In connection with the Commission meeting in Chile, a group of the participants visited Antarctica and Patagonia in the days prior to the discussions in Santiago, from Friday 21 March to Sunday 23, to gain a greater understanding at firsthand of the effects of climate change in that part of the world.
The journey started with a flight to the very South of Chile, to the Patagonian town of Punta Arenas, where the group was able to learn of the environmental preservation efforts in place in that region with a visit to the Island of Magdalena in the Magellan Straits, home to the largest protected penguin colony in the southern cone.
From Punta Arenas, on Saturday 22 March, the trip to Antarctica was undertaken by a special flight of the Air Force to the Eduardo Frei Chilean base, located in one of the ‘hotspots’ of global warming on the white continent, in the Antarctic peninsula which has warmed faster than anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere. There, the political leaders were given briefings by those responsible for the base, one of the largest in the region where some one hundred people are permanently stationed, and by a leading glaciologist who made a presentation on the dramatic and rapidly changing environmental circumstances in the continent, affected by human activity in other parts of the globe, resulting in collapsing ice shelves and less sea ice in areas of the Antarctic where warm air and exposure to ocean waves were causing the ice to break up.
The visiting delegation included Ricardo Lagos, co-chair of the Commission and a Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Climate Change; Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the Socialist International; Aleksandr Kwasniewski, former President of Poland; Sergey Mironov, Chairman of the Council of the Russian Federation; Mona Sahlin, Chair of the Swedish Social Democratic Party; Beatriz Paredes, President of the PRI of Mexico; Mohamed Elyazghi, Minister of State of the Government of Morocco; and Commission guest, Chinese Vice-Minister Zhijuan Zhang. From Antarctica, Ricardo Lagos on behalf of the participants appealed to the international community to undertake a new path to preserve and safeguard the environment for present and future generations.
Call for Action from Antarctica
We, the members of the Socialist International Commission for a Sustainable World Society, here in Antarctica, where we can observe the complex effects of climate change at firsthand, commit ourselves to redoubling our efforts in our work to combat this crisis.
Scientific evidence and research on collapsing ice shelves, less sea ice in the Arctic and areas of Antarctica and retreating glaciers show that if left unchecked, this phenomenon will disastrously upset the world’s natural ecological balance. Halting the environmental damage at both poles of the planet needs to begin now in order to avoid rising temperatures and sea levels globally, destructive tides and storms, and the eradication of natural habitats. This is a truly global, borderless crisis drastically affecting all parts of the planet.
The members of the Commission are fully aware that protecting the environment, changing the course of events already set in motion and ensuring a planet fit for future generations demands urgent political actions and strong political will. This requires citizens, communities, institutions and governments to act responsibly.
The vital role of the scientific community in monitoring the planet’s natural systems and informing global institutions, national governments and the public of the environmental effects of global warming, as well as giving future projections, must be supported. Greater investment is crucial in research and development, better cooperation is needed, as are more far-reaching scientific studies.
The Commission, whose task is to put forward progressive proposals to tackle climate change hand in hand with sustainable development, calls, from the white continent, on all members of the international community to undertake a new path to preserve and safeguard our planet for present and future generations.