Last week I had the privilege of facilitating the third meeting of the 2020 Climate Change Delivery Group. Set up in December 2009, the Group, under the chairmanship of Scottish and Southern Energy’s chief executive Ian Marchant, consists of leaders in business and civic society in Scotland.
It is a remarkable collection of industrialists, financiers, energy experts, climate change specialists and activists, media strategists and others, joined by the Scottish Government’s top civil servants in this field. The Groups task: to help deliver the Scottish Government’s world-leading legislation to address the serious implications of global climate change and, in particular, to achieve the target of reducing carbon emissions by 42% by 2020.
When the Group first met in December 2009, it was in the run-up to the Copenhagen summit. We had been told that this was the most important meeting in the history of our planet and that it represented our last chance to do something to avoid the potentially catastrophic consequences of global warming.
At that first meeting of the 2020 Group there was optimism and a sense of purpose. Now, nine months later, in the aftermath of the tragic failures in Copenhagen, it is time to re-assess where we stand.
The problem has not gone away. The scientific evidence, notwithstanding errors in some reports and attempts to smear science and scientists in this field, is clearer with each passing month. The empirical evidence, with a series of environmental disasters around the world, provides clear support for what science has predicted.
But do we really believe it? If not, what are we doing pretending that we do? If we do believe it, why are we not shouting from the rooftops? This is the most critical issue facing our species. How we deal with it will determine our children’s futures. Why are we not doing more?
The global recession has of course intervened in our thinking. Short term fixes tend to prevail over longer term solutions. But perhaps out of this comes opportunity. In fact, the meeting of the 2020 Group revealed that a great deal of work is being done. The challenge of transforming the Scottish economy to low carbon dependence is well underway.
In transport, waste management, energy production and its use, agriculture and use of land, projects are underway which could transform our way of living – for the better. Much thought is being given to the financial infrastructure for this new paradigm. I am always impressed by the commitment of the private sector to mapping out possibilities for change and by the potential for alignment with public sector thinking.
That said, this is about leadership. We need leadership in tackling climate change. The Group can provide it. And that leadership needs to recognise and acknowledge the diversity of views and deeply held convictions among those who agree on the common threat to our planet. We need to find ways to work collaboratively, managing differences and exploring what really matters to people. It will not be easy but there is no other way.
And….. we all have our parts to play, particularly in tempering our addiction to consumerism. In that respect, I was left wrestling with this conundrum:
Rampant consumerism has arguably played its part in depleting natural resources and creating a global recession. Sustainability going forward requires us to be much more circumspect in our consumption habits. But, we are told, in order to drive forward the economic recovery, we need to stimulate demand and encourage greater purchasing of goods.
Surely, that is what got us into this mess?