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Launch of WHYDOICARE: climate an issue of personal conscience

July 8, 2015:

Guide to writing Why Do I Care

Today the Why Do I Care? movement was launched in Paris before the groundbreaking Summit of Conscience (Sommet des Consciences du Climat, #Sommet21) on July 21.

It emphasises that the future of the planet is an issue of personal conscience and urges that all policymakers participating in the Paris COP21 this December are urged and encouraged to ask themselves, personally, why they care before they take part in this international conversation and negotiation, which could be so crucial to the future of our beautiful planet.

ARC has been working with the French Government as well as partners Bayard, one of France's top media publishers, R20 and others to help work in greater depth with the world's religions and philosophies to frame the Paris COP as a moral issue.

The Why Do I Care? website launch, in advance of the Sommet des Consciences (Summit of Conscience) took place officially this morning with a major interview in France's daily newspaper La Croix with Nicolas Hulot, the French President's special envoy for the protection of the planet and a well known French personality and agitator for environmental reform and care. Here is a translation.


Nicolas Hulot, the President of France’s special envoy for the protection of the planet, and head of the Nicolas Hulot Foundation, explains the challenges of the Summit of Conscience which will take place in Paris in two week’s time.

La Croix: What do you expect from the Summit of Conscience to be held in Paris on 20 and 21 July?

Nicolas Hulot: I see it as a moment of collective pause and reflection ahead of the climate conference [Paris COP] in December 2015. We are going through a crisis of civilization that does not speak its name. If we only use technological, legal or economic tools to address the challenges before us then we’ll only shift the problem [not solve it].

We need a spiritual and philosophical inquiry into the causes of the impasse in which we find ourselves. The moral authorities meeting in Paris on 20 and 21 July will help us trace a path in a world characterised by a wealth of knowledge and a deficit of conscience. We’re about to write a new page in human history.

In other words, you don’t think it will be enough to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources to solve the climate crisis?

NH: There’s an urgency to do that, but simply switching from “grey growth” to “green growth” isn’t going to be enough. Human beings must also ask ourselves some essential questions once again: What is the meaning of progress? Where are the priorities? Is the economy at the service of humanity or is humanity at the service of the economy? Is humanity part of nature [or apart from nature]?

Technology cramps us; it causes us to move, but we do not know what we are moving towards. We to get to a higher ground, to get away from the background noise of our society, which no longer knows how to tell the difference between the important and the superficial.

What do the religions bring to this reflection?

NH: It would have been inconceivable if the religions had kept silent at such an important moment in the history of humanity, where the poor are the first to suffer first. As far as I’m concerned, religions have to be at the forefront of this challenge, uniting with all those who struggle together around this issue. If the climate and ecological crisis – which translates into the depletion of resources and the breakdown of the great equilibrium of the natural world – gets worse, then everything we’re attached to will be destroyed. It is inevitable, and natural, that religions remind us of that.

With his Laudato Si Encyclical [about the sacredness of the natural world, issued last month in June 2015] Pope Francis has made a vital contribution, even beyond what I could have hoped for. His encyclical delivers a holistic analysis of the situation, without compromising on the causes, effects and ways we can avoid it. This courageous statement gives special significance to essential concepts such as the common good, or the human family.

There’s been an increase in the number of calls to fight global warming. But so far, Shell has still been allowed to drill in the Arctic and Germany has stopped taxing its coal plants in the name of employment and jobs ... How can one reduce the gap between words and deeds?

NH: I don’t have a magic formula, otherwise we wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t have lost 25 years. After a time of growing awareness there must then be actions that are consistent, and which flow from that awareness. We'll have to make sacrifices and that will have to involve both economic forces and changing a certain number of our habits.

Policymakers will have to be bold at the Paris conference on climate change in December (COP21). Everything that allows them to be questioned, or to be reminded that at this time in human history they have the means to act, is useful. If the Nobel Prize winners, writers, and the moral and religious authorities remind them [in July], then I hope that the message will eventually be heard.

Why challenge the rulers and not the multinationals or citizens?

NH: I believe in mobilising people from all directions of the compass, whether that’s business leaders, athletes, soldiers, communities or citizens. Some are already taking action. But their initiatives, as impressive as they are, remain marginal when they should become the norm.

Good will is not enough on its own. It is up to the policy-makers to set the rules. They’ve been caught up in the mechanisms and intricacies of economics. We have to reverse things and those whom we elect should be acting on our behalf and making the tough decisions. If governments set a price on carbon then multinationals will switch their investment to low-carbon economy. If the European Union sets a tax on financial transactions and allocates the proceeds to development aid then millions of people will benefit.

Acting alone is tough because economic forces are shifting. But it is possible to enact common rules within the European Union, the G20 or the United Nations. The technologies are available; money is available as well, though you have to go looking for it. The thing we lack is a common framework, which is something that only politicians can define.

Are you confident in the outcome of the Paris Conference?

N.H.: I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic. It will certainly be difficult and that's why I’m trying to help each person face their responsibilities. To get 196 parties to agree on a binding global agreement will be much more difficult if the 15 countries that represent 70% of greenhouse gas emissions do not make commitments consistent with their responsibilities.

I expect a great deal of the G20, to which those 15 countries belong, and which will meet two weeks before the Paris conference. Imagine that the 15 countries were to decide to stop their fossil fuel subsidies and help countries in the Global South acquire clean technologies and set a price on carbon ... Achieve that, and you will change the world.

Think about it, how do you imagine we can liberate ourselves from fossil fuels in a world that spends $650 billion every year on subsidies and exemptions for gas, oil and coal industries? The biggest emitters of greenhouse gases must therefore commit to phase out these subsidies.

Aren't you afraid that any agreement by 196 parties, whose interests are often completely different, would have to be built around the lowest common denominator?

N. H.: That’s the risk. However we have to be very ambitious about the commitments to be made in Paris. When I was in Morocco, someone said to me: “In Paris, you are going to be deciding who's going to die and who is not. The lives of our children are at stake.”

As long as we have a collective willingness to do it, we have the means to make a real leap for the whole of humanity. But to do that we have to redefine, in profound ways, the current economic model and globalization process which is based on competition, greed and plunder. We have to make rules that oblige us to share and cooperate with each other.

We can no longer pretend that we are not in this together; solidarity is no longer an option, it’s a necessity. No country can claim any more to live in peace in this connected and globalized world while poverty continues. In earlier times you could make others suffer prejudices without them ever knowing the causes. Now everyone knows everything and sees everything. You’re adding to poverty an explosive feeling of humiliation, which is the bedrock of all radicalism.

And global warming is the ultimate injustice. It first hits women, men and children who are already vulnerable, who then suffer the consequences of an economic development from which they haven’t benefited.

A summit and an appeal

* The Summit of Conscience is a joint initiative of Nicolas Hulot, special envoy of the President of the French Republic, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), Bayard Presse (owner of La Croix), R20 (network involving local authorities and companies, founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger), and the Conseil Economique, Social et Environnemental (CESE) of the French Government.

* More than 40 moral and religious personalities from around the world will gather on July 20 at the Elysee Palace, and then the next day at the CESE headquarters in Paris. They will launch a "Call to Conscience" for the negotiators of the Paris climate agreement.

* In addition to the summit on July 20 and 21 the organisers have launched a campaign on "Why do I care?" ("Pourquoi je m’en préoccupe ?"), inviting all leaders, personalities and citizens to answer this question "in their soul and conscience." #WhyDoICare

Interview by Emmanuelle Réju

First published in La Croix on July 8, 2015

ARC is a partner with the Elysee Palace, Bayard, R20 and others in helping launch the Why Do I Care

See our event pagehere.

Guide to writing Why Do I Care

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