Conference notes: 12th March

I’ve just read the script of a great keynote opening speech for the Planet Under Pressure 2012 conference.

It salutes the contribution that science must play in restoring the world’s social and environmental sanity; it contains far-sighted proposals for injecting scientific wisdom into the political process, it shows awareness of the urgent need for more research on planetary boundaries and expresses sympathy for the communication difficulties within the profession.

For good measure, proposals for massive European funding for a “new research and innovation programme” are announced.

These motivational words are the work of no less a figure than a member of the UN High Level Panel on Global Sustainability, one who is currently engaged in a fight to the death with the reactionary forces of exponential global fossil fuel consumption.

There’s one small problem. The speech has already been delivered. It was lavished on a handful of Eurocrats in a closed session in Copenhagen last Tuesday.

Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action and scourge of the aviation industry, addressed 130 people at a conference organised by the Joint Research Centre and Directorate General for Climate Action.

Maybe the organisers of Planet Under Pressure 2012 will pull a last minute rabbit out of the hat for the opening agenda items. “We’ve had a lot of interactions with the Global Sustainability Panel……and so there are some of them coming along,” revealed Mark Stafford Smith, conference co-chair, in an interview last week.

For now, we must make do with a keynote from Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The minister’s contribution is unlikely to match Ms Hedegaard’s vision. And even less likely to contain the one thing we want to hear – that she has persuaded prime minister David Cameron to come to his senses and attend the Rio+20 conference.


this article was first published by OneWorld UK