Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken

Dutch Diplo Talk

Can diplomacy help cool the planet?

29 Jun 2015

planet earth

This was the question posed to a high-level panel on the Europe Climate Diplomacy Day on June 17. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute, at the request of the Italian and Dutch Consulate General, organized the San Francisco meeting of this worldwide initiative. I was surprised by the positive attitude toward the Climate Conference in Paris later this year by my fellow panel members: Secretary of the Environment Matt Rodriquez, Vice Admiral USN Lee F. Gunn, Philanthropist and Consultant Noel Perry and Michelle Passero, Senior Climate Policy Adviser with the Nature Conservancy.

Carbon emissions should be close to zero in 2050, a goal that is technologically feasible. Nevertheless, commitments will have to be made before Paris by parties to the Climate Convention; by global sectors, such as transportation (air and sea), agriculture and energy; and by non-national actors, including cities, regions, companies and communities.

The state of commitments gives grounds for optimism. The G7 leaders decided recently to work toward decarbonization in 2050. The EU promises to emit 40 percent less CO2 in 2030 compared to 1990, and 80 to 95 percent less in 2050. Transportation is expected to put forth proposals. Non-national actors will close 20 percent of the gap to be filled.

Diplomats exchange viewpoints and arrange agreements or understandings between national governments, sectors and non-national actors. For example, I was instrumental in the Netherlands and California signing a memorandum to put more electric vehicles on the road, and I am organizing the Dutch or even European endorsement of an agreement between 12 or more global regions to reduce CO2 emissions. Such agreements can be made at one of several multilateral and bilateral meetings scheduled to take place before Paris.

Therefore, I do not hesitate to state that diplomacy can indeed help cool the planet.


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About the author

Hugo Von Meijenfeldt
Written by Hugo Von Meijenfeldt

Consul-General in San Francisco

Hugo von Meijenfeldt was appointed as representative for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the 13 westernmost United States in August 2013.

Prior to his current position, Hugo was Deputy Director General at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. He also served as Special Envoy for Climate Change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2009 until 2013. In this capacity, he led Dutch participation in global diplomatic activities to reach a climate agreement.

Previously, Hugo was Director for Soil, Water and Rural Environment. For several years he held the position of Deputy Director for International Affairs, Chairman of the Committee on Environmental Policy of UN-ECE Geneva, and Head of the European Policy Division (including the EU Presidency in 1997). From 1982 until 1991, he was Legal Counsel to the soil clean-up division.

Hugo earned his Masters in Public Law and Policy at the Free University in Amsterdam in 1981. He is member of the WorldConnectors and the Sustainability Challenge Foundation.