Viterbo Memorandum by Greenaccord: Time to act on climate crisis is NOW!

Renaissance period Domus La Quercia, venue of Greenaccord 2009 forum

“We know the climate is changing, probably as a result of humanity’s pollution; species are disappearing fast; deforestation is rampant; over-fishing is rife; water shortages are increasing; resource consumption is growing and so is the world’s population.

“…If this catastrophe unfolds, historians will look back and ask how that was allowed to happen with so little media debate. They may wonder what stories journalists were telling while the world was transformed around them.”

Those words are not new. In fact, they were part of the statement of concern issued at the end of the First International Media Forum organised by Greenaccord of Italy and held in Rapolano, Siena, Italy, in late 2003. I was one of 100+ journalists from all over the world who signed that original “Green Accord” for Journalists.

This year’s internationally acclaimed British climate film The Age of Stupid is based on a similar premise. This ambitious drama-documentary-animation hybrid features an old man living in the climate devastated world of 2055 AD, watching the ‘archive’ news footage from 2008 — and asking: “Why didn’t we stop climate change while we had the chance?”

The 7th Greenaccord international forum, held in the central Italian city of Viterbo from 25 – 29 November 2009, has just ended calling upon world leaders to “draw a road map being a binding agreement for a total de-carbonization of world economy before 2050”.

Addressed to the UN climate conference opening in Copenhagen in a few days’ time, the forum’s final document – called the Viterbo Memorandum – urged that no more time be lost.

The Greenaccord forum’s theme this year was ‘Climate is changing: stories, facts and people’. Over five days, some 130 of us from 55 countries – drawn from all continents – stayed at the historic residence of Domus La Quercia in Viterbo, discussing and debating about the challenges faces by our warming planet, and how we as communicators can make a difference. It is what I recently called the Ultimate Race between education and catastrophe.

The Viterbo Memorandum pledged: “On their own side, they (journalists and scientists) vow to cooperate in order to spread correct information on the risk related to climate change and to make aware the public opinion on the need of individual contribution to the solution of problems by modifying their own life style.”

The Memorandum is to be delivered in early December 2009 to Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the Nobel Peace Prize winning Chairman of the UN’s climate panel, the IPCC.

Professor Andrea Masullo, President of Greenaccord’s Scientific Committee, said: “I don’t want our children and grandchildren, in 2050, finding themselves on a planet inhabited by more than 9 billion people and devastated by climate change, re-reading the scientific reports of today…to ask themselves what we were thinking and why we did not do anything when everything that was going to happen was clear.”

He added: ”In recent years the changes are progressing much faster than expected in the fourth IPCC report. Nevertheless, it seems that Copenhagen will not come again to a final agreement. Many governments feel they can take initiatives costly and complicated the current economic crisis. ”

Launched in 2003, the Greenaccord Forums have emerged as one of the largest annual gatherings of environmental journalists, broadcasters and activists at global level. As an organisation, Greenaccord aims to be an international “virtual table” open to all professionals in information and communication who want to deepen understanding about environment and its protection with their work.

I have been returning to Greenaccord’s annual forums the first one in 2003 – and always return with my knowledge updated and friendships renewed. This year was no exception.

Photos courtesy Yu-Tzu Chiu and Greenaccord

Nalaka Gunawardene at Greenaccord 2009 - Photo by Yu-Tzu Chiu

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