IPCC. Drought. Storms. CO2 levels of 400 ppm. In 2014, climate change and sustainability moved from being distinct environmental concerns to becoming systematic welfare issues.
Agricultural production was effected by both droughts and floods in many areas around the world. We have also seen war and conflictemerge in the wake of climate change and the pressure on resources that it brings. With increased population growth in urban areas, the costs and risks resulting from our damage to the environment have grown exponentially.
Countering these changes will require new ways of thinking about energy resources (and efficiency), water, transport and the relationship between cities and national governments. We are entering a new era and the implications for the political system could be profound.
The questions facing governments across the political spectrum –especially those about to take office, such as the EU and Sweden –are huge. How much demand will there be for the political decision-making process in environmental policy requirements? How should policymakers act at a global, EU, national and local level?
As well as the inevitable negotiations between parties, politicians need to re-address the very way that power is organized. Limiting responsibility along sectoral and geographical lines must stop. Many politicians are talking about sustainable development, but if action is to be meaningful it must be characterized by a holistic approach to resource efficiency. More stakeholders need to become involved in a social model that integrates economic, ecological and social perspectives. Policies should dare to lead while remaining open to suggestions from the outside world.
United Nations Global Compact, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Global Reporting Initiative, Carbon Disclosure Project Multistakeholder Forum (http://www.kajembren.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Sustaineo2030_Web.pdf) and Fair Trade are all examples of how these principles can be applied to create new models of governance. The so-called “Post-2015 Development Agenda” sees climate change as an area in which governments can redefine their decision-making structures. Several have already introduced innovative climate policy frameworks, including UK, Mexico and certain states in Germany.
But despite these positive examples, it is clear that most national governments have failed to agree on how to counter the growing threat of climate change.The cost of taking action requires bold leadership when there are fewer resources available for a more aggressive focus on job creation and welfare.
A government in power in 2014 must initiate a widespread process of changeif it is to develop a comprehensive climate strategy. This includes reviewing the role of national governments and cities alike; how they interact with one anotherand new stakeholders. Institutions with members from across a spectrum of interests will meed to formif we are to secure ongoing commitments within cities, businesses and organizations. This applies at both a national and local level—remember, it is cities and not countries that hold the key to the sustainability of tomorrow’s societies.
The agenda of a new era should based on volunteerism, “smart”legislation and realigning the way that institutions work together on active global, national and local climate policies. Such an approach could have a huge impact on new initiatives designed within fields such as fiscal policy (investment / pension funds), investment in university and college education,the renewal of business and labor market policies for the green sector, and renewed aid and trade.
Whether these changes will come about in time remains unclear, but one element of this story appears inevitable —urban growth. It often increases at more than double the rate of the nation-state writes Arif Naqvi in the Financial Times:
“This change means that almost half of the economic growth expected over the next ten years will take place in 400 cities in the world’s emerging markets globally. It will create an urban consumer class of 4 billion people by 2025, up from 1 billion from as late as 1990.”
Our traditional way of looking at the world as a collection of national economies can not continue. Policy decisions at the national level must be based on a different worldview – one that sees our world as a network of cities with climate change and sustainable community development at their heart.