“Talk to all the political parties, use their language”

Panel discussion on COP26 at The Innbetween


A better environment starts with yourself. It is an old slogan, but that doesn’t make it any less true for the panel members, who attended the discussion on the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) on Wednesday, organised by the university chaplaincy The Innbetween.

Can we trust politicians to do the right thing to make the world more sustainable, discussion leader Jonas Vetter asks the panel members? A tough question, says Ernest van Nispen, member of Maastricht for Climate. “It is very difficult to trust politicians; they don’t have the reputation of being reliable. On the other hand, I feel it is important to have trust in the authorities.” Charlotte Lenhard, who is a member of the University Council on behalf of the KAN Party, is more outspoken. “Look at the data on actions to contain global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees. Right now, we have only achieved a mere 25 per cent of what we should have achieved. If I score 25 per cent on an exam, I have failed.”

Serdar Türkeli, researcher at UNU Merit, prefers to just trust himself. “What can I do, irrespective of the plans that world leaders make. We can exert influence through our voices and our investments, but we have the most control over our own actions.” “There are three circles,” adds Nathalie Ummels from Mondiaal Maastricht, an organisation that supports the transition towards a more sustainable, just and inclusive Maastricht society. “What we can do, what can we influence, and the world around us, which we must accept as it is. I mainly try to look at how I can enlarge my circle of influence.”

One of the ways to do that, is to talk to politicians, says Ummels. “Involve them in the discussion at a personal level, they are people too. And hold them responsible for their actions: that is part of our role as citizens.” When someone from the audience asks later how citizens can force the city of Maastricht to take the Maastricht Klimaat Coalitie up on their climate demands, she adds: “There are elections in March. Talk to all the parties. Show them why your ideas are urgent and relevant. Then look at how that fits within their programmes. What is the relation to something that they feel is important? Use their language.”

Türkeli would like people to be as concrete as possible. “It is easier to say what needs to be done, actually doing it is a lot more difficult. Think about that, involve organisations and entrepreneurs in the process.”

A tactic that can also be applied within the university, says Lehnard. “In the KAN Party, we try to come up with concrete ideas as much as we can. But a change of mindset is also necessary. Look at the UM’s flying policy: if the journey takes less than eight hours by train, people should take the train. But the discussion always ends up being about whether we can afford it. That is always the story. I think that we cannot afford not to do these things.”

Can we raise the next generation differently? With a mindset that is already sustainable, that no longer needs to be changed? The panel members feel that it is a good thing to start young. Türkeli: “Children learn about the value of money from a financial viewpoint. They learn to budget and to regard earning lots of money as being successful. It would be a good thing if they also learned what the consequences are for people and the environment when we consume too much.”

“Talk to all the political parties, use their language”
Author: Cleo Freriks

Photo: Pixabay

Tags: climate change,cop26,panel,innbetween,climate action

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