by Mike Gerbis, CEO of The Delphi Group and GLOBE Series
This week’s New York Times headline about COP25 says it all: “U.N. Climate Talks End With Few Commitments and a ‘Lost’ Opportunity.”
While negotiators worked into the wee hours of the final weekend at COP, they made no significant progress on ratcheting up ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis.
Pretty sobering given the United Nations’ annual Emissions Gap Report says that global temperatures are on pace to rise by as much as 3.9 degrees Celsius by 2100. In fact, even if all the countries that signed the 2015 Paris Agreement cut emissions according to the agreed goals, global temperatures would still rise 3.2 degrees Celsius.
That kind of warming means that storms and heat waves will become more severe. It puts coastal cities at risk of drowning. It will make people sicker, will lead to more extinctions, and create global security threats. And then there’s the economy: a four-degree increase would result in global GDP declining by more than 30% from 2010 levels, and $43 trillion could be wiped from the stock market – i.e., people’s pensions. And what’s worse, knowing the science, these are probably optimistic projections.
We know we have a climate emergency. So, is it incredibly disappointing that countries from around the world didn’t do more at COP25? Absolutely. Do our children and will future generations expect more and hold us to account? One hundred per cent. Young people, who have found a compelling voice in Time magazine’s person of the year, Greta Thunberg, aren’t hiding their anger at political leadership and their half-hearted will to act. A common refrain: “You have been negotiating my entire life.” And what upsets me even more is when my youngest son tells me, “my school friends aren’t coming out to the climate march this time, Dad…they think it’s a waste of time because no one is listening…”
For me (and my son), giving up is not an option. Failure is not an option.
I like to look for reasons to hope, such as the diverse community that gathers around the COP negotiations each year. It includes states, provinces, cities, companies, Indigenous peoples, youth, NGOs and academics who support and are prepared to lead on climate action. Their events, statements and protests point to a truly global coalition that is determined to limit warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.
Then there’s the unprecedented public mobilization of the last 12 months, thanks in no small part to Greta and youth around the world. David Wallace-Wells, author of The Uninhabitable Earth and GLOBE 2020 speaker, says that the climate protest movements represent “a sea change in public concern.”
But that is no reason to be complacent. Wallace-Wells lays down the gauntlet in his book: “No matter how hot it gets, no matter how fully climate change transforms the planet and the way we live on it, it will always be the case that the next decade could contain more warming, and more suffering, or less warming, and less suffering. Just how much is up to us, and always will be.”
If the threats of climate change are not motivating enough to act swiftly, consider the opportunities of capitalizing on a low carbon economy. Recent research from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate showed that bold climate action could deliver at least $26 trillion in economic benefits and more than 65 million jobs worldwide by 2030. The cleantech industry alone is expected to continue to grow to $2.5 trillion globally by 2022.
We can’t wait until COP26 to push for more ambition. We need to go further and faster than ever before, and the only way we can do that is to do it together. We need record levels of collaboration to address the biggest and most complex challenge of our time. We can’t stay in our silos—we need to work across them to accelerate climate action in areas like energy, transportation, cities, food and land use, water and industry.
GLOBE 2020 exists for this very reason: to bring people together to find solutions, to make connections they won’t make anywhere else, and to inspire and push each other to make progress. When you bring together diverse voices and perspectives, you see exciting momentum and out-of-the-box thinking that can help create solutions and meaningful change.
I have worked on sustainability and climate change for 25 years, and during that time have had the privilege of working with corporate and government leaders…I know we have the ideas, ingenuity, innovation and the WILL to create a low-carbon economy. It’s not easy, but we have everything we need to make it happen. I can’t wait to see many of North America’s sustainability and climate leaders at GLOBE 2020 so that we can do what global leaders have not yet done: turn talk into action.
Mike Gerbis is CEO of both The Delphi Group and GLOBE Series. For more information about any of Delphi’s service areas (Green Economy, Corporate Sustainability, Climate Change, or Cleantech and Innovation), or how you can participate in GLOBE 2020 feel free to reach out to Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.