Just whom do scientists want around the table?

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


Day Two of the Planet under Pressure conference and I am beginning to feel that all environment/climate change/development/green economy/green growth conferences sound the same, and seem to lead nowhere. Why?

Nigel Cameron, president of Centre for Policy on Emerging Technologies (C-PET) in the United States, and research professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, called a spade a spade during the plenary discussion this morning.

The conversation between scientists and other academics, business honchos, policymakers and policy implementers and civil society  —  is “moving backwards”, “week by week, conference by conference,” he claimed.

The sectors don’t seem to talk to each other in a common language.  Take, for example, the word ‘risk’: it may be described differently by a climate change scientist, a politician and a venture capitalist.

Great meeting: but who's around the table

Yvo de Boer, former executive secretary of UNFCCC and special global advisor for the professional services firm KPMG, suggested collaboration between governments, civil society and business as a way forward. He sees the biggest single opportunity that could break the logjam is a “different kind of dialogue and creating an understanding” among the various actors.

But what is happening, said Cameron, is that each sector is building up a wish list of what kind of technologies or policies they would like to have in place – “a wish list with no capacity to be enacted”

Scientists, he said, were living in a bubble. “Life in the bubble is pleasant but life in the bubble is problematic.”

There are groups out there who do have an interest in long-term change, he told the meeting: Venture capitalists, who have to think far ahead; industrial R&D departments.

“These people are not around the table [at Planet Under Pressure] and the reason for that is that the people around the table don’t want them.”

So, what’s your bet – will Rio + 20 sound the same or different?

This blog post is part of our Planet Under Pressure 2012 coverage — which takes place 26–29 March 2012. To read news and analysis from the conference please visit our website.

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