Climate change & net-zero: Why the lack of urgency?

Post Date
11 September 2023
Richard Jardine
Read Time
4 minutes
  • ESG advisory

The UN, and nearly every country around the world have created strategies, policies and commitments to decarbonise the global economy to be “climate neutral” and have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This year we have seen extreme heat events in North America, Europe, and China. Extreme wildfires sparked up in Canada, Greece, and Chile. Deadly floods in China, Sudan and India. The warmest sea temperatures around the Gulf of Mexico, UK, and the Poles. It is widely recognised that without human induced climate change these events couldn’t have happened, and they are only going to get worse. So, I ask myself…

Why are we seeing such differing levels of concern and urgency among communities and governments?

Attitudes and priorities change and evolve. We often hear that so many other factors, including the economy, global events and even political priorities influence levels of concern and commitment toward achieving net-zero carbon economies by 2050; but we have less than 9,610 days until 2050. How do we encourage communities and governments to take more proactive measures to build resilience, reduce vulnerability and achieve a net-zero carbon economy by 2050?

Many have significant economic concerns and anticipate that transitioning to a net-zero carbon economy involves substantial investments in energy infrastructure, technology upgrades, and changes to industrial processes. It is widely recognised that there are upfront costs to transitioning to a low-carbon economy, but the long-term benefits far outweigh these initial investments. We need to recognise that the economic benefits extend far beyond financial gain, encompassing improved quality of life, environmental preservation, and a more sustainable future for all.

Denial surrounds the severity of climate change or its human causes. Uncertainty can cause the urgency to be diminished, and people dealing with immediate personal or economic challenges may allow climate change to take a backseat. When we talk about climate change, we need to provide accurate, accessible, and easy to understand information to show the benefits of action, communicate the economic and social benefits of addressing climate change, and motivate changes in behaviours to transition to a low carbon economy. 

Should we have some optimism and confidence that technological advancements and human ingenuity will solve the problem without individual actions?

A lack of awareness, the complexity of climate change, and the fact it’s a long-term issue can make it difficult to perceive an immediate concern. Often, we are overwhelmed by such large-scale global concerns and believe individual actions won’t make a difference, and that governments will “fix” the problem. We need to generate urgency among individuals, acknowledge the challenges and showcase the potential for positive change, to encourage an effective approach to reducing carbon emissions.

We are still seeing very short-term political priorities at both regional and government levels, and the urgency of climate change is not as evident to those focussed on short-term political cycles and immediate challenges such as re-election or reducing inflation. Local, regional and government need to be more focussed on the issues surrounding energy transition including economic growth, energy security, and social stability, which should cement their level of concern about their net-zero targets. 

We need to see political parties recognise that climate change is apolitical, and that cross-party involvement is vital for creating a supportive environment that encourages all sectors of society to engage in climate action.

By agreeing clear policies, regulations, and incentives, political parties can help drive the necessary changes to mitigate and adapt to climate change on a meaningful scale.

Encouraging commitment to achieving net-zero emissions is a complex challenge due to a combination of factors that range from economic considerations to social and political dynamics. Overcoming these challenges requires a multifaceted approach that includes effective communication, policy incentives, international cooperation, innovation, investment, public engagement, and addressing the specific concerns of different stakeholders.

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