Ice shelf

  • Mike Hayes, Leadership |

In advance of its annual general meeting in Davos, the World Economic Forum (“WEF”) published its Global Risks Report 2019 highlighting key global risks. To no great surprise, climate change has emerged as one of the most significant global risks both in terms of likelihood of occurrence and global impact. The report specifically describes this as the impending climate change catastrophe. The question I ask is how many more signals do we need to tell us we are sleep walking our way to disaster with consequences beyond our wildest imagination.

Why is there not panic on the streets and why are Governments not implementing emergency plans to accelerate mitigation measures and why are we continuing to conduct our daily routines as if nothing had changed. The reality today is that we are not implementing solutions or developing policies quickly enough, we are not innovating sufficiently and we are not mobilizing enough capital to work in the areas where it is most required. Why not?

Our natural inclination is always to blame Governments whoever they might be – these are the people we have elected to take actions so that we can continue with our daily lives. However, until such time as the general public at large accept that this is one of the defining issues of our time, we will not see sufficient concrete action to affect change with the degree of acceleration that is required.

What we now need is to grow climate consciousness around the world so that the general public can appreciate the full extent of this crisis including the reality that it is going to impact on all of our lives before too long and in turn support and push governments to take the necessary policy decisions.

Don’t get me wrong – there is some really great work being done around the world on innovation and mobilization of capital agendas and many governments are reacting in a positive and constructive manner. Governments have already recognized the seriousness of the issue but until their electorates respond with appropriate pressure and concern, the degree of policy change we require is not going to happen. Therefore, I think it is incumbent on all of us who are active across the climate change agenda to redouble our efforts to create an environment of climate consciousness (not in any way taking away from the many other actions we can do in our daily lives). I see two key actions as follows:

1. More effective communication the reality of climate change and the impact it will have on our daily lives in a non-scientific manner. This includes people of all ages from the young to the very old.

2. We need to deal with the question of cost. There is a cost to fighting climate change and significant work is already being done to reduce this cost e.g. the incredible reduction in the cost of renewables in recent years. 

However, if we allow the question of cost to dominate this debate, progress will be considerably delayed. Again, work needs to be done to demonstrate that the cost today is nothing compared to the cost we will all have to bear as the problem grows in severity. Also, greater investment in innovation (which I will talk about in my next blog) will help greatly.

There is hope on the horizon. I and my many colleagues in KPMG and people in many other organisations all over the world believe we have solutions to fight climate change. There is now a willingness to collaborate on a global basis. However, without dealing with the climate consciousness agenda which in turn will create the framework for a new policy environment, we can only do so much and we will continue to run into policy barriers.

The reality is that unless we address this issue now, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will face its most serious challenge.