I’m convinced that the necessary transition to a just and sustainable future has already started, even if most people don’t realise it yet. The discussions you hold, and the decisions you make, at CoP26 will either help or hinder that process.
Future generations will quite rightly hold you to account for your actions, either in person or by their opinions and feelings about your legacies.
In the same way that most leaders “listened to the science” on Covid-19, I urge you to “listen to the science”, in general about sustainability and in particular about climate change and biodiversity loss, taking particular note of the work of the IPCC on climate change and of the United Nations Environment Programme on biodiversity loss.
Issues of historical and current inequality, intergenerational justice and future feasibility of human systems on a finite planet should be paramount in your minds at this time.
I recommend mechanisms such as the following should be on the table, wherever not already incorporated in your thinking:
I urge you to seek to build sufficient cooperation among willing nations so that laggards will eventually have no realistic option but to fall into line, or risk permanent decline and decay through lack of international mutual benefits that will be inherent in full participation in, and contribution towards, a successful transition.
AGW deniers are in retreat, but that is no reason for complacency. Many deniers are turning into less obvious “delayists”. Don’t take unmerited notice of their exhortations to wait for better solutions before acting. Use the solutions that exist today, and future developments will make them even easier, cheaper and more effective.
Delay could spell disaster. The stakes are as high as they ever possibly could be, because nobody knows when irreversible tipping points will be reached, or whether reaching one such tipping point might set off a cascade of others in a domino effect. Despite the lack of certainty, there is sufficient scientific knowledge to know that such tipping points are already near at hand, and some might already have been crossed, making a successful transition more difficult to achieve with every year that passes. Beware the ever-present temptation to “kick the can down the road” – the can might just fall off a cliff, never to be seen again, with the whole of humanity following it into a long epoch of darkness.
In contrast, acting “a little bit too early”, while creating a better world for all, is the option at the other end of the spectrum of actions open to us. This option has a far less damaging downside to it than “acting just too late”. This is embodied in the Precautionary Principle, and I can’t think of a more apt situation in which the principle is relevant and appropriate.
My final plea is this. Never give up on this task, however many CoP meetings it takes. Innumerable future generations, who don’t currently have voices, are depending on you doing the right thing, here and now.
The Planetary CFO
The Planetary CFO - working towards a sustainable World Balance Sheet.