Climate crisis poses biggest immediate threat to freedom: Austrian president

Climate crisis is the greatest immediate threat to the freedom of humanity, said Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen at the opening speech of the political symposium of the European Forum Alpbach (EFA) here on Saturday.

“If the global community fails to meet the Paris climate goals, (…) all other questions that humanity has are simply irrelevant.” said Van der Bellen at the forum which is known as the European version of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Starting from 74 years ago, in August 1945, what was initially an academic discussion in this “Village of Thinkers” has developed into an annual event with more than 5,000 participants from politics, economy and the cultural fields.

The theme this year is “Freedom and Security”. According to President Van der Bellen, who together with Austrian Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein and President of the UN General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, had made most of the journey from Vienna to Alpbach by train, climate crisis is also increasingly a threat to freedom and security. Water shortages can lead to conflicts, for example.

Garces also stressed how urgent it is to make increasing efforts to achieve the climate goals. After all, according to experts, there are only eleven years left to limit the rise in temperature, she said.

“The world is in the truest sense of the word in flames,” said the former Ecuadorian foreign minister, referring to the rainforest fires in Brazil.

She also promoted an economy that would reduce rising social inequalities, and emphasised that national interests are best realized in multilateralism.

Chancellor Bierlein focused on this year’s forum theme and emphasized the importance of the rule of law as the most crucial condition for stability and peace: “We accept laws that are passed by a majority in parliament and we accept European rules, even if we as member states do not agree with every rule.”

The political symposium at the EFA is to run until Tuesday.