May 16, 2023
AUSTRIAN WORLD SUMMIT: On Course for Change in Vienna’s Hofburg, Focusing on Climate Protection and Security
“Times have changed, and we have to change with them.” host Arnold Schwarzenegger said in his opening speech at the AUSTRIAN WORLD SUMMIT, which took place for the seventh time on May 16th at the Hofburg in Vienna, with participants from over 75 nations. He made it clear: “Growth doesn’t have to be powered by fossil fuels any longer.”
Schwarzenegger recalls that when he took office as governor of California, people initially doubted his commitment to sustainable policies. Nevertheless, he said: “I wasn’t offended by it. I understood it. I was a newcomer. I was an outsider. I knew that my administration would have to do the work to prove the naysayers wrong, and over the next 7 years, that’s exactly what we did. A million solar roofs. Our historic plan to reduce pollution by 25%. Stronger tailpipe emissions standards. A renewable portfolio standard to replace coal and gas with wind and solar.“ Schwarzenegger explained, highlighting the numerous environmental projects he implemented during his tenure as governor.
Move Fast and Build Things
Schwarzenegger emphasized that there are thousands of clean energy projects waiting to be implemented throughout the United States and Europe. However, bureaucracy and a lack of permits hinder their realization. Schwarzenegger believes that swift and seamless implementation is crucial, stating, “That’s why today I call for a new environmentalism, based on building the clean energy projects we need as fast as we can.“ He highlighted that this approach can save lives and stressed the urgency for change, saying, “Change is never easy, but this is an emergency, and this emergency demands action. Let the slogan for our new environmentalism be: Move Fast and Build Things. Build a clean and abundant energy future.“
No False Promises
Austrian Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen, who continues to support the climate conference each year, emphasized in his speech the importance of confronting reality and telling the truth. He stated, “We cannot dream of saving the climate without rapidly changing climate-damaging habits. Politicians must stop making empty promises simply because that’s what people want to hear at the moment. Whether it’s the combustion engine or a phase-out of fossil fuels, speed limits or wind turbines, hydropower or climate-neutral heating.”
Security Experts & Climate Protectors
The fact that climate change and security aspects are very closely linked is tragically evident in Ukraine. Wladimir Klitschko, who joined live from Kiev for the first panel, reported on the drastic consequences that the Russian war of aggression also means for contaminated water and poisoned soil in Ukraine and thus for the population as well as for those countries that depend on the grain exporter’s supply. “Climate change is one of the main causes of conflict in the future,” Tom Middendorp, “climate general” and former commander of the Dutch Armed Forces, is also certain. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pekka Haavisto, the Finnish Minister of Defence, agreed.
Climate Targets, Circular Economy, & Green Cities
The panel discussions focused on various topics, including solutions for the circular economy, measures to achieve climate targets, and possibilities for sustainable living in cities. Business representatives such as Klemens Hallmann (Hallmann Corporate Group), Jan Jenisch (Holcim), and Thomas Becker (BMW Group) shared insights into the environmental contributions and projects of their respective companies.
Addressing The Young Generation
The afternoon session of the Climate Summit was dominated by innovative ideas and young entrepreneurs eager to contribute to a sustainable future. For example, Tommi Eronen from Finland discussed his company, “Polar Night Energy,” and showcased how he utilizes sand batteries to supplement district heating systems. Other presentations included a digital tool for waste management from India, rural energy solutions from Nigeria, and a wave power plant from Israel. A notable addition to this year’s AUSTRIAN WORLD SUMMIT was the participation of approximately 400 school students, who were invited to share solutions, good ideas, and positive energy with the younger generation.