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COP 23: Reflections

November 16th, 2017 Posted by Blogs, COP No Comment yet

2050 Climate Group team member,  Siri Pantzar, offers some reflections on time spent at COP 23 in Bonn, Germany this November. 

 

It is such a precious thing, this conference. People who are all passionate about climate change, discussing solutions, research, projects, and policies. Everyone is keen. Everyone is interested. Everyone is buzzing.

It’s a shame that that’s all pretty much restricted to this event though.

When we go home, we go back to the silence on climate change. Most people don’t talk about climate change in their everyday lives. People around us are concerned, but don’t voice it, don’t engage with it, and more often than not don’t see it as an immediate issue that they have to do something about in their own lives, or one that impacts them. It’s in the future, it’s those poor polar bears, it’s in the small island states and in Africa. While this motivates some people to buy clean energy, turn down the heating or vote for greener candidates, most people are more concerned about immediate issues (or ones they perceive as such): getting a job, paying their bills, getting food for your children, getting a mortgage. Climate change is indeed big and bad, but essentially something somewhere else, for somebody else with more time on their hands to do.

One of the things I’ve constantly been impressed with about 2050 Climate Group is how it really addresses this issue, through making climate change relevant for young professionals by bringing it to the sphere where we have to operate in. We might want to do something about climate change, but often focus instead on things that will pay our bills, add experience to our CVs, or build us networks. 2050 fits into that framework. It makes being a part of the global action against climate change useful and fun to us, in our own specific terms, together with other people like us.

Yesterday I attended a talk by George Marshall, and I realised how special and crucial that is. George Marshall is a climate change communicator and the founder of Climate Outreach, a non-profit research organisation supporting those that want to work on climate communications. He stresses that tailoring the message is crucial; too often we use the same polar bear and disaster images, too often the messages are tailored to us who are already keen and identify with the issue, not to those that are not. Especially as we see the global politics reaching points where major countries can elect leaders that don’t believe in climate change, we, as people who know that this should not be a partisan issue, should acknowledge that we have allowed it to become one. There are values that we all hold dear involved in promoting climate change action, but they are not the same values for those on the left, as for those on the centre right, or those in faith communities, or environmental activists, or coal worker communities, or British people or Finnish people or Chinese people. For some it’s a question of justice and planetary environment, and those messages get aired often; for others it’s about fairness, or working together, or bringing the world to balance, preserving our heritage, protecting the world that is a gift from God, or keeping champagne production possible in Champagne. Authenticity is key; we want to see people who are like us, and care about the same things as we do, tell us that we can work together to protect those things. That’s why we can’t leave talking about climate change to environmental activists; their messages are relevant for people like them, but then again, people like them are in most cases already engaged.

Most importantly, these conversations need to happen and continue to happen, outside this bubble. Often they aren’t easy; at least I often inherently assume that no-one else is interested and that I come across as nagging, which is unlikely to be true. We need to create space, and have conversations, and make spaces for conversations that are appealing and create communities. The 2050 Climate Group has provided that for many of us; now we need to continue to spread it out to everyone else.

Rejecting Consumption to Take Action on Climate Change

June 17th, 2016 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

“Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life” Victor Lebow, 1955. Today, 61 years later since it was said, with a global economy determined by consumption growth, these words are even more operative. Rapid consumption growth coupled with the increase in world’s human population is a threat to our planet, the natural environment and human survival.

The number of things that we possess are terrifying. The average UK household owns around £4,000 worth of clothes – and around 30% of clothing in wardrobes has not been worn for at least a year.

Consumption is at the centre of contemporary culture and has become a “meaningful activity” that defines people’s identity. Increasing production and greater choices has made people want buy more and more, to either prove their status in the society, seek spiritual and define themselves by goods they possess, all because “Our society is imprisoned in the world of goods”. That is why every single person plays a crucial role to drive the change. We must take responsibility and engage in the creation of a sustainable system. It is the role of us – the consumer – to take action on climate change and reduce the size of the consumption and therefore its carbon footprint.

Before I make a purchase, I apply this set of powerful principles:

REJECT, REDUCE, REUSE, AND RECYCLE

Those four simple principles help me not only to buy less but also to find solutions how to reuse or get things, making my consumption more sustainable. People often think about recycling as the best and only solution we have when we do not need things. But the first and most powerful way to limit consumption’s impact on the climate is to reject the purchase. Considering buying something, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do I really need that?
  • Am I going to use it once or daily?
  • Can I borrow it from someone else?
  • Can I share with other people?

What is more, today we also have a much bigger access to the data which enables us – consumers – to question the impact of goods we purchase. Rise your product requirement and challenge the producers and retailers to know more about the goods you use. Ask about where the product comes from. Dig into the production process and how it impacts the ecosystem. Look for information about the environmental footprint of the company and the products you use.  The way we do business today needs to change, and again, we consumers have the power to influence that.

We must take actions at every scale and opportunity to thrive and minimise the impacts of the climate change now, not waiting for the future when more and more people will be affected. I believe small changes can make a difference, and I’ve started already, what about you?

 

Blog by Katarzyna Koziel

Katarzyna is a 2050 Climate Group Young Leader and an MSc Marketing with Sustainability student at Heriot-Watt University, interested in the area of behavioural change towards the low-carbon society.

 

YLDP 6 Month Review

June 8th, 2016 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

Chair of the 2050 Climate Group, Elizabeth Dirth, shares her thoughts on the success of the Young Leaders Development Programme so far. 

A few months ago, I made the decision to go back to tertiary education to undertake a Masters degree in Utrecht.  This decision was about planting myself more firmly in this wicked field of climate change and about broadening my perspective… with it came a range of personal and professional challenges, and some very unexpected benefits.

One of the clear challenges of this transition is to maintain the balance of a life bridged between Scotland and the Netherlands.  Maintaining my role as Chair of the group while we are going through the first year of our YLDP and keeping my eye on the future and the day where we start to expand beyond Scotland, which is coming more clearly into focus these days…

When an organisation goes from the ‘starting’ to the ‘doing’, when the language changes from “we will” to “we are”, this presents a new kind of challenge for everyone involved.  You have to start asking questions like: “Are we actually doing this?  Can we make this claim? What about X exception? What lessons can we learn from X?:

When you work with an organisation with 20 of Scotland’s most exceptional and ambitious young professionals in the field of climate change, you also start saying things like: “Okay, we are achieving beyond our programme outcomes, but there still isn’t enough change happening fast enough, what more can we do?”

I would say that the most difficult part of starting a new organisation is this transition – going from the excitement and glory of launching to the gritty battle of delivering.  However challenging, this transition in itself is a manifestation of progress.

Just as one sees a different version of Earth from the moon, I have had gotten the chance to see a different version of the 2050 movement in Scotland from the Netherlands.

What I have seen in the past 4 months is the beginning of a movement.  The snowball that we piled together from June 2014 to December 2015 no longer needs to be pushed, it has gained enough momentum to roll on its own, it is gaining its own speed.  We are no longer pushing it down the mountain, we are encouraging others to keep up with our pace.

Since launching the YLDP in October 2015, we have held 3 of our Young Leader Development Programme events as planned.  What is most notable is not the activities we planned to deliver, but it’s the buzz building around the hive before, after, in between these.  We are now seeing Young Leaders building connections between themselves; Young Leaders now running their own skill-share events and training; events were added to the programme because of the demand from Young Leaders; Young Leaders worked to put together policy responses on behalf of the group; Young Leaders are encouraging their networks (personal and professional) to make lifestyle changes.  In addition to all of the developments within the network listed above, our programme is also becoming more and more institutionalised in the climate action landscape in Scotland.  We have received countless invitations for Young Leaders who are being specifically sought after for a range of opportunities, from free spaces at events, dinner invitations, speaking opportunities, job offers, and a range of others too many to be listed here.

From my distance, it has become clear that Scotland has embraced the vision that young people need to be a part of decision-making process on climate change.  That they are not just A stakeholder to be consulted, but THE MOST IMPORTANT stakeholder in these discussions.  This is what the beginning of transformational change looks like – and it’s only been two years.

When one is too close to this activity, it’s difficult to see the scale.  One bee inside the hive can’t see the scale and extent of the network, but from a distance the shape of the swarm is abundantly clear.

An important thing has happened in the process of all of this, perhaps the most important thing: the “we” has changed.  It is no longer the 21 of us in the managing group for the organisation, it is 150 young professionals driving our collective vision forward.  We are no longer a sailing boat propelled forward by the skill and passion of a few and the winds and tides of the season, we are a rowing shell propelled by the collective ambition and vision of many.

 

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