A decade of clear vision is necessary before time runs out

A new age of global enlightenment is now vital to turn back the clock on the destructive effects of climate change, writes  Mike Robinson, CEO of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society

EVERY country in the world is under pressure not just to make commitments to tackle the climate crisis, but perhaps more importantly, to keep adding to them.

With every year that passes these will keep getting bigger and bolder, as the impacts of climate change become more evident, as commerce and industry become increasingly dictated to by it, and as consumer demands are more and more shaped by it. 

As the annual international climate conferences, including this year’s COP in Glasgow, should make clear, this is the direction of travel for us all.

So, almost every government in the world is making bolder and bolder promises – each growing more ambitious and more significant with every year that passes.   

Campaigners would argue not quickly or boldly enough of course, but the momentum is indisputable.   

It is very easy to be sceptical. Do people care enough? Should society care? Can our economies change? Is it even possible? Is it too late? Is it too difficult? Is it too expensive? And are the commitments even enough? But, scepticism aside, governments and society know they must commit to change. And to varying degrees they are.

I would be the first to say that no one is yet doing enough. We are all at different stages of a journey towards sustainability and every one of us could do more, but the direction of that journey is well understood.

And although current global commitments as a whole are inadequate, they are significantly better than they were five years ago, which were better than 10 years ago and leagues above what was being offered 15, 20 or 25 years back. And they will be better still in another five or 10 years’ time. 

The emphasis is now on delivering these commitments and tightening them further.

So, just for a moment, let’s accept this rhetoric on climate change.  What if we take the world’s governments at their word, that they are serious about preventing worsening climate change and will enact their promises? Well, then what could the next decade look like?

For starters, it would undoubtedly be a decade of change. Of laying new foundations. Of course we need to change. For too long we have lived off an outmoded Victorian model of economic growth limited only by the speed of production. We now know of course that resources are not unlimited, and that includes our seas, water, forests, atmosphere and other life-supporting natural systems. 

We must move away from fossil fuel dependency to survive. So change is inevitable. But whilst we might find this scary, it is not half as scary as not changing, and if we take the right approach we have a chance to shape that change – to dream and build a future we can at least in part get to choose.

Because more than at any time in history, almost everything is up for grabs. For the first time in human history we need to work out how to be sustainable.

It could be a decade of hard work. Change does not come easily. But it could be productive, innovative, creative and purposeful. This itself is empowering, exciting and energising. 

Many people will want to resist that change, preferring the known to the unknown. So we need to learn to be permissive of change, and to ensure there is broad buy-in to the necessity of that change. Education on sustainability for all ages will be critical.

It could be a decade of vision – of longer-term thinking – a refreshing alternative to the pace of modern politics considering eighth-generation thinking and not the current rapid pressure toward short-term policy, reaction and sound bites. We need to slow down politics but speed up bureaucracy.

It could be a decade of liberation from red tape. We cannot solve the climate crisis with our current structures and bureaucracies. We need to accelerate our processes if we are going to respond timeously.
It will require new funding.

We are already borrowing from the future of nature and are in debt to it. We have borrowed from our atmosphere.  From the soil and the sea. And we are borrowing financially from the future too.   

What right have we got to burden younger generations with such anxiety, debt and fear, without doing everything in our power to act in their best interests, and by doing so, to fill them with hope and reassurance?

It’s time we started building up funds to both ensure transition, but also to provide belief for future generations.  

What if we established a wealth fund built on renewables (a national future generations fund perhaps) akin to the successful Norwegian sovereign wealth fund model.

It was built on oil money in just 26 years to become the single largest investment fund in the world worth over $1 trillion. Imagine the good we could do with that.

It would require a rethink of our values – a refresh and modernisation of our morality, of philosophy and of values. A real age of enlightenment beyond the partial one we saw in the 18th century. We need to once and for all move away from one-dimensional measures of success like GDP, or at the very least acknowledge the damage we are doing to achieve it.

It could be a decade of encouragement, of inspiration, as we build a secure future for the people and places we care about. And a decade of learning.

It could be a decade of empowerment, of responsibility and of listening to a variety of voices, especially those who have not traditionally been heard, and yet many of whom are so directly impacted by the worst consequences of increasing global temperatures.

It could be a decade of excitement, purpose and good news about the actions we have taken, the ideas we have imagined, the positive impact of changes we are making. 

It would be a decade of innovation and new thinking as we challenge outmoded habits and behaviours, and look to new ways of doing things, new priorities and creative solutions delivering against targets whilst holding on to the aspects of life we most value.

It could be a decade of altruism and empathy; a decade of responsibility and compassion, acting on the needs of those most affected already and building more resilient societies, promoting some of the best aspects of our humanity.

A decade of people and communities coming together, not pulling further apart, and of everyone helping play a positive role.

It will be a decade of burgeoning wildlife populations not shrinking ones. A decade of improving food, air and water quality. Of more thoughtful and equitable use of money and resources. Of regenerating forests not disappearing ones. Of seas teeming with life, not warming and dying.

And because of all of this, more than anything, this would be a decade of hope. It would allow us to engage positively in the future, to look forward to it and to be proud of the future we are handing on.

This is the decade that lies in front of us all if we are to respond to this emergency. And if it isn’t this decade, well what is it then?  

See www.climatesolutionsnetwork.com 

 
 

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992