Three Actions You Can Take to Accelerate Action on Climate Change

However disconnected we may feel personally from the climate crisis, there is a role each of us must play. 

On the morning of the signing of the Paris Agreement on April 22, 2016, women leaders gathered to discuss how they can support progress to ensure gender responsive climate action. The Troika+ of Women Leaders on Gender and Climate Change is a network of women leaders and supportive men committed to working together on gender and climate change, consisting of more than 55 women leaders from various international organizations. In the center are Christiana Figueres and Mary Robinson. (Photo courtesy of the Mary Robinson Foundation.)

Like many of you, I had been committing significant time each day to follow what’s happening at COP 26, the U.N. Conference on Climate, that wrapped up last week in Glasgow, Scotland. It is not an overstatement to say that the future of our life on this planet hangs in the balance at these convenings. What has been accomplished in terms of policies to meet the critical deadlines to get to 1.5 degrees and to reverse the damage to the oceans, the air, the water, the very ecosystems that are strained to the breaking point is, on balance so far, worrisome. 

There is still a lack of urgency from governments reluctant to take up the costs of some of the necessary changes and still an uneven path to sustainability in terms of the impact on the Global South. I won’t give up hope for the leadership needed at this time because I am, as my friend and climate mentor Mary Robinson likes to say, a “prisoner of hope,” holding onto what Christiana Figueres, the architect of the 2015 Paris Agreement, characterizes as “radical optimism.”

Robinson and Figueres were key collaborators behind the scenes of the agreements reached at the Paris conference in 2015 and once again, both are on the frontlines at COP 26. Right before she traveled to Glasgow, I caught up with Robinson for a conversation about her expectations—an interview shared here and available on Fintech.TV digital platform after being broadcast on CNBC Africa and Arabia, Bloomberg Europe and Times Now India. 

Every conversation with Robinson, whom I call my climate mentor, brings forward the concept of climate justice, the foundational value behind all the policies and programs to reach a just and sustainable future. It’s also the title of her must-read book, Climate Justice. Robinson was Ireland’s first female president (we met when as a NBC correspondent; I reported on her presidential campaign in 1990), and she is now chair of The Elders.

“We’re in a danger zone of having very little window of time to get back on course for not warming more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial standards.”

“Thankfully the young climate activists talk all the time about climate justice and all the time about science, and I’m so grateful to them because they’re helping to get [across] the mindset that we’re in a crisis.”

“We are in a crisis. We have to be transformative. We have to be in it together. We have to understand and reach out to each other and collaborate in order to get where we need to be. And we have to do it with hope and with resilience.”

—Mary Robinson

Watching the leaders last week at COP 26 as an analyst for Sky News, Robinson said she is pleased to see the commitments to reduce methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030. But she also believes that leaders need to institute a tighter roadmap aligned to achieving 1.5 that encourages more “effective action.”

“We’ve got to have a way of saying we can’t wait the five years in the Paris Agreement, we’ve got to have a commitment every year by those who need to do more in their nationally determined contributions or to provide more finance, particularly for adaptation. That requires more of a crisis mindset than we’ve seen up to now.”

—Mary Robinson

In our Dangerous Women: Leading Onward conversation, Robinson shared with me three action points for each and every one of us. However disconnected we may feel personally from the climate crisis, there is a role that each of us has to play. 

1. Make It Personal.

“The first is to make the climate crisis personal in your own life, because you absolutely should! That means you do something today and tomorrow that you weren’t doing yesterday.

“It may be you’re recycling more carefully, maybe changing your diet a bit or it may be that you just talk about the climate issue more often, which Katharine Hayhoe recommends in her book, Saving Us. She’s a great climate scientist. And she says that one of the problems is people don’t talk about climate change enough. They think it’s too big for them. No, it isn’t. Own it. And do something about it.” 

2. Get Angry. Demand Responsibility.

“Secondly, you get angry about those who aren’t taking their responsibility, and that means governments. I’m sorry to say, many governments. Most governments haven’t done as much as they should. It means city governments, too.

“It also means business. It means investment. If you’ve got a bank account, start asking, is your bank invested in fossil fuels? You know, be aware of that.” 

If you are a business leader, no matter what your business is, you also have a responsibility to take action. Robinson talked about her involvement with The B Team—a consortium of business leaders working to redefine the culture of accountability in business by creating new norms of corporate leadership that can build a better world.

The group “gives me great insight into how they’re approaching their own workplaces. They’re big companies, big investors, and they work with big supply chains. They committed before the Paris Agreement to be Net Zero by 2050. A lot of businesses are saying it, but not delivering, but the B Team is really serious.”

The B Team has just released a New Leadership Playbook, a collection of stories and insights on 21st-century business leadership that is worth reading. (I’ll be writing more on the Playbook next week.)

3. Imagine the Future.

“And then the third step is the most important. We all have to imagine this world that we need to be hurrying towards. We need to get there more or less by 2030—that’s nine years away…”

“We need to understand that we can have a very good life if we don’t have this throw-away single plastic polluting the world in so many different ways.”

“It’s a different mindset. And yet it’s a good life. And it’s a much fairer and more equal world. I really want people to imagine this world that we need to be hurrying towards together.”

Each and every one of us has a role to play leading onward toward that more just, sustainable and equitable future. 

This post was originally published on Pat Mitchell Media.

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Pat Mitchell is the editorial director of TEDWomen. Throughout her career as a journalist, Emmy-winning producer and pioneering executive, she has focused on sharing women’s stories. She is chair of the Sundance Institute Board, the chair emerita of the Women’s Media Center board, and a trustee of the VDAY movement, the Skoll Foundation and The Woodruff Arts Center. She is an advisor to Participant Media and served as a congressional appointment to the American Museum of Women’s History Advisory Council.