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I Climate! EU towards a new Mindset

A report by Casper Stubbé, a Master Industrial Ecology Student, about the debate between minister Timmermans of European affairs and students of Leiden University on climate politics on the upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen

“We need a complete redesign of everything we do”

The Dutch Minister of European Affairs, Timmermans, attended a debate with students in Leiden today. The discussion was on the right mindset for the EU in order to make the climate conference in Copenhagen a success. The minister started with a passionate speech on the opportunities for the new generation (-25 years old) to really make a change in the current climate debate. After some questions from the audience he explained that he completely acknowledged the huge problems we are facing regarding climate change, resource depletion and water scarcity. But unfortunately, even he concluded that: “The world is changing so incredibly fast now, that the current political system is no longer able to make the tectonic changes that are needed”.


The discussion was structured around three subjects, that students from the Master Industrial Ecology and the Minor Sustainable Development presented in a five-minute speech. Joep van Genuchten, Sarah Herms and Gerald Wegh talked about the opportunities of trading barriers (solving the problems within EU borders), environmental aid to developing countries (creating a Global Fund) and how to stimulate countries as Russia to join a global treaty to combat climate change (while their main export product is fossil fuel). Each topic evoked an intensive discussion arose between the audience, the presenters and Timmermans.

“I’m working with Jan Kees de Jager towards an environmental tax based on impact for all products”

Timmermans continued his plea for an exciting and challenging approach to the problem and to never consider the problem as ‘too big to handle’. He also stressed that one important challenge is to approach the possible solutions as economic opportunities instead of economic burdens. One of the solutions he aims to promote during the Copenhagen conference is a environmental impact tax on all products. Of course still requires a lot of research, i.e. what kind of impacts will be included in the tax, but he already is working towards this direction with Jan Kees de Jager (State Secretary for Finance). So, in the future we might be charged for climate impact instead of taxing added economic value (VAT).

“The world is changing so incredibly fast now, that the current political system is no longer able to make the tectonic changes that are needed”

It was a wonderful opportunity for students to discuss the new mindset with the minister, which is needed to ensure our common future. The minister was open, accessible, direct and was sincerely interested in the opinions of the students. The students who presented their ideas were well prepared and provided a perfect start for a critical and meaningful discussion. How this contributes the outcome of the climate conference, which starts in just three weeks from now is yet to be seen. Yet the new globalized world with global problems asks for a completely new mindset then the old world. How can people older than 25 years look to the world with a new perspective? The minister was convincing in his motivation to make a positive change during the conference in Copenhagen.  But he didn’t show any ideas that are signs of a completely new mindset, which is essential to create this new and clean world we all want.  But then again, how can he ? He is not part of the new generaration. 

“This exciting challenge is mainly for the new generation” 




Casper Stubbé, Master Industrial Ecology Student 
17 November 2009  

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