Q: Considering the rise of protectionism globally, have globalisation and foreign investment reached their limits?

A: I’m concerned. [With regards to] the leaders of the political world, rather than being united, we are seeing signs of division stemming from nationalism, protectionism and trade wars. This situation will affect investment and business opportunities. We really need to foster a global citizenship among the people. I do not have much hope for the current leadership. [It is] important to empower our youth so that they can really take charge in the near future. That’s why I established the Ban Ki-Moon Centre for Global Citizens in Vienna last year. The situation that we see these days is reminiscent of the 1930s and 1940s.

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Q: What do you think happened to lead us to this anti-global citizen mindset?

A: There is not a single country that can lead alone in this tightly connected 21st-century [environment]. The countries that really benefited from the economic prosperity brought about by multilateralism are [now] disregarding and disrespecting multilateralism. The [heads of leading] countries are not showing real global leadership; they are just trying to protect their own national interest. [It is] very short-sighted, economically and politically.

Q: How can we incentivise emerging markets to pay more for renewable energy projects when in many cases coal-based energy remains cheaper?

A: [With fossil fuels] you can gain something through short-term goals, but in the longer term you will lose. Today, we must fully utilise modern technologies: artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, big data, etc. These will make the unit cost [of renewable energy] much more affordable in the short and medium term. 

Leaders must think long term. That’s why I recently contributed an op-ed to the UK government, urging prime minister Theresa May to do much more for sustainable energy, rather than providing financial support for fossil fuels in many developing [regions]. We [need to increase] incentivising and promoting sustainable energy sources.

Q: Regarding climate change, to what extent will politics save the day?

A: Through the advancement of technology we have many tools to make our economies and our lives [better]. [However], leaders and civil society should really speak out against the political trend [against multilateralism]; when there is no respect for the agreed multilateral governance system, then where will [humanity] have to go? That’s a real problem. [This lack of respect] will affect investment possibilities and opportunities, and businesses may not know what to do in this situation.

Q: Why do you think some political leaders continue to deny climate change?

A: This is politically short-sighted and, more importantly, scientifically wrong. [These leaders] have been advised by people who do not have a clear scientific vision. It is very important that political leaders have a clear vision based on what’s happening. Climate change is happening now, much faster than we might think.