Photo by ka Kitt via pexels.com
Talking is good. The 2023 Climate Change and Business Conference was bigger than ever. It attracted some 700, online and in-person people. That includes strategists, policy makers, activists and sustainability professionals. It was a stunning showcase of what we can do right now to meet this challenge head on. The recent Economy for Public Good conference was excellent too. As were the various pre-election debates on environment, futures and climate.
But I am so frustrated by our pace. Talking isn’t good enough.
And not good enough is this country’s current scorecard for responding to the challenges we face.
We’ve taken some important strides. The Climate Change Commission. The Zero Carbon Act. The commitment to cut net emissions by 50% below 2005 gross emissions for the period 2021-30. We’re bending the curve on emissions and they are, just, starting to reduce.
We cannot drop the pace now.
The conference featured agreement that the current system isn’t working. This country is at the tail end of a lot of supply chains. We’re heavily dependent on global trading systems. We need global peace and stability for our national security.
Rod Carr is the redoubtable chair of the Climate Change Commission. He was one of the most impressive speakers on this at the conference. I highly recommend you watch the highlights of what he said.
One thing especially caught my attention. Rod said: “The best contribution we can make to the world is to figure out how not to destroy our own environment and to create the products and services that have the smallest possible claim on the planet's resources.”
That’s pretty much a blueprint for what we’re doing together at the Sustainable Business Network (SBN).
But what does that look like?
Firstly, nature must come first. I, along with many others, felt relieved to hear in the opening address that regenerating our natural systems is our first and most important responsibility.
For example, vet and project manager Alison Dewes had answers for agriculture.
“We've seen our dairy herds explode in numbers. But there's a solution right in front of us. Reduce the number of cows. Look after the stock we have. Give them healthy salad-grasses. Use agro-forestry to provide shade. This not only lessens our environmental footprint. It also nurtures healthier, happier and more productive animals.”
We’ve already got a massive head start on green electricity. Around 85% of the nation’s electricity already comes from renewable sources. We need to invest in this good fortune. Electrify our transport. Upgrade our electricity distribution systems. This is an area in which we can lead the world.
BlackRock is the world's biggest investment firm. It has just provided a $2billion endorsement of our potential. There's plenty of investment available for the right renewables here. We’ve always said there’s billions out there for this kind of innovation. This is just the start. Our economy is in relatively good shape. We've weathered the pandemic better than most.
The idea of ‘Degrowth’ is gaining ground. Manu Caddie spoke passionately about it at the conference. This challenged us to reset our ideas of progress. It emphasises food security, energy resilience and well-being. It comes with a warning. Businesses need a plan B in what is now a very disruptive world.
It is time for us to walk away from our consumerist culture and adopt a much better one.
The new ideas will come, as they often have, from the young. For those of us, my peers, it’s our role to get behind these leaders and support them, or get out of the way. It is they that will be set to take on the greatest challenges. The youth panel at the conference described this. Those in universities now will be the leaders to take on what we must now start. SBN is having those conversations. Our next event on that is Hot Take: Young disruptors are changing the game for good, coming up on 11 October.
It is those young people, our children and grandchildren, our nieces and nephews who will judge what we do now.
They will live the results of our desire to talk rather than act.
That’s always been the focus of SBN’s work. Some 35 years ago I was the one being handed the challenges by my elders. Since then, things have gotten much more serious.
So we must act together. As a network we're picking up the pace. We need you to stay with us and support our work. These challenging times are exactly the times when we must work most closely together.