Parliamentarians and Citizens unite for RIO+20 Debate

Sectors of society come together for the launch of Whole Earth? and discuss strategies to address climate change ahead of the Rio+20 Climate Change Summit in June. 

On 21st May 2012 in the magnificent St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, over 500 people from all sectors of society joined the Environmental Audit Committee in a public debate on how to work towards a sustainable, green economy. 

The event, which also launched photographer Mark Edwards’s latest project Whole Earth? was led and expertly chaired by Member of Parliament for Stoke on Trent North and Chair of the Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee, Joan Walley.

Kick-started with the presentation of Mark Edwards’s first photographic campaign ‘Hard Rain Project’ the audience were moved by powerful and emotive images illustrating the truly devastating effects of climate change set to the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s prophetic song ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’. 

Members from a select panel of experts addressed the audience and committee on the tough questions urgently needing to be faced. 

‘Does democracy help or hinder the green economy?’ 
‘Is Capitalism the cause and can it be the solution to climate change?’ 
‘How do we bring the vested interests of powerful groups under control?’

The debate drew several conclusions – amongst them that successive Governments in all countries need to make a sustained effort to prioritise environmental policy; and that there ought to be economic value in protecting our natural resources, not just using them for consumption. Caroline Lucas MP, the first and only Green Member of Parliament underlined the importance of framing the Green Economy as a positive change. 

It was made clear that human beings have to change the way we live in order to avoid the existential threat of climate change. Given the severity of this fact however, members of the audience did not leave dreading the inevitability of a destroyed planet. Instead the event brought hope.

It showed us that all people, from different backgrounds and professions, and in different ways could make a difference. In the words of soon-to-be Deputy Secretary-General to the UN Jan Eliasson, who joined the debate via video, “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”

The Rio+20 debate was a beautiful example of the value and constructiveness of political leaders joining forces with members of civil society and ordinary citizens. It also made one thing in particularly very clear – that grassroot diplomacy is at the centre of meeting the challenges of climate change.