Vienna – Under the patronage of Austrian President Van der Bellen, the city of Vienna hosted its 2nd Austrian World Summit known as R20 which calls for global action on climate and mitigate carbon emissions. This year the summit hosted the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who highlighted in his speech important global initiatives on renewable energy including the sub-Saharan project in Morocco, 3 times the size of Paris, while stressing the need to scale up investments in clean infrastructure. He also pointed towards a new climate summit that will be convened at the UN in 2019 to galvanise climate action.
Sebastian Kurz, Chancellor of Austria, highlighted that Austria will be the chair of the European Union in its upcoming year which makes it important for Austria to take a leading role in climate action in Europe. The R20 summit presents the Austrian perspective on accelerating energy transition. Lower Austria, for instance, achieved a 100% renewable-energy system in 2016 which shows the commitment of Austrian government towards clean energy.
The summit hosted many high-level officials including Prime Ministers of Norway and Denmark, who all presented the actions taken by their governments on achieving climate goals. For instance, the Norwegian Prime Minister has shown how the taxation system in Norway led to deeply reducing the carbon footprint of its oil industry, while making it feasible for its citizens to afford electric cars and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
Other prominent speakers at the summit included French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who was the mastermind of the Paris Agreement, who highlighted in his talk the importance of carbon pricing, financing mechanisms, and political will. France will shut all of its remaining coal power stations in the next 4 years and it is taking a leading role in establishing coalition countries that will establish a universal EU price on carbon that will go beyond current low prices.
Bertrand Piccard, Founder of Solar-Impulse, showed in his talk the importance of tuning the climate change language in order engage different types of society including politicians, businessmen, and the public. New climate terms may include job creation, marketing, economic growth and re-election in order to have a more inclusive climate community.
The chair of the summit Arnold Schwarzenegger, a former governor of California and Hollywood movie star, has shown how California became a global role model for a green economy which enabled its economy to become the world’s 5th largest economy while it represents only 12% of the US. He urged the US President Donald Trump to reconsider his position on climate in his speech stating that “Those of you who resist because you can’t imagine success without fossil fuels: we ask you to join us. Everyone. Also you, President Trump: Join us.“