You know the rules: environmentalists and concerned “green” citizens on one side, business on the other. The green lobby shouts and screams about the threats of climate change, and the business lobby ignores them or reacts with “reality” statements, excuses and a lack of general acceptance.
It seems these rules don’t work anymore, and the past month may have been the tipping point. If you don’t think so, just ask Tony Juniper of the NGO Friends of the Earth.
In mid-November the Nobel Peace Prize co-winners, the Interplanetary Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the latest report (AR4). A Report that concluded – yet again – that Climate Change is here, very much here and now, and it was time to stop dicking about.
Two weeks ago the UN released its annual development report. Once again, Climate Change is here, very much here and now, and it’s time to stop dicking about… from a global security perspective.
Last week the Confederation for British Industry (CBI) released a report that had environmentalists and activists across the UK scratching their heads with bewilderment. The report is called Climate Change: Everyone’s Business, and calls for green taxes, increased regulation on environmental issues. The day after the UK’s foremost legal firm Clifford Chance released a report that surveys the world’s more prominent business leaders and finds that 80% of them are calling for increased regulation on environmental issues.
Then, as if to knock the point home, the next day Prince Charles delivers the “Bali Communiqué”, signed by the heads of some of the largest firms in the world, to the environmental conference in Bali that calls for increased regulation on environmental issues. Kevin Rudd was also in Bali, signing the Kyoto Accord on behalf of the Australian people, as his election platform dictated – providing a handy crystal ball for politicians throughout the industrialized world: the next election will be on the environment.
What does this mean to us on the street? The CBI report tells business to increase the range of environmentally friendly products available to consumers, that environmental management provides both an avenue for managing risk, as well as opportunity to expand and diversify the marketplace. I’m sure we’ll soon see “Carbon Footprint Labels” next to nutrition boxes on the packaging of products. Your local politician is probably cramming George Monbiot at the moment, and with any luck the end is nigh for the suburban SUV brinkmanship game as gas guzzlers become as antisocial as smoking cigars in a daycare.
Dinosaurs like HE Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic can continue to watch the pitch pass them. Environmentalism is an ideology, as he claimed. But it is not an undemocratic one as he painted it, nor does it require confrontation with markets. Clear regulation will provide the playing field for business as the new, rapidly developing eco-marketplace unfolds to its willing consumers.
Meanwhile, environmentalism presents an opportunity for citizens. As politics in our globalised age becomes more complex, it is increasingly hard for the citizen to participate in the political discourse. Environmentalism changes that. We all play a part, must play a part. Smart political leaders will realize this is an exceptional opportunity to engage with citizens and bring them back into the process.