Climate leadership is missing
“Climate change is the defining issue of our time and now is the defining moment to do something about it. There is still time to tackle climate change, but it will require an unprecedented effort from all sectors of society. To boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, UN Secretary-General António Guterres is asking leaders, from government, business and civil society, to come to the 2019 Climate Action Summit on 23 September with plans to address the global climate emergency. The Summit will spark the transformation that is urgently needed and propel action that will benefit everyone.” – UN Climate Action Summit 2019
It’s impossible to disagree with the ambition. But we are fast-approaching the point of no return precisely because our leaders have failed spectacularly. The problem with ‘leaders, from government, business and civil society’ is that they have completely different goals from the UN, or from the normal, caring, increasingly worried people who depend on said leaders. As our current leaders gather in New York, 23 September 2019, there has never been a more urgent need for climate leadership.
Here’s the rub: our ‘leaders’ have different needs
Our government leaders care most about getting re-elected, and can’t see past the four or five year election cycle. Perks, pensions and bribes or lobbyist cash float their boat. Literally. The big oil companies spend $200 million a year lobbying in denial of climate change.
Our business leaders care only about maximising profit for shareholders. That is what corporations exist for. Nothing more. Often, business leaders are ambiguous when it comes to sustainability. A position on climate change is now a PR essential, but often just masks organisational disdain. Some businesses do practice what they preach, so it is positive to see some major corporations embracing greener business models operations.
Civil society is everything that isn’t government or business, and that’s where people like Greta Thunberg comes in. A teenager sees the potential world out to a distant horizon, much further away than the jaded ‘leaders’ who feel every second ticking by. Ideally, a teenager has the joy of living free from the daily grind of an economic madness that sees forests destroyed so that money can be fabricated from thin air on the other side of the world to fund the burger chains that demand over 300 million cows slaughtered every year.
What is leadership?
A possible definition is that leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal. The goal is clear and those seconds keep ticking. The UN must try harder to lead globally, while encouraging more climate leadership in our schools, our homes, our businesses and our governments.
Are you ready to step up, like Greta, and show climate leadership?
Read about the UN Climate Action Summit 2019: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/
Oil firms spend $200 million a year lobbying against climate change, Guardian report, 2019: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/22/top-oil-firms-spending-millions-lobbying-to-block-climate-change-policies-says-report
Greta Thunberg photo: Anders Hellberg [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
United Nations office, New York: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47597