It’s now or never, warn climate change experts
Speaking today at Weatherbys Private Bank’s third Creating The Future (CTF) event, renowned climate change experts issue stark warnings that talking net zero is no longer enough – urgent tangible progress must be made by 2030 to prevent a catastrophic planetary and humanitarian disaster
Addressing an audience at the online event, Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, and sustainability champion, warns that the world cannot afford to miss the opportunity to address the climate change crisis in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in the way it failed to meet the challenge in the aftermath of 2008 financial crisis. He adds that the “cost of inaction is significantly higher than the cost of action”.
Polman’s sentiments are echoed by Nigel Topping, the UK government’s High-Level Climate Action Champion, and by Tom Rivett-Carnac, a political lobbyist for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – who are also among the influential speakers at today’s event.
Topping says he is “outraged” by the lack of progress made and questions whether people’s behaviour has changed since the 2015 Paris Agreement. He hopes November’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow will trigger the momentum urgently needed to make a real difference.
Rivett-Carnac argues that this decade is our last chance to avert disaster. He says: “If we don’t get on top of this [climate change] issue by 2030, we’ve basically lost control of the climatic system.”
Weatherbys Private Bank’s CTF event brings together a line-up of world-renowned influential speakers to explore some of the world’s most challenging and exciting issues across business, health and wellbeing, and the environment.
Roger Weatherby, Chief Executive at Weatherbys Private Bank, said: “Creating The Future typifies what the Bank stands for. We are about being a trusted adviser to our clients, helping to stimulate discussion and debate about important issues that will affect them and future generations of their families.”
Excerpts from the event
Paul Polman, Co-chair of the Global Commission for the Economy and Climate, and former CEO of Unilever
“Covid-19 might have added another dimension of urgency, but the vision is the same. I believe that the flaws of our economic model were already clear well before Covid. What was not working was a system of high levels of debt and overconsumption, leaving too many people behind – and I’ve often said if too many people feel that they are left behind or not included in the system, this will ultimately rebel against itself. We had the opportunity to address it in the financial crisis 12 years ago and missed that opportunity.
"We had the opportunity to address it in the financial crisis 12 years ago and missed it – climate change was an issue well before Covid"
“Now we’ve realised with Covid, more than ever, that we can’t have healthy people on an unhealthy planet. But the other thing that has come out, perhaps out of Covid, is the enormous cost we have incurred. Countries together have spent about $16 trillion dollars to save lives and livelihoods. The global economy, meanwhile, has lost about $28 trillion.
“People are starting to realise that not addressing the shortcomings of the system gives us a cost of inaction that is actually significantly higher than the cost of action. We now have a choice because we must build back coming out of Covid. We have either another decade that could be even more problematic or we can come out much stronger and make it a world that is more sustainable and more inclusive. The cost to do this is not as high as the cost of not doing this. For that reason, this is the decisive decade, the decade of action.”
Tom Rivett-Carnac, lobbyist for the United Nations Framework Convention
“This decade couldn’t be more important. If we don’t get on top of this issue by 2030, we’ve basically lost control of the climatic system. Paris was a coming together and agreeing a shared outcome. The question is whether we have built enough momentum to ensure real change. We now realise that we’re facing a disastrous future if we don’t deal with it. In a very helpful way we’ve seen the emergence of civil disobedience with a kind of verve and tenacity that we haven’t seen for a generation.
“This decade couldn’t be more important. If we don’t get on top of this issue by 2030, we’ve lost control of the climatic system”
“But what that also means is that this is coming with an understandable amount of scepticism towards what’s being said as a commitment. So, how do we bring those pieces together? One of the keys to Paris was throwing our arms wide and saying everyone’s welcome – that it’s all about momentum. But we need to drill down and say, ‘are we sure it’s really happening? Is it really changing fast enough?’ Because now, this is our last moment.”
Nigel Topping, UK’s High-Level Climate Action Champion “When I actually think about the lack of activity of the last 30 years, I am really outraged. Yet I’m full of hope because I’m a student of how things change. The rules of the game have moved since Paris because of science.
“There is more clarity on the economic and human benefits of getting to net zero emissions by 2050 compared to it taking much longer. The question now is whether we can build enough sense of momentum in the real world and in the real economy.
“We are landing on this net zero by 2050 as being the shared goal, but do people believe that we’re doing enough to get there?”
“Are people actually changing their behaviour in terms of policy, in terms of investment, in terms of technology and in terms of the decisions that they all make? We are landing on this net zero by 2050 as being the shared goal, but do people believe that we’re doing enough to get there? That will be a test of COP26. If we are not doing enough, will Glasgow be a moment of momentum?”