The climate outlook isn’t good. Be part of the solution

Climate Economy

The climate outlook isn’t good. Be part of the solution

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With the latest IPCC report declaring “code red” for our climate, it’s past time to make it our number one priority.

Exactly 234 scientists from 66 countries have put in five years of effort to understand and report on climate change and its global impacts. It warrants our undivided attention. 

“Widespread and severe,” “code red for humanity” and a “death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet.” These are some of the phrases used to describe what’s in the Sixth Assessment Report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The “AR6” spells out “a truly unprecedented and fundamentally dangerous experiment with the one planet we know that can support us and all other known life,” as climate scientist Michael Mann put it.

 

Map: IPCC report cover

So it’s grim. But as someone who has worked on climate change for almost 30 years, I was most taken by this comment on the report from Rob Law, filmmaker and CEO of the Australian organization the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance: “There’s still so much worth saving.” Amidst the stark landscape of the news, this sentiment cuts through. 

The fight isn’t over, it’s just starting. While the IPCC report findings are extremely challenging, I also know how much is happening right now that gives us a chance to avoid the worst of global warming if we are prepared to ramp up. 

Much of that has been reported in Climate & Capital since we formed almost two years ago: the leaders, innovations, impact investors, agitators and truth-tellers. They are inspiring and tell a story of the thousands around the world stepping up to drive the change needed to address climate change. Our mandate is to accelerate investment in and ownership of the solutions we need. Here are ten reasons to hope. If enough of us get involved, we can get there. 

    1. Covid taught us that not only does science matter, but we can also make radical changes when we are threatened with terrifying, life-threatening new challenges. Climate change is just that! We’ll need to put science and evidence-based innovation front and center and not let denial, ineffective fairy tale solutions (did someone say carbon capture and storage?) and excuses get in the way of driving climate solutions.
    2. Solar energy plus battery storage is now far cheaper than energy generated from coal, gas and nuclear energy, and has been since 2019. This is the best news in the world because it no longer makes economic sense to pursue new fossil fuels or develop new fossil fuel energy generation. In fact, it now makes sense to phase it all out and switch as quickly as possible to renewable energy and batteries. It’s already happening with the Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Belgium and Vietnam moving fastest. (The U.S. comes in at #11). The solution works. Now we need to pick up the pace of change … everywhere.
    3. COP26 is coming in November and all eyes are on global leaders to come with their net zero, fossil fuel phase-out and renewable energy transition plans –– BEFORE they arrive for the summit. This is our chance –– our responsibility –– to demand that those plans are sufficiently ambitious. Our survival depends on it. Fortunately, this week’s IPCC report means world leaders will be fully aware of this. No pressure right?
    4. Bring on the stick! The EU’s recent announcement of the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM, or what’s often referred to as a carbon border tax) is the first real financial mechanism that can be used to punish climate laggards. The idea of green trading zones between climate leaders that leaves laggards behind, sanctions, and, ultimately, FOMO: Fear of missing out on the massive market opportunity of new low-carbon technology are all important. Time to move from threatening with these sticks to wielding them.

      Related content: EU sets out to slay the carbon-leakage dragons

    5. Funds are moving. Money flowing into sustainable investment funds hit a record $2.24 trillion in this year’s second quarter, a 12% increase over the previous one, according to Morningstar. There’s money to be made in climate change solutions and investors now know it. Without a doubt, sustainable investing remains a work in progress so a portion of the funds will be greenwash but the conversation and effort around it are robust and increasingly focused. We can’t let the perfect get in the way of the good. Let the money flow … fast.
    6. Innovation and experimentation are creating momentum. Company leaders such as Google, which has been using and matching 100% of its energy use with purchases of renewables since 2017; Elon Musk, jumped in to provide the world’s largest solar battery system (at the time) to an Australian state in an energy crisis followed by installing a second array for the state next door; companies vying to lead the global race to bring green hydrogen online to power aviation, shipping and heavy industry; the global move to regenerative farming and ingenious new ways to work with while protecting our oceans. Inspiring climate solutions are everywhere. When it comes to what you can do, backing these leaders and innovators with investment and pushing for government leadership that unleashes new solutions are what we need right now.
    7. The cost-benefit analysis now clearly favors action. Extreme weather and other climate impacts are now visible everywhere, all the time. And it’s costing us. It’s no longer possible to argue that addressing climate change is too expensive. We’re seeing millions of acres of forests and land in California, Washington state, Canada, Siberia, Greece, Turkey and Australia go up in flames. These fires are destroying lives, communities, businesses and wildlife habitat. One think tank estimated that climate-fueled disasters cost an estimated $210 billion in economic losses in 2020 alone. The cost of the impacts is already outreaching the cost of an orderly transition from fossil fuels to clean energy and low-carbon alternatives. It has to be done, let’s do it.
    8. Step it up: 2030 must be the new 2050. Any net zero target set for 2050 or later is laughable. The IPCC report makes it clear that we need as much action as possible as fast as possible –– not by 2050 and certainly not by 2060. Before the November COP26 summit, most countries should rewrite their transition plans to be far more ambitious. Take a page from Bhutan and Suriname –– the only two countries in the world that have achieved carbon neutrality and are actually, impressively, carbon negative. Uruguay is next with a 2030 target, while Finland, Austria, Iceland, Germany and Sweden, are all targeting 2045 or earlier. Time to get creative with the carrots and the sticks. The EU has shown that financial mechanisms can be developed to reward good countries and punish the bad. We now need that on a much bigger scale and shorter timeline.
    9. Include and involve developing countries. The only way to scale up renewable energy to the level the world needs, including for heavy industry, is to set it up in the developing world. This should provide a golden opportunity for countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, South American, the sub-continent and some of the Middle East to be players in the rapid transition to wind, solar and battery storage. They should be partners, not the colonial pawns of the past that gained nothing from the arrival of Western, profit-making companies. Climate change offers us the chance to do things differently. We should grab that chance with both hands and with our investment dollars.
    10.  It’s on us. The answers to climate change aren’t coming from on high. They are coming from us as citizens, investors, workers, homeowners and parents to rapidly move our money from the bad of fossil fuels and to back the solutions we need. Where you put your money counts. Whether it’s your retirement fund, personal investments, the bank you choose for yourself or your business, the energy you chose for your home or business, or which goods you buy, ensuring it’s on the right side of climate change is critical right now. Take action and vote for that action at all levels of government.

As the IPCC report sinks in, don’t get depressed. Get busy. If we want to keep what’s worth saving, we’ll all need to roll up our sleeves and own the issue. 

Featured photo: Forest fire near Marmaris, Mugla, Turkey –– July 29, 2021.

Written by

Blair Palese

Blair Palese is a writer and project manager on a range of climate change projects. In 2009, she cofounded 350.org Australia and was its CEO for 10 years. Previously, she was a communications director for Greenpeace International and Greenpeace USA, head of international public relations for the Body Shop, editor-in-chief of Greenpages magazine, and worked at Washington Monthly and ABC.