Bonn On Friday at the Bundeskunsthalle, prominent figures involved in shaping Bonn as a UN city talked about the beginnings 25 years ago and the prospects for the future. Former mayor Bärbel Dieckmann was part of the panel on the podium.
There's something threatening about a baseball bat. So when Fracesca Racioppi took it out on the stage at the Bundeskunsthalle, it was no wonder that a murmur went through the room. For the head of the World Health Organisation's European Centre for Environment and Health, the bat does not stand for violence, but is rather a symbol of “perseverance”. And this is exactly what the United Nations, which has had its headquarters in Bonn for 25 years, has required. Both new and old faces spoke about the past and the future during the UN talks.
Former Federal Minister of the Environment Klaus Töpfer would have had a lot to say. But exactly this became his downfall as an enthusiastic rail traveller: With no trains running due to the storms, he was stuck in Paderborn. However, moderator Ralf Erdenberger had many anecdotes from Töpfer to recount.
Like how he once jumped into the Rhine to show that the water wasn’t toxic. Or how he organised the move from Bonn to Berlin. Today, Töpfer still comments on political events. Most recently with the words: “Nationalism is flourishing in this climate crisis. But instead we need multilateralism to flourish.”
Richard Kinley, Deputy Director of the UN Climate Change Secretariat for many years, reported that this versatility is not easy and can often be almost too difficult to overcome. But the work has borne fruit, he said, for example with the historic climate agreement. “Yes, it was adopted in Paris, but it was also agreed to, at least in part, in Bonn.”
Here he was referring to the World Climate Conference COP 23, which Bonn hosted in 2017. He believes that the atmosphere at the conference played a decisive role. “Bonn has always given its guests a very warm welcome,” Kinley said. And he also made it clear that without the World Conference Center Bonn (WCCB), many conferences would not even have taken place.
Joining the podium was an important person who was partly responsible for the construction of the WCCB in all its facets - the benefits, but also the scandalous damage amounting to millions: former mayor Bärbel Dieckmann. This is remarkable given the ongoing lawsuit for damages against her and her former city director Arno Hübner.
But this was not mentioned at all during the evening. Instead, the positive points were highlighted. Dieckmann said that the past 25 years had also been a challenge for the city authorities because they had to adjust to the international guests. For the future, she wants Bonn, as a climate-neutral city, to play a role in stopping climate change. “We have a special responsibility as industrialised countries,” she said.
(Original text: Nicolas Ottersbach, Translation: Caroline Kusch)