“For as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases, temperatures will continue to rise. And alongside that, our oceans will continue to become warmer and more acidic, sea ice and glaciers will continue to melt, sea level will continue to rise and our weather will become more extreme. Arctic warming is disproportionately high and what happens in the Arctic affects all of us.”
So says Prof Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
On May 9, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that there is now a 50:50 chance of global temperatures reaching the 1.5C threshold within the next five years.
The Paris Agreement was signed by the world’s governments, committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limiting global temperature increase to 2C by 2010, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5C.
In 2015, the chance of temporarily exceeding 1.5C was close to zero. In 2021 the global average temperature was 1.1C above pre-industrial baselines.
At the same time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports make it clear that the gap between what we are doing now, compared to what we should be doing in order to maintain a fair chance of an inhabitable planet, is still widening, even if the rate at which the gap is widening is slowing down.
Is our business community concerned?
It still seems that much of the business community remains self-centred and blinded by supposed profits that do not actually account for the damage that their organisations have created in the process because those costs were simply not accounted for by the firm and simply externalised – to be dealt with and paid for by others – society.
And what of government? Are governments truly engaged to create resilience for their populations beyond economic concerns?
Climate resilience and sustainable development need to be central to the goals of business (big and small) as well as governments. How do we achieve this?
Some believe that the business-as-usual approach is at least serving the current generation.
The reality is that large parts of the world’s population are left behind, as is the case in Latin America. According to the World Inequality Report 2022, the top ten per cent of earners capture 55 per cent of national income and own 77 per cent of the wealth, compared to 36 per cent and 58 per cent in Europe. This makes Latin America one of the most unequal regions in the world.
Add to this economic slowdown due to covid19 and the disruptions due to the Russia-Ukraine war, and it is easy to see how that further inflames underlying economic tensions, particularly as the region continues to suffer from persistently high perceived corruption.
There has been some movement. Over the past two years, global issuance of green bonds nearly doubled – from US$270 billion in 2020 to an estimated US$400-500 billion in 2021. Within the Caribbean, the Jamaican Stock Exchange is the first regional stock exchange in active preparation to launch green bonds.
Much more dramatic and far-reaching reform of public policy is required. One of the most urgent needs we face in our present situation is informed public dialogue and political parties who integrate the seriousness and urgency of climate change into their manifestos.
Take the case of TT. None of the political parties has made the climate emergency or sustainability part of its core political platform. The difficulty with that is that if the party itself and constituents are not aware or engaged enough on this topic, then it is unlikely that it will become part of the core political manifesto; and if it is not part of the manifesto on which it gets elected at the next general election in 2025, then the government does not have the mandate to lead the kind of transformations of the economy and social infrastructure at scale.
This "decade of action" towards the sustainable development goals, which include protecting the climate, will be wasted.
Solutions abound. The problems are well understood. What we need is solution-oriented discourse within every company, every organisation and in the political arena about what path we take. How do we prepare for the challenges and how do we materialise the many new jobs that this transformation holds?
Dr Axel Kravatzky is managing partner of Syntegra-ESG Ltd vice-chair of ISO/TC309 Governance of organisations, the co-convenor and editor of ISO 37000 Governance of organisations – Guidance. He is currently the project leader for ISO 37006 Indicators of effective governance.
Disclaimer: the views presented are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any of the organizations he is associated with.
Comments and feedback that further the regional dialogue are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org