A panel discussion titled ‘United to Safeguard a Healthy Planet’, held today at the Global Summit of Women Speakers of Parliament (GSWS 2016), reviewed various innovative policies drafted to protect our planet, and focused on the difference that parliaments can make in this matter, both individually and in mutual collaboration. The panel discussion that drew the participation of members of parliament globally, also highlighted best-in-class initiatives undertaken by parliaments to implement these policies.
His Excellency Dr Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, UAE Cabinet Member and Minister of Climate Change and Environment, led the panel discussion, headlined by Her Excellency Jiko Fatafehi Luveni, Speaker of the Parliament of Fiji, Her Excellency Lucie Milebou-Aubusson, President of the Senate of Gabon, Her Excellency Ntlhoi Alice Motsamai, Speaker of the National Assembly of Lesotho, Her Excellency Jennifer Geerlings-Simons, Speaker of the National Assembly of Surinam, Her Excellency Nguyễn Thi Kim Ngân, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and Her Excellency Pany Yathotou, President of the National Assembly of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos).
The high-profile panel noted that the health of the planet has a huge impact on our daily lives. Clean air, safe water and sustainable sources of food are crucial by-products of a healthy planet. The panel examined recent legislation and global initiatives, including the Paris Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and underlined how parliaments should implement the recommendations resulting from such initiatives.
In his opening remarks, His Excellency Dr Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi said: “Scientific evidence has shown that the climate is changing and much of this change is due to human factors. This trend has accelerated in recent decades due to emissions of greenhouse gases. Ignoring the realities of climate change will result in serious adverse effects on our environment as well as on public health. Countries need to work together to develop, implement, and comply with international environmental treaties.”
He added: “In light of the severity of climate change and its effect on citizens, governments should be advocates for progressive change, playing an integral role in fostering innovation that will ease the transition to a sustainable future.”
Her Excellency Jiko Fatafehi Luveni reiterated: “In our pursuit of a healthy planet, we face various challenges caused by the human factor. Fiji has adopted a wide spectrum of solutions to address them, particularly raising awareness, building capacity and reducing deforestation by planting a million trees in five years. Parliament speakers should interact with the public through debates and mass programmes in order to motivate people to grow their own food.”
For her part, Her Excellency Lucie Milebou-Aubusson said: “Parliamentary speakers should take serious action to protect the environment and humanity. Gabon is taking important steps in environment protection and sustainable development to realise its ambition of achieving zero flaring by 2030. Despite the fact that wood and oil are our main resources, we are working on plans to diversify our economy away from wood.”
Her Excellency Ntlhoi Alice Motsamai explained: “Carbon emissions, decreasing water resources, extinction of wildlife and climate change are some of the main environmental challenges of today. As parliamentary speakers, we should work together to change legislation, implement global treaties and adopt plans to protect our planet. To ensure we achieve our goals, governments should launch initiatives to educate people and raise awareness.”
Commenting on the relationship between people and the environment, Her Excellency Jennifer Geerlings-Simons said: “Humans and the environment are inseparable, but people are not aware of that fact. Our way of life is not only threatening the natural environment of the planet, but also our own health and the future of the coming generations. Parliaments should cooperate to achieve change, especially in the industrial sector, for a healthier, balanced and sustainable economic system. Working with the youth is also highly important to make them aware of their responsibility to ensure a better future.”
Elaborating on the environmental impacts of the industrial sector, Her Excellency Nguyễn Thi Kim Ngân explained: “The industrial revolution has had a severe impact on the whole planet. This summit is the ideal platform to discuss creative solutions to reduce pollution, adapt to climate change and achieve economic sustainability around the world. Parliaments should lead the change in legal systems, include SDGs in economic development plans and foster international cooperation to finance green initiatives.”
Highlighting the importance of global cooperation, Her Excellency Pany Yathotou said: “Implementing SDGs and adhering to international agreements is highly crucial in protecting the planet. The government of Laos has adopted plans to enhance climate change adaptation, protect the environment, safeguard natural resources, as well as encourage financing of green projects. We need to involve the private sector and raise awareness with regard to water and energy consumption, and protecting forestry.”
The Global Summit of Women Speakers of Parliament 2016, themed ‘United for Shaping the Future’, is held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, President of the General Women’s Union, Supreme President of the Family Development Foundation, and Supreme President of the Council for Motherhood and Childhood.
The summit focuses on the role that women speakers can play in uniting parliamentarians around national and political interests to deliver sustainable prosperity and security in a rapidly changing world for present and future generations. It also offers an exclusive opportunity to shape the parliamentary agenda on the basis of rapidly emerging political, economic, environmental and social changes that affect global security, prosperity and sustainability.