Rolph Payet speaks on climate change at CRS

Rolph Payet speaks on climate change at CRS

Published on 19 August 2013

The Seychellois Minister for Environment and Energy, H.E. Professor Rolph Payet, delivered the keynote speech titled ‘Will the world exist in 2113?’ at the third Commonwealth Residential School at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, on 8 August 2013. He used his speech to remind the Scholars in attendance that the decisions, inventions and innovations made today and in the near future will doubtless influence what kind of world we are left with in 2113.

A former Commonwealth Scholar himself, Professor Payet delivered the speech in line with the overall theme of this year’s Residential School which invited delegates to look to the future and consider what the world might be like in a hundred years’ time. As Special Advisor to the President of the Republic of Seychelles on numerous environmental matters including sustainable development, climate change, energy, and international environment policy, Professor Payet captivated his audience with his broad knowledge of global development issues. He also drew on his local knowledge, as a representative of an island whose very own existence is under threat from rising sea levels.

Presenting to a cohort of 60 Scholars hailing from a spread of Commonwealth countries, he called for a collective and collaborative mindset in preparing for the major issues of tomorrow. He spoke of how in the Seychelles 52% of the land is protected and yet the fate of the Seychelles is largely out of its own hands due to the rise in sea levels caused by the melting of the polar ice caps.

‘The important thing to remember with climate change is that it touches everybody,’ he warned. ‘The world will lose several thousand islands by 2113, mostly as a result of the rise in sea levels.’

Rolph Payet addressing the Scholars

Professor Rolph Payet addressing the Scholars at the Commonwealth Residential School at Cumberland Lodge

Despite the multitude of global issues like youth unemployment, the threat of terrorism and the global economic recession competing for the instant attention of policy makers, Professor Payet called on the Scholars to develop a long-termist mindset in order to prepare effectively for tomorrow: ‘We already have so many problems in the world today. Who has time to think about 2113? There is so much we don’t know and there is so much we are still learning today but we mustn’t forget that 100 years is not such a long time for humankind.’

Drawing on the example of the Mayans whose extinction it is believed is attributable to a drought exacerbated by deforestation, Professor Payet reminded the future leaders not to disregard the sustainability of life, especially as developing countries have to contend with balancing a desire to develop economically, often involving the exploitation of natural resources, with the need to preserve the environment and the delicate ecosystems they support.

He named supervolcanos and solar megastorms as some of the possible, if unlikely, threats to our planet and predicted that demand for data, energy and water may also create environmental and/or political tension in the coming decades.

Scholars were able to ask the minister questions after the conclusion of his talk, and Professor Payet remained at the Residential School throughout the day to further interact with the delegates.

Rolph Payet speaking with Bogolo Kenewendo

Professor Rolph Payet speaking with Chevening Scholar Bogolo Kenewendo

In response to the title question of his speech, despite portending serious threats to the stability of the planet, Professor Payet remained somewhat upbeat about the world’s prospects of existing in a hundred years’ time: ‘Will there be a world in 2113? I think so…’

It only remains to be seen what kind of world our Scholars will help to mould.

The Commonwealth Residential School was instigated by the ACU in 2011 aiming to provide a forum to bring together high quality students from every corner of the Commonwealth to discuss interdisciplinary issues of global importance. More content from the Commonwealth Residential School, including podcast, photographs and presentations, will be available online shortly.