As part of an ongoing effort to persuade the leaders of the G-20 countries to better address the needs of poor countries in their Summit, CGD president Nancy Birdsall visited Pittsburgh yesterday with a small band of CGDers in tow, myself included. Nancy’s jam-packed schedule included a public panel discussion, media interviews, and a private dinner with development policy experts.
CGD, ONE, and the University of Pittsburgh hosted the rainy afternoon panel discussion attended mostly by students and a mix of mainstream media and enthusiastic young U. Pitt journalists. The students asked well-informed questions not so different than those posed at our D.C. events by government officials and development experts. I was also impressed that Pittsburgh’s Post Gazette covered the event with vigor and accuracy.
Could it really be that the people of Pittsburgh and the wonks of Washington care about the same issues?
Later that day I drove Nancy, zigzagging through the city to the soundtrack of an increasingly confused GPS unit, to an interview with Clean Skies TV. When we finally arrived at the interview location, a windy parking lot with a panoramic view of downtown, Nancy noted in a stand-up interview that the G-20 countries account for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions, yet climate change will hit poor countries especially hard. The message was clear: the actions of the G-20 countries will be critical, both in reducing emissions and in helping poor countries that are not represented in the G-20 to become more resilient in the face of the climate changes already underway.
On the last stop of the trip, we drove through a virtual ghost-town of Pittsburgh shops, some boarded up in a seeming over-abundance of caution against the risk of violent protests, to a dinner and off-the-record policy discussion with the panelists from the event and other influential policy- and opinion-makers. Listening to the frank and constructive exchange of views around the table made me hopeful that the G-20 leaders will muster similar creativity and commitment to helping developing countries weather this economic crisis and prepare for future crises.