Foreign Policy Blogs

World Leadership Forum 2009

This year’s annual World Leadership Forum from the Foreign Policy Association was keynoted by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.  He gave a fascinating speech calling on the US to resume its leadership in the world and to be supported in this by “…a new ‘driving centre’ of global politics and the global economy – a group of nations, both developed and developing, sharing a broad commitment to make the existing institutions of global governance solve the problems existing faced by the global order – rather than simply avoid them.”  He used the term “driving center” a few times and by this I think he meant, for all intents and purposes, the G20.

He also called for the “renewal” of the UN and the Bretton Woods institutions.  In this, I was very much reminded of the work of G. John Ikenberry on the origins of the postwar liberal international order and how to maintain and revitalize it.  Rudd said it this way:  “…rather than a return to US unilateralism, or its radical alternative, the wholesale redesign of the global order, there is instead a further alternative before us of US global leadership for the future.  One which seeks to renew the existing institutions of global governance from within.  To render them effective for the current age.”

The speech was riveting, to be sure, but I was somewhat disappointed to not hear him talk about climate change.   However, he did have some fascinating things to say at a press conference he gave at the UN during the Climate Summit.  (You need Real Player.)  He noted that at the Summit, “…we have seen fresh developments, positive momentum in the direction of global action on climate change.”  He lauded the statements of the new Japanese prime minister on his program for ambitious national goals to reduce GHG by 25% by 2020.  (More analysis on that here soon.)  He cited Hu Jintao’s call for a “win-win” program of addressing climate and energy.  He noted Nicolas Sarkozy’s warnings about the potential need for carbon tariffs from the Europeans.  Rudd and the Labor Party, as you probably know, won the elections in Australia two years ago with a platform that was very strong on curbing GHG and expanding renewables.  His first act as PM was to sign the Kyoto Protocol.  (Better late than never.)

He is going to Copenhagen to help make a substantial agreement happen.  He has been and will be integral to the process of averting climate catastrophe.  He’s motivated in no small part, certainly, by the fact of Australia’s vulnerability, as evidenced by the nightmarish drought there.

Australia has, in fact, injected a somewhat new concept into the debate.  “The Economist” described it thus:  “All countries would come up with a ‘national schedule’ of programmes, such as cap-and-trade and low-carbon regulations. Developed countries would also specify an amount by which they mean to reduce their emissions. These commitments would have the force of domestic law, but would not be subject to international sanctions.”  Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has been rolling out this idea.  See this from “Ecogeneration” in which Wong lays it out.

To return to the World Leadership Forum, there was a little more time expended overall last year on climate and energy, but this year’s panel was certainly interesting enough.  “The New Energy Paradigm” was the theme and the panelists included a regulator, a former oil company executive, a utility industry executive, a materials scientist, and a professor of environmental policy who has been advising the Obama Administration.  This last worthy, Dan Esty, had the most interesting take on things, at least from my perspective.  For one thing, he echoed the growing call to use natural gas to cut GHG emissions in the medium term.  Esty talked about why Barack Obama is committed to a low-carbon future:  the specter of climate change, first and foremost;  but also the air pollution; the fact that America’s addiction to fossil fuels has, to put it kindly, led sometimes to international tensions; and that Obama believes in the new, green economy.

At the WLF, FPA Corporate Social Responsibility Awards were given to H. Fisk Johnson, Chairman and CEO of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., and Anthony Pratt, Chairman of Pratt Industries.  Both men and their companies are fully committed to pursuing a sustainable path to the future.

The Foreign Policy Association really does have some terrific public programming, among its many other important enterprises.  I continue to be proud of my role helping to inform the interested public and, hopefully, in stimulating people’s thinking on climate, energy and sustainability.



Bill Hewitt
Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change