Insights from Equate’s Director – October 2021

Will it be Blah Blah Blah or Do Do Do?

It seems like we’ve been talking about Climate Change action forever – so why are we not surprised that in the run up to COP26 things are getting a little frazzled with the rhetoric from normally mild mannered people being, well, a little less mild mannered.

David Attenborough, at the grand age of 95, is still working his socks off to get us all to pay attention – and while he has succeeded in opening our eyes to the wider world climate change consequences on our natural world, he’s probably in the same camp as another world famous 95 year old – the Queen.

Royal protocol went right out the window when even the Queen – not noted for political interventions – said she was irritated by world leaders who talk about climate change but do nothing to address global warming.

That Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough are on the same page would not surprise anyone but I’m not sure either of them would ever have considered that the Queen might also emerge as a key influencer in this critical debate.

When it comes to memorable speeches, I have to say Greta’s ‘Blah Blah Blah’ is up there. Really nailing the chasm between what needs to be done versus what is actually happening.
Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah blah blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah.” You could not help but smile at the simplicity of the argument.

Of course, it’s not that we can’t change the outcome we’re currently forecasted to be heading for. Our ability, and capacity to adopt and adapt to change at pace was ably demonstrated through the global pandemic. Covid-19 definitely ticked the “compelling reason for change box” on that occasion. But it seems that as we are not yet fully on the precipice meaningful and impactful change on climate is some way off – and certainly not being delivered at the pace that the science tells us it should.

Back to Covid-19. We were told decisions in that crises were led by the Science. It was good enough then, why does it seem that it is not good enough now? How much evidence is enough?

According to the UN, carbon emissions are on track to rise by 16% by 2030, rather than fall by half, which is the cut needed to keep global heating under the internationally agreed limit of 1.5⁰C.

But of course, there are always other options and arguments.

This seems to me to have parallels with the perpetual Groundhog Day debate about gender, and wider issues of equality. We are awash with data. Globally there is enough evidence to make compelling arguments and reasons for change a thousand times over, yet here we are, still fighting our corner to get even the simple, and often most logically steps taken that would make a difference to nearly 50% of the world’s population.

Which, in turn, does not bode well in our quest for protecting our environment. Increasing evidence shows the mounting links between gender equality and better environmental outcomes. In fact, evidence reveals that there is a correlation between environment and gender; when gender inequality is high, forest depletion, air pollution and other measures of environmental degradation are also high.

At its root cause level inequality in all its forms, is a societal, economic, and environmental issue. The solutions and outcomes for any change at scale and pace, start with political choices for countries, for business, for communities – and as such, they either enable change or hinder it.

On women’s equality, we have made the business case argument so many times – but real, meaningful, sustainable progress, particularly in labour market segregation is just not where it should be after all this time and effort.

A recent study by McKinsey looking at employment and climate change concluded, “….. we believe that the world, including the private sector, would benefit by focusing on the large economic opportunity of improving parity between men and women. According to McKinsey, in a “full potential” scenario in which women play an identical role in labour markets to men, as much as $28 trillion, or 26%, could be added to global annual GDP by 2025. This is more than enough to bridge the climate finance gap needed to fund the battle against climate change, which stands at €530 billion ($585 billion) per year by 2020 and €810 billion ($894 billion) by 2030. Just increasing the participation of women in the labour force will sufficiently increase the world’s GDP for financing sustainable development.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2013 found “a nation’s competitiveness in the long term depends significantly on whether and how it educates and utilizes its women” and whether they have “the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities as men.”

As they say, I rest my case.

So, here we are – COP26 is set to begin against a backdrop that is far from optimistic, will leadership and political will emerge as a tour de force for change? I hope so, as Neri Oxman said: “It demands of us for the first time, that we mother, nature.”