At first, I was surprised to be given the opportunity to join the Climate Leaders Programme (CLP), an initiative by the GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Zusammenarbeit, or German Agency for International Development), which took place in Yogyakarta Indonesia from 15-21 January, 2012. The program aims to bring together representatives of major stakeholders related to climate change, providing the necessary training and tools so they may rise together in facing the challenge of global warming. I was intrigued to learn more and found out that unlike the program the year before, the second cycle included representatives from the private sector in addition to those from government and civil society. After I received the invitation to participate, I was required to submit my CV, a statement of interest and commitment, and set a date for an initial interview.
As it turns out I was one of the 25 applicants from Indonesia that got accepted into the program. The next thing I know I’m spending a whole week in Yogyakarta, the heart of Central Java, learning how to be a leader in the fight against climate change.
The program started with an explanation of the BIG issue: CLIMATE CHANGE; what caused it, what had national and international communities done to address it in the past, and what are the opportunities for further mitigation of the issue in the future.
In my point of view, the discussion started off imbalanced because the voice of the private sector was not being heard. One of the speakers even suggested quite confidently that investors were the root cause of all things – deforestation, community conflicts and the exploitation of natural resources that lead to the threat of climate change for all humanity. This position makes me feel a bit sad, really. It reminds me of several organizations that refused to work together with us simply because of the misunderstandings and false pretenses above.
While some corporations might indeed do all those things, I believe the majority of them do not. Why? Let me tell you a secret: in the midst of financial turmoil these past few years, private sectors (especially large corporations) simply cannot afford to operate unsustainably anymore. The general public or consumers nowadays are more aware of the long term impact of unsustainable operations on the environment and people. More than ever before corporations are under pressure to operate in a sustainable way, or in a very real sense, face losing market share to competitors. From a business point of view, why shouldn’t we do business in a more environmentally AND socially-friendly way? For example, reducing carbon emission means reducing fuel consumption. The business result is efficiency and cost reduction. Reducing water consumption is also good for business because it means lower costs for water. For APP, having good relationships with the local community means they will protect the mills should anything happen because they also benefit from the operation. After all, they are our employees, contractors, and suppliers either directly or indirectly.
Indonesia as a developing country must realize that the role private sectors play in the economic growth and the sustainable use of our natural resources is very crucial. The key is collaboration between the government, private sectors and civil society. All have a role to play. And all are committed to the same fight in the end – the fight against global warming. So why debate?
Of course I do realize that things aren’t that simple. As I learned during the CLP workshop, having the same objective does not necessarily mean that everyone will board the same ship to get to the same destination. This is where, in my personal opinion, the CLP program brings a breakthrough. As opposed to filling the minds of participants with technical mumbo-jumbo on global warming, it provided everyone with the tools and – most importantly – the space to connect with their inner selves. The program brings out the old philosophy that all humans are born good and none of us are born evil. I was honestly a bit skeptical at first, but as I went along, it began to make sense.
It is only after you are able to hear your heart’s voice that you are able to really listen to other people’s messages. To be able to position yourself in their shoes. To see things from different angles. Free yourself from instant judgment, fear and cynicism. Once you can do that you will be able to convey your messages better. Only then can things that you need to convey be heard by other people.
It was an extra-ordinary experience. People from different backgrounds, different cultures (in addition to Indonesians there were also South Africans and Germans) and different positions (e.g., government, private sectors, civil societies and academics) started to unite. They started to understand each other. To start listening to what each other had to say. To start to see things from other people’s point of view and to have that passion again to work together toward the mutual goal.
The program led to the realization that we are all leaders in some way. And we all need to rise to the challenge and fight against global warming. Together.