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Having the energy to carry on

Updated Friday, 18th June 2010

Luis Gómez-Echeverri is the associate director of the Global Energy Assessment programme, and talks to us from COP15 about their work with organisations, and his belief that we must link climate change to our daily lives and economic activities, in order to effectively implement policies.

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Interviewer: On a personal level, when did you first become interested in issues of environmental change?

Luis Gómez-Echeverri: In the mid 80s.

Interviewer: Was there something that prompted that?

Luis: I was working with the United Nation Development Programme, and at that time, we did not have an environment division. So I started campaigning, lobbying within the organisation, and I created the environment department within the UNDP.

Interviewer: Right, and what was it that prompted that? Was it climate change research that you’d become interested in or... ?

Luis: Not climate change; it was more the broader linkages between environment and development and poverty. So, at that time, a lot of people were questioning the way that we did, meaning the whole world, was doing industrial development, agricultural development, infrastructure development, and that there was a need to take a look at how we were doing this, and this is when all the discussion was also leading up to the Earth Summit in 2002, in Rio de Janeiro.

Interviewer: Okay, and what do you work on now? At the moment what’s your main role?

Luis: At the moment, it’s mostly on climate change, but climate change is linked to all the things that I was supporting before, only that climate change is now the entry point of most of the work that I do, so that it is climate change and development, I should say. So, it’s how does climate change affect food security, how does it affect water resources, how does it affect health, particularly health, and a lot of work on energy and energy access.

Interviewer: And what organisations do you work with on that?

Luis: Mostly with, you say, it’s actually a big programme called the Global Energy Assessment, which I’m involved with, and which is exactly that, it’s looking at energy, from every perspective: from health, from consumption patterns, lifestyles, availability of resources, how do we start to make transitions of the energy systems to more sustainable energy supplies, and demand, and in use.

Interviewer: And over the next sort of two, five, ten years, what do you think you’ll be working on?

Luis: On this.

Interviewer: The same thing?

Luis: Absolutely.

Interviewer: You’ll be in the same place doing the same things? It’s a long job.

Luis: If we are able to really lead to a transformation of the energy systems, we are actually achieving simultaneous benefits, in a number of fronts: on poverty, on energy access, on health, on social and economic development, on just orderly urban development. And what is nice about the discussion that is taking place here in the climate change convention is that if we push to lowering the emissions to the levels that we should be, in order to stop or to avoid dangerous climate change impacts, then we will be achieving all of these sort of benefits, so this is something that should be one of the priorities of countries around the world.

Interviewer: And at the moment would you say that you are an optimist or a pessimist?

Luis: I’m pretty much an optimist because, it is, for number of reasons. One is because there is a push from the global community, there is much more awareness that change has to take place, so there’s a lot more accountability on the part of decision makers. You wouldn’t think listening to what is happening here, but believe it or not, that transparency and that accountability is really putting pressures on leaders around the world.

The second one is that, you know, one of the big actors in the work that I’m doing is industry and business, and, at first, there’s a reluctance to engage, and then there’s sort of a tendency to resist, and then, especially now with climate change, they see that there is regulation, that there are some things that will happen. So what they want is much more clarity about what they have to expect in the future. And once that happens, industry is to out to make business, they will make it happen, but for that we need the right policies, the right regulations and the right push, from the public, through the governmental sector.

Interviewer: Okay, thank you very much.

Luis: Good.

Exploring climate change

 

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