Want to know how to get SDDers excited? Invite the climate envoy of the Netherlands and we will make sure we will all be there!
On Tuesday the seventh of February, in a week full of re-exams and essay deadlines, we had the opportunity to meet Marcel Beukeboom during his official visit to Wageningen University. For more than one hour we could ask him anything we ever dreamt of asking a career diplomat. The one thing we definitely got out of it was this: what an exciting job it must be to be the Dutch climate envoy!
After a little buffet feast we soon turned our attention towards our guest. The setup chosen for this brief meeting was inspired by the format of Dutch TV show College Tour. As students we had been invited to hand in questions prior to the seminar. Our host Prof. Bas Arts – the head of SDD Wageningen– guided the conversation. Marcel Beukeboom soon found out we were not very good at asking easy questions. Since we are students from diverse backgrounds, the questions focused not only on climate but also on other topics such as forestry, policy and aid. The questions reflected some critical thinking on the topics, and ranged from the influence of the climate case of Urgenda against the state of the Netherlands, to the impact of Trump’s presidency on fulfilling commitment under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The College Tour setup of the meeting worked well, although unfortunately there was no time left for follow-up questions or further interactions due to time constraints. It would have been interesting to ask Marcel Beukeboom more about for instance the role of the Netherlands in driving the transition to a fossil free economy. Although the Netherlands is certainly not a role model for other European countries in this case, the Netherlands does paradoxically ask for more stringent monitoring and evaluation mechanisms internationally. Also, more discussion on the slow worldwide acceptance of the correlation between climate change and migrations issues would have been relevant. And well, of course, we could have devoted the entire meeting to discussing the climate moves of the newly elected President of the United States.
After the inspiring meeting I found myself wanting to talk to people who do not agree with us SDDers on how to approach the key challenges of sustainable development. Until now in our studies, and especially within our ‘Wageningen bubble’ everyone agrees on the need to recognize climate change and the urgency of mitigating its harmful effects. We all preach the need for integrated, broad approaches in which we use the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2015 as our Bible. It is, however, more relevant than ever to acknowledge that not everyone (or even every leader) agrees with us on these approaches. Let’s work towards setting up a next meeting in which we can test our ideas and assumptions on sustainable development, so we will be better prepared for the real world outside the cosy and green city of Wageningen.