In a meeting with former Chilean President and UN Special Envoy for Climate Change, Dr. Ricardo Lagos, we discussed global climate change programs for both developing and developed countries. The former president also discussed issues specific to Chile.
Today we had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Ricardo Lagos, former president of Chile (2000-2006) and current Special Envoy for Climate Change for the United Nations Secretary General. He also is a Duke graduate, having received his PhD in Economics in 1966.
As we prepared for the meeting, all of us were excited and a little nervous. This man was powerful and intelligent, having accomplished so much in his career, and we wanted to make a good impression. In the first 60 seconds of meeting him, I knew it would be a great meeting. As he entered he shook hands with all 17 of us, sat down, and proceeded to crack a few jokes about his time at Duke, placing all of us at ease.
The discussion with former president Lagos focused primarily on climate change issues and how they could be addressed on a global scale. Lagos indicated that the current focus of his work with the United Nations was creating a plan for after the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol. The UN wants to set the framework for a plan that will engage all countries, especially developing ones. According to the plan, developed countries would be allocated certain targets to meet but developing countries would be provided a “menu” of different options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He suggested menu items such as internal goals and targets, deforestation and energy efficiency. In line with Kyoto, all of the goals and commitments would be voluntary, yet binding.
We also discussed climate change impacts specifically related to Chile. The former president indicated that possibly the greatest challenge for Chile in the next 50 years will be water supply. Chile could lose 75% of its fresh water supply by 2050. Energy also will provide a challenge as Chile has none of its own fossil fuel reserves and relies heavily on hydropower. While reserves are available and numerous in neighboring countries, soured political relationships inhibit Chile’s ability to purchase any of these resources.
The former president and current UN special envoy was delightful and informative. I was very impressed by how thoughtful and complete his responses were. He always responded genuinely, with intelligence and humility. Prior to his appointment to the United Nations as a special envoy for climate change, former President Lagos was not as environmentally progressive as he is now. Seeing how much he has embraced the challenge of climate change with enthusiasm and optimism since his appointment, makes me hopeful that real solutions can and will be found, here and around the globe.
Video Below: Former President Dr. Ricardo Lagos discusses potential climate change programs for developing countries.