Combatting Climate Risk: Who Will Pave The Way?
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Last year, the Guardian reported that climate change is set to cause a refugee crisis of ‘unimaginable scale’, adding that global warming is the ‘greatest security threat’ of this century. In fact, the article refers to senior military figures who insist that climate change has been a major driving factor in many current crises including Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency and the ongoing war in Syria.
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It is often difficult to comprehend the real consequences of climate change; most of us see it as a threat to our distant futures rather than to our present lives. Yet it seems that climate change is the hidden factor in many of the world’s major conflicts. Millions of people are already seeing the effects of climate change on their daily lives – from increasing summer temperatures and more frequent forest fires to rising sea levels and mass flooding.
It is essential that we make the move to a climate economy – a reorganisation of our current economic system to one which prioritises sustainability to reignite growth, meets the Sustainable Development Goals and ultimately reduces the risks associated with climate change.
But who will pave the way for these changes?
The drive for change occurs at every level of society, from a unified group of individuals protesting to innovative businesses striving for a greener economy to governments enacting legislation that safeguards our environment. Ultimately, we need a combination of these elements to significantly reduce our environmental impact and to minimise the climate change risks we will increasingly face.
Here are just three examples of some incredible environmental wins at every level of society:
In 2015, a ruling in the District Court of The Hague required the Dutch government to reduce emissions by a minimum of 25% by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels). Behind this case were 900 passionate citizens working with the Urgenda Foundation: “the first case in which regular citizens have managed to hold their government accountable for taking insufficient action to keep them safe from dangerous climate change.”
According to the Urgenda website: “[They] believe that preventing dangerous climate change is not only morally and politically the right thing to do, but also that it is a legal obligation that cannot be ignored.”
Individuals must call out large corporations and governments in order to force change. Without public demand, we will simply carry on down a path of environmental degradation and dangerous climate risk.
Despite Urgenda's success, the Dutch government is currently appealing this case but Marjan Minnesma, the director of Urgenda, is confident that the ruling will stand and insists,
“The government knows 25% is not nearly enough if you consider the enormity of the dangers that climate change poses to us. Much more is needed, so we hope that politicians in the Netherlands will take their responsibility and make a true effort to speed up the transition towards a 100% sustainable economy. We have been waiting for political leadership on this topic for a very long time.”
Despite the Dutch government’s reluctance to make this commitment, the success of this ruling is monumental and it exists purely because of a group of passionate, united individuals.
Environmentally friendly business
Two young entrepreneurs, Tom Maskill and Nathan Winch, have just launched a self-crowdfunding campaign to fund the construction of a carbon neutral office space and warehouse for their business WinchPharma. After extensive research, the pair found that this project could be cost-effective and environmentally beneficial. By relying on several solar panels, a small wind turbine and a rainwater collection and purification system, the office and warehouse will cost next to nothing to run with no electricity or water bills.
Not only this, Maskill comments: “It’s also something that very few businesses in our industry are able/willing to do, so it helps us to stand out as a strong environmental partner for anyone we work with.”
The crowdfunding campaign aims to raise £60,000 and Maskill and Winch
Tom Maskill is only 20 years old, an undergraduate at Warwick Business School, and yet this pair is paving the way for a future in which the environment and business go hand in hand.
The power of government
Just this week, France has announced that it will “ban all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.” President Emmanuel Macron envisions France as a global leader in green technological development and this announcement is amongst several other remarkable environmental policies.
In addition to changes within the transport industry, France is set to cease coal use for electricity production by 2022. Macron aims for France to be carbon neutral by 2050, an ambitious goal and impressive target.
These measures may be labelled drastic but without major changes to our global economies and industries, we will barely make a dent in reducing climate risks. These policies exist alongside supplementary initiatives in order to ensure continued economic growth and support for society’s poorest.
For instance, premiums will be provided to poorer households so they can trade in their current cars for electric and hybrid models.
France is not the first to promise such impressive goals; Germany, India, The Netherlands and Norway plan to be rid of combustion-powered vehicles by 2030.
As we continue to fuel climate change, we face increasing climate risk. Some areas of the world will face dangerous heatwaves, wildfires and droughts while others will have to deal with intense flooding. Our food systems are increasingly at risk; the efficiency of crop production is suffering in our worsening climate and struggling to keep up with rapidly growing populations. We are overfishing the oceans, over-logging precious stretches of forests and overeating meat (taking up land and releasing a 14.5% of all human-induced emissions). Refugee numbers are on the rise and many non-human species are on the decline.
We need to make a difference and we need to do so now.
So who will drive this change?
All of us - from individuals to businesses to governments - we all need to push for change.