There Is No Going Back Anymore

Interview with Anna Bryanchaninova, Youth Climate Ambassador for Germany and Russia at the Center for United Nations Constitutional Research, CUNCR, on the organization’s climate initiative:

CUNCR, what does this organization stand for and how is it organized?

The Center for United Nations Constitutional Research (CUNCR) is an independent think-tank based in Brussels (Belgium) focused on the United Nations Charter and on promoting the constitutionaliziation of the UN and of international law, with the aim of making global governance democratic. That means for people to be represented in global decision-making through a world (a UN) parliament, which does not exist right now!

CUNCR’s president and executive director is Dr. Sharei. He started CUNCR together with 9 other founding members, who are experienced (some life-long) activists, theorists and practitioners for peace, democracy, business ethics, federalism, civil rights: Daniel Schaubacher, Roger Kotila, Bob Hanson, Marjolin Snippe. Dr. John Sutter, Prof. Schwartzberg, Francisco Plancarte and Andreas Bummel. The members and founders represent all continents and major countries of the world. In addition to its staff, CUNCR has a resident fellowship and internship program that helps in its operation as well as policy research and recently has welcome Youth Climate Ambassadors as collaborators and decision makers in its climate governance recommendations and programs.

CUNCR is mostly supported through membership contributions and pledges from co-founders. However, it receives grants from certain organizations especially from the Global Challenges Foundation based in Sweden.

What fields do you cover and how does climate fits into it?

Our think-tank focuses on creating better global governance in different fields such as in criminal law, human rights law, cyber law and environmental law. Currently, one of the primary areas in which we see a need for global governance improvement is in the fight against climate change. We agree that we are currently facing one of the most critical climate crises of our history and responses should be daring. We believe that climate crisis is a governance crisis! That justice should be pursued in the context of climate change and work towards real responses such as global legislation and court system to address it. As such, this has been the third year that CUNCR have hosted a climate justice seminar, where academics and practitioners come together to discuss the challenges and potential solutions of addressing climate change through international law.

You are “Climate Ambassador” but also the organizations representative is Germany and Russia. How does this go together?

Indeed, the combination makes perfect sense to me. I was born in Russia. I love the country and keep my Russian passport as a great treasure. Germany is my home of choice, well organized and one of most involved countries in environmental topics. I have also worked in cross-border advisory for 5 years helping German companies to enter the Russian market and vice versa. As I learned about the start of environmental reforms in Russia with a focus on waste management in 2018 one idea popped up in my mind immediately: German technologies and experience in process management is the vital know-how that should be exported to Russia for waste separation, transportation and recycling.

So, I am trying to use my knowledge, contacts and open-mindedness to make it happen. I started with figuring out the main challenges that the industry is facing in Russia and talked to the leading NGOs there. Their feedback was amazingly positive, so I have my to-do list and have already started looking for solutions. But Russia is also a country of thinkers, so I am hoping to discover some sustainable solutions that can be exported to Germany as well. Speaking about me being Climate Ambassador, well I guess my destiny just got me. I started my own challenge of going Zero Waste at home last year and documenting my experience to then share it with everyone via social media. I hope to inspire people to follow my example. By taking on the role and responsibilities of Climate Ambassador I defined the point of no return to myself: so, there is no going back anymore.

What are your “climate-goals” and how do you follow up?

Recent evidence suggests that the Earth, now passing 390 parts per million by volume CO2 in the atmosphere, has already transgressed the planetary boundary and is approaching several Earth system thresholds. Besides the loss of biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and extinctions), we humans are the ones in danger. Climate change is a result of an extreme way we impose an economic development model to the logic of nature and of human prosperity. However, climate change also represents an opportunity to rethink our civilization paradigm under the norms of sustainability. We will be forced to start changing our consumption habits. It’s an opportunity to set the pathway for a fairer society. The current climate crisis will not distinguish whether you are a developed or underdeveloped nation, its effects are being felt by all earthlings. We see that the current climate negotiations aren’t enough to set a safe limit below a global warming of 1.5°C. As always, the business scenarios reflect a lack of coherence and effort to reach the global climate goals. This is indeed a crisis of climate governance. But when people urge change, governments will have to react. If us citizens, have the powers to take decisions, to promote personal and global initiatives to foster effective climate action, in the next decade we will have a chance to reshape the catastrophic climate scenarios into great transition scenarios. We should use this crisis as an opportunity to build a transition towards sustainability.

There are many things that any of us can and should do in everyday life for the sake of our own future, those here are my routines: CO2 reduction by using public transport, bike, and train instead of airplane when I can. I gave up my driving license course to commit to my decision. Other measures: reducing the use of electricity at home: minimum light, no dryer etc.; saving water in the bathroom and in the kitchen by switching off the taps: reducing the use of plastic and waste in general. There is a lot more that easily can be done by anybody!

In today’s world there seems to be lots of resistance to accept the necessity to alter behavior in order to protect the planet. Is there a chance to rescue the planet?

I do have hope to save our future. And yes, I want to stress it: the planet will survive anyways, it has survived active super-volcanoes, dinosaur extinction, meteorites and many other bad things. It is not about the planet — it is about avoiding the extinction of humankind. With the fast, unsustainable technological development we have suppressed nature and destroyed the natural balance.
We must stop here. I see 3 main challenges on the way: 1. resistance of the governments following interests of small groups; 2. over-consumption caused by corporations trying to maximize profits; 3. it’s a race against time.

CUNCR with its program is trying to tackle the first two challenges. The solution to the first problem we see in the democratization of climate governance. Over-consumption is the disease of today, here education and reaching transparency can help. Of course, the satisfaction of basic human needs (food, water, safety) is the precondition for any change. Time is our main enemy: I am positive, that strong and emotional media coverage is the key for changing the minds of the broad audience. Nothing shown on TV today or shared on Facebook will matter in 20 years if we have no clean air to breathe or water to drink, healthy food to eat and place to live. After the dramatic fires this year we probably have only another 10 years to turn the tide. Just add this number to your age and let it sink in.

In your professional live you are a controller in the insurance industry. What gives you this major volunteer involvement in CUNCR?

I love my job: it’s interesting, challenging, and rewarding. But I am also lucky to come from a very good background. My parents (both scientists) provided me with all the means they could for success and taught me the right values. Plus, life quality in Germany is very high. I consider all that an enormous privilege that few people have on this planet. I feel the necessity, even my duty, to give something back to the world, to the society. Volunteering for CUNCR is an interesting challenge: it combines fighting for what I love — nature — and political involvement — out of my comfort zone. I have somehow historically always managed change processes in all my jobs, so I am ready for the next big one.

Plus, as realistic and rational as I am, I am a desperate dreamer: I believe that if every person every day does something good, we can start a big wave of love and kindness and make the world a better place to live for everyone: nature, animals and humans existing in harmony.

Interview by Dieter Brockmeyer

The photos were taken during the Climate Democracy and Justice Summit in Greece (Korfu / Epirus) this summer. Photos © Johannes Dellian for CUNCR.