Today is a historic day. Never has a conference received so many officials from so many countries. Never, I say never, have the stakes of an international meeting been so high, for this is about the future of the planet and the future of life… I am not choosing between the fight against terrorism and the fight against global warming. We must leave our children more than a world free of terror, we owe them a planet protected from disasters, a viable, livable planet.
Another opening speaker said, the people of the planet have become “the architects of our own destruction” and warned of “impending catastrophe”. It could be asked, which threat — extreme violence or extreme weather — was he addressing? Many of the speakers pivoted from terrorism to climate, with some pointing to potential intersections.
As dense smog, measuring twenty times worse than the safety threshold, enveloped Beijing, Shanghai and much of northern China, President Xi Jinping told delegates gathered at Le Bourget that addressing the risk of climate change ought not be allowed to dilute “the legitimate needs of developing countries to reduce poverty and improve their people’s living standards.”
Indian Prime Minister Modi echoed Xi’s argument on behalf of economies still seeking to catch-up with the original industrial revolutionaries. He also said, “Over the next few days we will decide the fate of this planet.”
Three decades ago at a dinner in Paris a distinguished Swede asked me, “If you are presented two problems — one important, the other urgent — to which do you attend?” My hesitation was a sufficient answer for him. “The urgent emerged from prior neglect of something important. Do not repeat the same mistake.”