We all know the problems. Nature, the environment and the climate are under severe and growing pressure. Sea levels are rising. Our drinking water is getting more and more polluted. Acidification is destroying life in our oceans. The arable land quality is decreasing. Deserts are spreading. And we could go on. The examples are not to be mistaken: human activity has crucial implications. This is concluded over and over again, and latest, once again by the IPCC.

We ask ourselves, why are all these reports, analyses and action plans made? When we can see that their recommendations and conclusions are not acted upon.

Why do you pretend to take science serious? Is it only to gain time in your office, so the necessary decisions can be pushed forward to your successors?

The three of us started studying a science degree. That was four years ago. We started because we once believed, that science is the way to form the basis for good policy making. But we are now in doubt. We now question the purpose of our studies. If our knowledge is held in a political treadmill, where there is no vigour and courage to show real leadership, then what do our studies matter?

So what do we expect from a good leader?

This summer we were all on a five-day hike in the jungle of Guatemala. On the hike, it was vital to have a leader who knew the area’s dangers and challenges, both in terms of geography, terrain and time perspective. It was essential that our leader was able to take a decision we could trust. If we where thirsty, it would have been fatal to be lead to the nearest water source, if it was a dead end road.

When the international community faces the complexity of climate changes, it is crucial to have leaders that do not take us on a dead end road. Here we need leaders that we can rely upon, will guide us in the right direction, when we are not able to find the way by ourselves.

We all have a responsibility as humans. But you have chosen to be leaders. This is why you hold an extraordinary responsibility and obligation to act.

You have to help us. In a busy everyday life, we cannot always, as consumers and citizens, possess the ability to act in accordance with the consequences of our actions. Therefore you must be able to see things in a larger perspective and guide us.

Good leadership is not about promoting your own political agenda and making decisions in accordance with that. Good leadership involves the strength to make necessary choices and the ability to explain why they are necessary. That requires courage. But it will be rewarded by us and future generations.

We are scared; scared that you, our leaders, only hold your own short-term agenda in mind, and do not consider which consequences your actions may have. We stand on the sideline, puzzled, when the leaders of the world hesitate to do what is necessary, to reach a sustainable basis for life.

We have a distinct appeal to you. You have to act, so your grandchildren also gets the possibility to enjoy clean water, breath clean air and walk in the wild nature.

We all agree, that the path we are following now, will lead to a dead end. So we ask you to use the analyses, action plans and reports. Science is useless, if it is not followed by political will.

We want you to live up to your responsibility, as a real leader must do – do this for us, and the generations to come.


By the winners of  WWF’s 2013 competition of best speech in defense of the climate

Julie Rose Bang, Maria Hald, Lotte Nymark Busch Jensen