How our Industry can save the World – A Three part Series on Dealing with Climate Change
Part One: Who is Responsible?
In November of 2021, 200 of the world’s nations met in Glasgow for the 26th annual United Nations Conference of Parties in Glasgow, commonly known as COP26.
The first since the COVID-19 pandemic, the wide-ranging meeting had a singular goal – to emerge with meaningful and effective policy agreements to help stem the tide of climate change.
The conference itself was like many COP conferences before, with the world’s richest and poorest countries struggling to agree on how to stop the rise in CO2 levels.
Larger countries argued that massive changes were necessary yet costly to development and growth. Smaller countries pleaded that climate change threatened their very existence – and that monetary funds, not changes to policy, needed to be made available.
Both parties were right, and both had valid arguments for their position – but after three weeks of contentious negotiation, COP26 ended in a resolution that was little more than bland bureaucracy.
COP26: A Global Climate Cop-Out?
While most agreed that limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius is necessary to prevent the worst of climate change, few practical agreements were made to reverse course. This leaves many citizens across the globe wondering how to move forward.
Who is responsible for the change necessary to reduce the impacts of climate change – governments, citizens, or a balance of both? Let’s take a closer look at the issue at hand and how everyday citizens (buyers of goods) can help be part of the change the world needs to see.
What Role do Governments Play in Climate Change Prevention?
There is no question that climate change and the rise of global CO2 levels result from human activity on this planet.
What’s less certain is how to stop it or even slow it down – a topic that industry experts have debated for years. Nations and governments are often seen as the ones “responsible” for meaningful change to climate change.
The media coverage of COP26 and previous climate change conferences can easily make it seem that only elected officials or national leaders can enact real change. Some may even seek to blame these leaders for the situation we are in.
It’s not hard to see why. Consider these statistics that are often pointed at “countries” rather than those who live in them:
- Only 20 carbon-emitting firms contribute 33% of problematic emissions
- The majority of global warming has only happened in the last 40 years
- Greenland has seen a reduction in 279 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2019
- Sea level rise is accelerating (and in some cases doubling) every year.
- The levels of acidity in ocean waters is up by 30%
- Extreme weather events are on the rise across the globe, with devastating flooding, droughts, and storms killing more people each year.
The stats are staggering and only getting worse as the globe heats up.
However, while there are duties that each government needs to perform, the effect of just one country’s efforts may not be enough to turn the tide. Climate change is an increasingly global issue and requires all nations and all citizens to play a role.
Nations do play an integral role in the fight, as government bodies often engage with other countries to develop agreements and policies at home to enact change.
As tempting as it can be to lean on the government to enact change, time has shown that this is not enough.
What Role do Climate Conscious Citizens Play?
As much as it can seem like climate change is out of our hands, each one of us plays a role in the fight.
The majority of carbon emissions come from daily use and production, which individual citizens are responsible for. Making seemingly small changes to your everyday life could be just enough to make the difference:
The Conscious Consumer:
One way that citizens can help is by working to become educated, conscious consumers.
This can be as easy as making an effort to recycle, reusing bags and other items as much as possible, and watching where you choose to spend your money. Actions like these can go a long way towards reducing carbon emissions.
The Responsible Shopper:
What companies do you shop at most often? Do you know how those companies treat the environment?
When possible, make an effort to shop at responsible organizations. This can be as easy as buying from companies with environmentally-friendly or sustainable business practices and policies and shopping at local markets rather than global ones.
The Empowered Activist:
Sometimes choosing where to shop is simply not enough. With science showing that the impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly dangerous and deadly, it may be time for citizens to take the role of activists.
Think of how you can get involved in standing up to corporations, retailers, and manufacturers who do not prioritise the environment.
If each citizen were to take our own individual actions, it can be easy to see how they would have a huge impact over time. By combining the efforts of citizens with those of governments, individuals could help make significant progress towards slowing down and stopping climate change.
How to Fight Climate Change? A Balanced Approach
It’s clear that for climate change to be stopped or reversed, a balanced approach is necessary. Nations, responsible organizations, and everyday citizens all need to play their part.
This isn’t to say that UN conferences aren’t necessary. Consider that the 1997 Kyoto Protocol led countries to reduce their emissions by 5 percent. The 2015 Paris Agreement created the imperative to keep heating below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.
However, these meetings set a standard that all of us must meet. If every individual citizen were to be part of the fight against climate change, it could make all the difference.
By participating in your actions, you can help pressure nations and governments to take more significant action than they already are. This is especially true if enough citizens get involved, putting their demands on companies or even at the voting booths.
A truly global effort is necessary for combating climate change, and we must not forget that each one of us has a role to play. Nations and governments should play their part alongside the work of citizens to put enough pressure on organizations, corporations, and manufacturers so significant progress can be made against climate change.