Why diplomacy does not solve the climate problem

A commentary by Felix Rodenjohann

Negotiating the laws of nature? Not possible, in my opinion. Incidentally, Bernd Ulrich (DIE ZEIT) agrees and describes the core problem of climate diplomacy in the podcast with Luisa Neubauer: Diplomacy was invented to create peace. To avoid rash actions, to mediate or to negotiate compromises. Thus, the principle of diplomacy is in contradiction to natural science.


A dilemma, which means concretely for our work: We cannot wait for international climate diplomacy to draft the effective laws. But we can still rely on the UN as an institution. Because the most powerful community of states on earth makes recommendations to its member states. For example, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or through individual UN bodies. And the recommendation is clearer than ever: "Don't choose extinction. - is the official campaign of the UN.

The representation of 193 countries of the world must do a campaign in 2021 where they make it clear that "extinction is a bad idea". So we are advertising to keep the planet habitable. I think it's absurd that we have to advertise that. Because for decades there have been all the analyses of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shows the damage and also names clear residual budgets. So why does the UN have to resort to seeking communicative means?

Climate Action Summit 2019 in New York

In September, around the 2nd global civil society climate strike, the Climate Action Summit took place at the UN headquarters in New York. I was there with a colleague and we were able to look into all areas and talk to high-ranking diplomats. There was an incredible sense of frustration.

"You cannot negotiate with nature, it will always be stronger than us humans.

This was said to me by the Minister of the Environment of Lebanon, whose country is already affected by strong consequences of climate change. In my view, however, the mixture of hope and resignation is the seed for this last chance to make the climate movement the new standard. For the change to a zero-emission and climate-friendly world is happening outside the conference walls. But climate diplomacy from 2019 onwards manages to make the issue mass-appealable. Bringing it into boardrooms and into every city. Because that's where the real solution to the climate crisis lies, which, by the way, is what former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said.

"The battle for global sustainability will be decided in the cities "

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