy movement and choose the path of the dreamers, paved by the doers. “Holding on to the status quo is like holding on to sand at the beach: time will slip between your fingers you’ll be left with absolutely nothing besides a mess on your hands.”
Throughout various panels, environmental thought leaders from all regions of the world shared innovative solutions, policies, best practice projects and examples of cooperation to combat climate change and accelerate the transition to a green economy. On a panel dedicated to Climate Leadership, Nana Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, explained how banning illegal mining in his country helped reclaimed destroyed lands and, in the process, employ 20’000 young people to plant over 10 million trees across the country. More examples of instruments required to empower local governments as drivers for a clean and healthy future were further discussed with the Governor of Baden-Wuerttemberg (Germany), the Mayor of Quelimane (Mozambique), and the Mayor of Bonn (Germany) in a panel dedicated to cities and regions.
Green Finance was another key topic in this year’s R20 AUSTRIAN WORLD SUMMIT. In the discussions on Mobilizing Investments, Yannick Glemarec, Executive Director of the Green Climate Funds (GCF), stressed out the importance of finance in supporting the decarbonization of our economies as well as GCF’s mandate: “to increase access to finance for developing countries to scale up their climate ambitions”. As an introduction to the discussions on green finance, Samba Bathily, Founder and Chairman of Africa Development Solutions Group (ADS) and co-chair of the AfroChampions Executive Committee, presented the Sub-national Climate Fund Africa (SnCF Africa). After sharing why he believes in this initiative, Samba Bathily explained how, by enabling the building of portfolios of sustainable projects and by “blending” capitals from public and private investors, SnCF Africa is a unique tool to help scale the implementation of low-carbon and climate resilient infrastructure in Africa.
Engaging over 5’000 people with a Climate Kirtag
This year, for the first time, an open air “festival” called the Climate Kirtag gathered over 5’000 people on Heldenplatz. In a rallying cry, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Greta Thunberg reminded the crowd to not forget the power of people in the fight against climate change. “I have always said that all of the great movements in human history started from the bottom-up, from people power. The movement for a clean energy future is no different” said Arnold Scwharzenegger, shortly after Greta Thunberg reminded a captivated audience to “never forget that nobody is too small to make a difference”. She then invited everyone to join her and FridaysForFuture Austria for a climate strike later in the week. Between live performances form Austrian artists such as Conchita Wurst and Pizzera & Jaus, Ski Champion, Aksel Lund Svindal, shared why he joined the Summit: “When Arnold invited me to the R20 Austrian World Summit, I said yes. Firstly, because you don’t say no to Mr. Schwarzenegger, and secondly because when the right people take initiative, they have the power to inspire you to act”.