The disappointing failure of our national governments to agree on a climate treaty has prompted the return of protest and more traditional forms of activism that have drawn people onto the streets. The threat to our planet remains as serious, so inevitably the issue of global warming has moved to a number of other arenas.I have found that more and more people are becoming involved in finding solutions to the threat of global warming, but many are finding new and innovative solutions beyond protest alone. Here, I will present five examples of green engagement that are often ignored by the media and those studying the impact of climate change.Research and developmentA number of institutions have become leading global players in recent years by not only look at the impact of climate change, but develop working solutions as well. The World Resource Institute, Stockhingolm Environment Institute (SEI), the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) and other research organizations are all producing knowledge and practices that are respected worldwide. Interaction between researchers, students and practitioners (from both the developed and developing world) is creating new networks for local and global decision-makers.Low-carbon economy activistsThere is an encouraging level of commitment from growing parts of the business world towards creating jobs whilst still developing low-carbon products and services. It is no small market.According to the British government, the world’s low-carbon market was worth £3 trillion in 2009. We find companies involved in wide range of initiatives including the development local energy with heating and cooling, the use of solar, wind and hydro power, waste management, water treatment, bio-energy plants, and the use of cellulose in the textile and wood industries. All of these help create more sustainable solutions to our societies’ needs.What’s more, although that the car industry was never a driving force in the low-carbon economy it has started to show signs of improvement. Europe may still manufacture 15 million new cars a year but a larger number are recycled and nearly 30 per cent have engines producing carbon dioxide emissions below 120gCO2/km. Of course car companies can still aim much higher but the technology exists and the development of alternative fuels beyond electricity and bio-fuel is increasing rapidly.Aid and ‘bottom of the pyramid’ developmentAid organizations and national development agencies are now working hard to encourage climate action in developing countries. The tree-planting program in Africa led by the Swedish Co-op Agroforestry is an example of the growing interaction between organizations in developed and developing countries. There is a mounting commitment to global challenges being displayed by networks, think tanks and new companies focusing their energies in the developing world.ConsumersIn 2010, Earth Hour set a new world record for the world’s largest climate change event. People turned off their lights in 4616 cities across 128 countries in every continent. Sweden was an example of the event’s success. Over 200 towns and municipalities took part, an increase of 40 per cent on the previous year. A SIFO survey showed that 54 per cent of Swedish people aged over 15 turned off their lights for an hour and 97 per cent knew that Earth Hour was taking place.This awareness has carried over into the marketplace where consumers can now buy carbon-neutral products and services using green-purchasing apps.Mayors and regions
Regions in Europe are beginning to show real support for mayors’ appeals to go beyond the EU’s modest climate targets. We have seen more and more cities actively driving forward sustainable urban development projects. The Skåne region of Sweden has embraced such global challenges and is urging all of its municipalities to become 100 per cent free of fossil fuel by 2020. So far, 7 municipalities, 70 organizations and companies, and countless individuals have accepted the challenge.
The most innovative force of the five outline above may be the world’s mayors who have in recent years developed new networks to ensure that there is more investment in green markets. The thesis ‘think globally – act locally’ should be seen as a guiding light.The developments in all of these five areas show that the climate change movement has a depth and breadth that few other causes can match. It is important therefore, that both media and research companies do not to over-simplify the issue and thus reduce its knowledge base. We must demand that the press engages in a broader analysis of what is happening and who’s involved. We must demand greater objectivity and analysis and the latest example of the problems caused by imbalanced media coverage can be seen in this article in the Wall Street Journal about a group of researchers trying to influence the climate issue before the U.S. presidential election.Misrepresentation by the media fuels the real problem in today’s political arena – national governments’ inability to cooperate and develop international agreements, as clearly shown by the ineffective Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings.Thid international arena must work with the same vigor that we have witnessed at a local level. There is a far greater need to create harmony between man and nature than there was 40 years ago when Stockholm hosted the UN’s first Global Environmental Conference. In fact, we are nearing one of the most crucial moments in the history of the climate change movement as the Kyoto agreement, made at 1992’s Rio Earth Summit, expires in 2012.Let us hope that in 2012 Rio de Janeiro is once again a place where we put real pressure on policy-makers. The huge diversity of actors now taking action against climate change should inspire all in politics, business and other sectors to do more, invest more and set higher targets for our global society.