The R20 Austrian World Summit is a long-term initiative to create a network platform that will help regions, states and cities implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals and meet the global climate protection targets outlined in the Paris Agreement. The goal of the conference is to bring everyone together in order to facilitate partnerships and exchange experiences and ideas. As it is critical that we stay inspired and motivated in our efforts to implement the SDGs and find effective ways to learn from one another, this annual event is key to keeping us on track.
This year’s summit stood under the auspices of a 16-year old girl, telling business, political and other leaders basically to pull their socks up and do more to tackle the climate crisis we are in!!! And no, it is not the first time this young lady, better known as Greta Thunberg, has spoken in front of a captive audience warning about ‘our house being on fire’ and that we have ‘a climate crisis’ at hand, given that she already attended the Cop24 climate conference in Katowice, addressed business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, as well as speaking at numerous climate demonstrations inspiring thousands of children around Europe.
But what is unusual is that she is saying this to a room full of people who are mostly engaged in climate action in some form or another – but still we all felt we were definitely not doing enough and above all NOT FAST ENOUGH!
I found myself wondering – how come I have known all the facts about man-made climate change, our non-sustainable economic systems and our wasteful lives for over 30 years (only because I had the great fortune of studying ‘Environmental Systems’ at college) but it took me 20 years to realise that ‘no, the politicians and other leaders of this world are not doing anything about it’?
So how much longer will everyone else, who may not have this knowledge, take to realise that we ALL need to change our daily habits, routines and lives??
Sometimes it just takes extraordinary people with extraordinary charisma, determination and power to address extraordinary situations. And it seems that the world has found these assets not only in the young girl Greta Thunberg but also in Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Having witnessed Governor Schwarzenegger in action for the climate for the past three years, I have seen with my own eyes his extraordinary ability to convince people to act, to reach out to them and inspire them. And since retiring from politics he has decided to put his entire energy, influence, his fame and also money behind this movement and his organisation R20 – Regions for Climate Action.
And he really does manage to get stakeholders from all different walks of life together to work for this cause and to become Climate Action Heroes. This year he also asked Aksel Svindal – the Norwegian Ski Champion – to join, and as he said in his own words: ‘When Arnold asks you do to something, you just don’t even consider to say no’!
Aksel also stressed that ‘it feels a lot better to make a choice which is good for the environment – as long as people have the possibility, people always want to make the right decisions”
So I have come away from Vienna this year, more determined than ever to be able to deliver the right choice to the people by making sure hotels and hospitality businesses are able to offer those from the start. Because ‘yes- we can, and above all, yes we must! The time to act really is NOW’