COP26 has just started in Glasgow, a critical moment in time. There is no doubt that the decisions made there will have a major impact on our future. However what happens afterwards is even more important. COP26 will hopefully deliver new commitments but it won’t deliver actions. That comes later and it’s up to all of us.
At this point in time we don’t know what the future is going to be. We have various different scenarios of course, depending on the degree of temperature rise – they vary from managing to limit the worst effects and having a liveable planet (remembering that a certain level of temperature rise is already locked in) to total climate meltdown and societal collapse.
Human nature means we have a tendency to see and hear the scary headlines, but then go back to our daily lives and carry on pretty much as normal. Maybe we make some lifestyle adjustments but whilst individual changes are good, they won’t cut it to save the planet.
The reality is that the changes required go far, far beyond our personal actions. It requires a total rethink of our structure and systems. We need societal change. It requires us to think critically about the everyday system in which we work and live, often hidden in plain view as we rush through life. We need to be constantly questioning.
We must challenge those in power, both governments and big business, to make decisions based on sustainability, justice and equity. We must be alert to greenwash and call it out when we see it.
This means delving deeper into what we read or listen to and never just accepting things at face value. We need to look for disconnections between rhetoric and action. Like the UK Prime Minister talking the talk with headline grabbing emissions reduction targets, whilst simultaneously supporting a massive new oil field in the North Sea and announcing reductions on tax for domestic flights (leading to a predicted 400,000 extra flights each year). Or the Australian Prime Minister setting a net zero by 2050 target, whilst actively supporting and funding a massive expansion of coal and gas, that could drive an increase in national emissions of 30%.
But the future is not yet written, we can’t yet see over the hill. And whilst COP26 is critical, it will be what happens after it that really decides our future. And that is still up to us, acting collectively.
So let’s focus on the task at hand – making sure our leaders and big business are on track in all their decisions and actions and that we constantly hold them to account.
Whilst of course continuing to do our bit in our own lives.