To Beat Climate Change We Have to Believe We Can Win

The leaders of the three largest parties have now jointly stated that climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world. They agree that it threatens not just the environment but also security, prosperity and poverty eradication.

The question of climate change is still questioned in a worrying number of countries around the world. The UK is leading the way though in many respects - the Climate Act embedded a firm commitment to major changes to our dependency on carbon for the economy, and in the past few days Cameron, Clegg and Miliband have pledged to work together to combat climate change, whatever the election result.

But meeting the challenge will only be possible through a combination of political action and strong popular belief that it is achievable.

As a communications agency dedicated to bringing about social change, we know too well that you have to show people that change is actually possible if you want them to act more positively. Whether it is getting people cycling, quitting smoking or even tackling the big CC, you have to show what the benefits will be and how they can take actions to get there. But fundamentally you have to show that the end goal is not just aspirational but achievable.

At a debate on climate change at the RSA recently, an incredibly distinguished panel included Sir Nicholas Stern, Chris Rapley, Jenny Jones and Jeremy Leggett. The event explored what the RSA describes as the 'seven dimensions of climate change' - science, law, economy, technology, democracy, behaviour and culture. All of these need to be developed if we are to meet the huge challenge, but for me the last point - culture - most resonated.

The audience was asked if they felt we could beat the threat of climate change and only a third raised their hands. Little optimism, even amongst an audience already attuned to the issues. We have a cultural belief we will lose, which will ultimately inform our approach. The point was made that unless we believe we can beat this, we have little hope. We need to all get behind it; we need a cultural belief we can win. And then we will.

Time out. If you are reading this and still doubt the fundamentals of this topic, I'll remind you that 2014 broke global temperature records and the IPCC has said the human impact on climate change is 'unequivocal'. And if you think finding other ways to drive the economy is too big a task, I am afraid it is the only option we have available to us.

Sir Nicholas Stern is one of the most respected figures on this subject. At the debate, he warned of the 'extraordinary' scale of the changes that we will see with the predicted temperature rises. He described our current stewardship of the planet as being like a drunk driver behind the wheel of world. "We need radical change", he said.

Jeremy Leggett, founder of Solarcentury, pointed out that the current projections for global warming are simple to summarise - we will lose the ability to feed and water ourselves.

However, he believes there are grounds for hope, including the decreasing cost of renewables and the fact the US and China are finally making commitments. Furthermore, there are examples of how it can be done - in Germany E.ON has radically changed its business model to focus on renewables and in fact half of renewable power coming on board in Germany is from individuals and communities. Power from the people. We need more individual success stories from our neighbours and leaders in the UK to help show us how to make changes. We also need a new narrative to help it stop being seen as just environmentalism if we are to engage more people, and bypass 'climate fatigue' and 'social silence' - two big topics the RSA is currently wrestling with.

The Paris climate talks take place at the end of this year and provide another opportunity for us all to discuss this; we need to make this a 'down the pub' topic. Stern believes there will be consensus in Paris on limiting temperature rises to below 2C, and they will even build in a process for how we can ramp up the targets quickly. But how will we get there?

Chris Rapley - former director of the Science Museum - suggested there were three main drivers for addressing climate change - responsibility, authority and accountability. The last point is something we all have a chance to explore in a few months at the general election.

The leaders of the three largest parties have now jointly stated that climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world. They agree that it threatens not just the environment but also security, prosperity and poverty eradication. This statement is significant - it will encourage investors in renewables, and it will send a strong message to European colleagues, as well as power companies.

The statement was welcomed cautiously by the Green Party with leader Natalie Bennett reminding us cooly, 'we have three parties who have been in power in recent years and failed to go anywhere near far enough in the fight against runaway climate change'.

Use your voice as we approach the election to ask candidates what they will do about climate change. If we believe it is possible, and if we put pressure on politicians - and businesses - to be accountable, then we can bring about the urgent and powerful change we need.


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