You may be forgiven for thinking that all the promises resulting from COP26 were just hot air. Very little seems to have happened since November 2021 and in some cases we seem to be going backwards. Certainly the UK response to the current energy crisis, with a proposed return to fossil fuel extraction, puts the goal of limiting global warming to +1.5C very much in doubt. However, the UK is but one actor on the global stage and elsewhere there are signs of hope. The US Senate recently committed to a significant, 40% reduction in green house gas emissions, a welcome boost to morale and a big step in the right direction. As we approach COP27 in early November (just 43 days time) you may be wondering whether it will be a re-hash of the same old words or will something new emerge; is there any point to these seemingly endless discussions?
There are reasons to hope, if we look back to the ultimate success of the Montreal Protocol on Ozone, which followed a similar arduous path, we can learn much.
Why was the Montreal Protocol successful, and how should the implementation of the Paris Agreement learn from it?
The Montreal Protocol worked for a number of reasons. Firstly, the public were aware of – and understood – the dangers that CFCs posed, and the effect their continued use would have on the environment. The public’s support for change, drove industry to change as well; in this case, stopping the production of CFCs and switching to a less harmful substance. It showcased the positive effect that behavioural change can have, even if it starts with something small such as an individual deciding not to buy any products with CFCs in them. Also important was the role of scientists, and in particular “scientists as advocates.” The dangers of CFCs were communicated powerfully by scientists and crucially, that message was accessible enough that the person on the street could understand what the threat was, and what they needed to do about it. These are all lessons that need to be understood when it comes to the Paris Agreement and climate action; namely that when individuals change their behaviour by consuming differently they can drive industries to change, as those industries are then caught between a ‘greening’ consumer demand and international and governmental policies focusing on climate action.UNFCCC Blog Post
It is clear that to effect global change we need both government actors to legislate, to write new laws, we also need citizens (like us) to hold them to account and, equally importantly, to tell the world (and in particular industry and commerce) what we want by changing our behaviours.
If ever there was a time to act, it is now. Why not write to your MP, attend an event, make a positive change, talk about your concerns. Great Big Green Week (24 Sept to 2nd Oct) is just around the corner perhaps there is something happening locally to you which could help you take a step on the road to positive action.