Is Climate Change making a Comeback?

2009 were the glory days of the climate change agenda. Big summits were held, world leaders made grand statements of intent, and corporate executives vowed to do the right thing. Then there was a great slump. The economic crisis tightened its grip and the multitude of other global challenges took centre stage. Yet now attention appears to be returning to climate change… some might say the following indicators mark a come back 

Obama: President Obama made climate change the most prominent policy vow during his inauguration speech stating “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations”. While the political battles with Congress are unlikely to get any easier the President is moving full steam ahead using executive powers. He restated this intent in his State of the Union address ”If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” and the Environmental Protection Agency has already started taking moving forward with its Climate Change Adaptation Plan.

Risk: The World Economic Forum just released its 2013 Global Risks Report putting rising greenhouse gases back on the list of top 3 threats to global stability. The annual review of 50 key global threats analysed by over 1,000 experts found that the threat of climate change and pressure on financial systems creates grave risks — “This year’s findings show that the world is more at risk as persistent economic weakness saps our ability to tackle environmental challenges.

Key Influencers and Academics: Lord Stern also recently provided a jolt to the climate change issue by announcing “Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly. Some of the effects are coming through more quickly than we thought then.” His comments came as Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank, warned “there will be water and food fights everywhere“ because the risk of conflicts over natural resources will rise if forecasted four-degree global temperature rises come true.

China’s Growing Public Awareness:  Impacts of climate change and pollution are quickly raising awareness in China. The decision to ban fireworks for the Chinese New Year in order to reduce emissions has brought that home while recent studies confirming stagnation of crop yields and dense pollution in China’s cities reaching unprecedented levels are starting to raise public clamour for policy action.  

Supply Chains and Corporate Leadership: Perhaps stronger than regulatory action is the trend of businesses engaging their supply chains to become more sustainable and efficient. Large corporations with global reach have an enormous opportunity to make a difference and also realise an opportunity for a win-win solution of helping suppliers to become more efficient and then jointly sharing in the benefits of reduced costs and risks. Leading brands such as WalmartP&GTesco, M&S and Unilever are ahead of their peers in realising these benefits and competitive advantage. Indeed, the Carbon Disclosure Project’s recent supply chain report states “a marked rise in the proportion of responding companies with climate change strategies that incorporate procurement guidelines to 90%, up from 74% in 2009 and 79% in 2010“.

These are some facts on the ground. I believe that when we see  

a) renewed commitment from the most powerful leader in the world

b) influential business leaders warning each other there are grave risks of inaction

c) persuasive academics and policy makers refocusing and redoubling efforts

d) citizens of the most populous country in the world starting to complain about government inaction, and 

e) leading innovative companies investing and realising a profitable return for their bold action

not to mention leadership at the national and sub-national levels such as the UK and California, we’re seeing the sparks of a resurgence up the priority agenda in a way that’s likely to stick. 

What do you think? 








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