Too late by 2050?

I have recently been elected to the Board of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership to represent its 800+ members. I was asked to introduce myself and here is an outline of what I said…

Over the last couple of years, I have had the huge privilege of speaking to an extraordinary number of people about what being green means. In broad terms, I think they can be broken into three groups:

  1. The relatively small number that get it and have already made significant changes to their lifestyle
  2. Those that get it but have lots of (often legitimate) reasons for not changing their lifestyles significantly e.g. cost
  3. Those that get it but really aren’t interesting changing their lifestyles at all unless it is mandatory i.e. it is someone else responsibility

(n.b I think the nay-sayers also get it but are willfully choosing to ignore the evidence rather than having a valid, alternative argument).

But why did I apply to be a Director, especially given that a significant number of my friends and colleagues said very pointedly “don’t waste your time”. Well, the short answer is that I think we are in real danger of creating a global catastrophe caused by climate change, the likes of which humanity has never experienced before. I cannot sit idly by and be part of that legacy, without having done everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen.

However dire the future looks, I’m hoping I will live long enough to be around in 2050 (I would be 81). This is the deadline upon which governments all now seem to be focusing their efforts. Trouble is that if 2050 is to be the year we congratulate ourselves on having averted disaster, the time to change our path is now. If we haven’t reversed global carbon emissions in the next few years, it is just a long downhill slide towards a very difficult future.

Which is, in a nutshell, why I spend almost every waking moment thinking about how we can build a better future and trying to do something about it.

It is my assumption that the Board of the Partnership’s Community Interest Company and the 800+ members are in Group 1 above. Perhaps this is a hugely optimistic assumption? To be fair, it probably depends on how we define ‘actively trying to help’. How green do we need to be in order to meet the climate change targets?

I think there is a series of relatively simple tests that give a reasonable guide as to whether we are individually walking the talk (where we can afford to do so). For example; have members changed their energy provider to a renewable tariff, have they moved their money to a bank that invests ethically & sustainably, have they changed their food buying habits to be more seasonal, local or organic, do they walk, cycle or use public transport as often as they can, and most significantly for their carbon footprint, have they cut down on the amount of flights they take?

The question you might be thinking is whether it is right for us to expect them to? Well, my view is yes – and if it turns out that there isn’t a clear intention for members to significantly reduce their carbon footprint, then how on earth do we expect anything to change. I think this is a fair challenge.

Over the next few months I would really like to understand which of the primary levers the Partnership is intending to pull on. Are we focused on consumer change or do we prioritise the role of business given its overall significance? Or is it ultimately all about regulation? Secondly, are we primarily a membership organisation where our success is manifest through their actions or is the harsh reality of survival that we are an organisation that relies upon funding linked to specific outcomes that must be achieved if the funding is to continue? Probably, its a bit of both.

So far, my discussions inside and more importantly outside the organisation would seem to indicate there is a critical need to investigate and clarify some of these issues. To survive, the Partnership must be relevant, purposeful and financially sound. I look forward to doing everything I can to help. After all, the Bristol Green Capital Partnership is the biggest and arguably the most important organisation of its kind in the UK, and its role is, or should be, pivotal to the region’s future as the most sustainable, prosperous, place in the UK to live and work.

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