Updated: Aug 2, 2020
From Leonardo di Caprio's "Titanic" too big icebergs to Leonardo di Caprio's "Before the Flood" too small icebergs.
From Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" to "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power".
From Greta Thunberg's "Skolstreijk foer klimatet" at her school to her "How Dare You!" speech at the UN Climate Action Summit.
Years have passed and ambassadors, activists and scientists continue to urge leaders and politicians to take long-lasting action. And nothing happens. I can only second Greta's words: "How dare you!"
In following article, I will argue why a drastic system change is needed to catch up with the many years of idle and short term decision-making.
Change to Transformation
Since so many years we have been talking, educating and preaching about the severe consequences of climate change that our future generations will need to endure with the heating earth. What we are experiencing with the pandemic, the heated temperatures is just a taste of what future generations will need to deal with. There is no need for me to paint the picture, there is so much research, movies and activism around climate change. As Desmond Tutu rightfully says, "25 years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse." We really don't have an excuse. There have been so many wake up calls, so many moments of realization, so many tragic events reminding us of this "inconvenient truth". This article is not meant to be another one of these. It is meant to provide a new and fresh perspective of what we need to do to fully react to these wake up calls, to these moments of realization and to the tragic events screaming the "inconvenient truth" to our faces.
Change is uncomfortable. And sustainable change is even more uncomfortable. For everyone.
When water turns to ice - that's change. But this change is reversible. Changes "can be small and incremental, or it can be large and complex. But it is something that needs to be constantly monitored and maintained". (CIO Insight)
When milk turns to yoghurt - that's transformation. This is irreversible. This is sustainable. "Transformation is almost always large and significant. Transformation is an internal fundamental change in your beliefs of why you perform certain actions." (CIO Insight)
When a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, it doesn't turn back. A butterfly doesn't turn into a caterpillar.
"Change is about using external influences to modify actions to achieve desired results. Transformation is about modifying beliefs so that natural actions achieve the desired results." (CIO Insight)
On the subject of the climate crisis, I urge to think about a transformation. A truly sustainable transformation.
What do we need for this transformation to happen? We need to stop thinking, what we need to adjust from the current system to reduce the rate of the earth heating. Instead, I urge leaders to start thinking what the world needs to look like for our living not to impact the environment: what is the vision? How do we trade? How do we travel? How do we eat? How do we behave? We are social animals - how do we interact? How do we source energy? How do we live in a world with zero impact to the environment?
Answering these questions will help all of us understand what we are working towards.
This is the first step to realize transformation.
Actions taken to Change
The most recent development on the subject of climate change, was the headline covering the Green Deal for Europe. Presenting the "man on the moon moment" (Reuters) or the "motor for the recovery" (Forbes) for Europe, the "European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposes to ensure a climate neutral Europe by 2050 with investments of over 1 trillion EUR over 10 years in a variety of areas including renewable energy production, recycling, biodiversity, building renovation, agriculture, transportation, economic support for transition in areas dependent on fossil economy and research and development" (Forbes). This is a good action in the right direction, where Brussels and Berlin had "reached an agreement over a 9 billion EUR rescue package for German airline Lufthansa" (DW) acts as direct contradiction. Forbes recommends, that the pandemic offers an "opportunity for massive green investments in global stimulus programs". The Lufthansa bailout sets a signal that governors are holding to the way the world was working pre-COVID.
One step forward and one step back.
Just two weeks ago the BlackRock, an American global investment management corporation, punished 53 companies over inaction on climate change. Their chief executive said, "climate change is different. Even if only a fraction of the projected impacts is realized, this is a much more structural, long-term crisis." (City AM) I couldn't agree more. Daimler, Volvo and ExxonMobil are among the 53 companies feeling the consequences. To be able to move from change to transformation, I argue a system change that requires investment companies, such as BlackRock, not to punish existing business models (Daimler, Volvo and ExxonMobil) for their inaction on global warming - instead, invest in companies, whose business model and objective depict the vision of a world with zero impact to environment.
More and more researchers, think tanks and goodhearted decision-makers are coming together, to evaluate the research about global warming to innovate and disrupt together. One example is the TCFD (Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures). They offer a Learning Hub "designed to help organizations enhance their disclosures of climate-related information. This is an excellent example to steps forward. In order to catch up with the ignorance of previous year, it is so important, that we can immediately make the knowledge and ideas more accessible to all organizations. Potentially, also making these mandatory to fully integrate into organizations. Every leadership course will teach you the importance of transparency during change / transformation management processes. A good example of what transparency looks like in action is what Influence Map have set themselves as their mission. "InfluenceMap is an independent think tank that provides data and analysis on how business and finance are affecting climate crisis."
The Climate Change Performance Index evaluates countries' GHG Emissions, their renewable energy, energy use and climate policy. The country with the role model performance in the Climate Change Performance Index is Sweden. This so-called "paradise for environmentalists", as the Guardian calls them, took the initiative already in 1991 to introduce the carbon-tax. "The Swedish carbon tax is today by far the highest in the world, with a price of SEK 1180 (110 EUR) per ton fossil CO2 emitted." The Guardian writes that the introduction of the carbon tax enabled "Sweden to cut its carbon emissions by 9% (between 1990 and 2006), largely exceeding the target set by the Kyoto Protocol" (Guardian). "Overall, the Swedish experience shows that it is possible to reduce emissions while maintaining economic growth. During the period between 1990 and 2017 GDP increased by 78%, while domestic GHG emissions decreased by 26% in the same timespan." (Carbon Pricing Leadership.org)
These and more activities have been taken to tackle the current climate crisis. Sweden being a key example of how it can be done, people are looking for more pro-active leaders, taking charge and caring about our future. Disruptive thinking is required.
Actions needed to Transformation
Investopedia refers to the webpage "opensecrets.org" publishing the amount of money spent by major industries "seeking to influence legislation, regulation and the enforcement of government decisions, such that they receive preferential treatment." Following numbers are published on Opensecrets.org:
Electronics Manufacturing and Equipment: 156 mio USD in 2019
Oil and Gas: 125 mio USD in 2019
Electric Utilities: 118 USD in 2019
Air Transport: 106 Mio USD in 2019
Automotive: 69 Mio USD in 2019
Do you find a correlation between the lobbying industries and the sectors causing the world greenhouse gas emissions below?
In 2019 the Guardian published an article showing that "the largest five stock market listed oil and gas companies spend nearly 200 Mio USD a year lobbying to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change, according to a new report."
Following Pictures from Influence Map (Think Tank) demonstrate the picture on Corporate Lobbying against Carbon Policy Footprint.
This data is to illustrate following ("inconvenient") truth: The force against climate change is bigger and backed by much more money than the force trying to minimize the consequences of global warming.
In order for us to maximize the force of creating a world with zero negative environment impact, there are two aspects that need to be considered when formulating new actions:
Create the Vision: In business you call it the "Top Down" or the "Bottom Up" approach. "Bottom Up" would be: Where are we now? And what do we need to do, to improve the current situation. "Top Down" (recommended for a true climate transformation) is when you ask yourself: what is our vision? And then you work down to what needs to be done to reach that vision? Even in business, if you are looking to do something completely different, something disruptive, something that will transform the business, you will always follow the "Top Down" method. Considering this, I am thinking about Bill and Melinda Gates' Foundation's interest in tackling diseases across developing nations. They analyzed the issues of these countries and came to the conclusion that the implementation of functioning sewage systems could solve the disease issues. He created a sort of "tender" urging all innovators to create a environmentally friendly and sustainable, affordable toilet for developing nations and awarded them with investing in the product development and testing. A similar approach needs to be done for climate change - not on a product level, but business model level. Can we reinvent travelling? Perhaps a new machine, that transfers us from location a to b without impacting our environment negatively? Can we reinvent trade? Perhaps a new way to sustain capitalism without providing harm to the environment, like paying doctors to keep people healthy, or paying energy providers not per usage, but by how much energy has been saved? Can we reinvent transport? Perhaps a new way to bring products from a to b without harming the environment - how could AI fit into this picture? Can we reinvent our entire system in a way, that people who do good are incentivized to do good? We should become rich while protecting our environment, not harming it!
Educate to burst myths: Visual Capitalist did an extensive analysis on myths related to sustainability and collected them in below graph:
Myth: Sustainable strategies underperform conventional strategies
Truth: Sustainable strategies have historically matched or outperformed conventional strategies
Myth: Sustainable investing only involves screening out "sin" stocks
Truth: Positive approached that integrate sustainable factors are gaining traction
Myth: Sustainable investing is a passing fad
Truth: Sustainable investing has been around for decades and continues to grow
Myth: Interest in sustainable investing is confined mostly to millennials and women
Truth: There is widespread interest in sustainable strategies, with institutional investors leading the way
Myth: Sustainable investing only works for equities
Truth: Sustainable strategies are offered across asset classes
Below is the infographic with Visual Capitalist's supporting data.
Together I strongly believe, that we can work together to create a vision of world processes protecting our Mother Nature, Our World, Our Home and with all our efforts we can create a world where all parties are incentivized to take goodhearted decisions.