On Monday in Paris, the world’s political leadership, diplomats and bureaucrats will gather, alongside corporations, non-governmental organisations, experts and campaigners. All of us must hope that real leadership will be shown and a transformational agreement is settled upon. Then the hard work begins, when we all become leaders – actually taking action and holding the feet to the fire of those who govern civil and corporate organisations.
What is leadership? Leaders establish a clear vision, share that vision with others so that they will follow willingly. Leaders provide the information, knowledge and methods to realise that vision, and coordinate and balance the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders. A leader steps up in times of crisis, and is able to think and act creatively in difficult situations.
In our history leaders have emerged to deliver change and progress; demanding fundamental human rights, overthrowing the status quo politically, economically, socially and technologically, resisting and defeating our enemies. They have often seemed unreasonable to the majority at the time. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” (George Bernard Shaw)
When leaders don’t emerge in a crisis, whole systems – civilisations, countries, companies, causes – collapse.
Paris, we have a problem
We should not underestimate the scale of the crisis we face, nor should we underestimate the economic, social and environmental prosperity that we could create if we choose to.
We are clearly going to overshoot a tolerable increase in global warming. Our civilisation’s historic and current actions have imperilled the health, wealth, well-being and security of our children.
The canaries in the mine are the warmest year on record, rapidly retreating glaciers, deforestation and desertification rising inexorably, mass extinctions, air and sea pollution at record levels and commodity volatility due to scarcity.
Those who have been lobbying in the shadows to prevent or water down any agreement are betraying their own families, their own communities, their own countries and their own species (see the excellent work of InfluenceMap and Corporate Europe Observatory).
Time to step up as leaders of your people President Hollande, Prime Minister Cameron, President Obama, Mr Trudeau, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minster Renzi, Prime Minster Abe, President Putin, President Xi and Prime Minister Modi. We can only hope that the excellent Christina Figueres is an expert cat herder.
Failure is not an option
We are concerned that any agreement will fall far short of what is actually required and, even then, it will be watered down subsequently by government, domestic legislature and corporate action. That said, we remain cautiously optimistic that there will be a concrete agreement that nudges in the right direction and can be celebrated.
And then it’s down to every single one of us to do the real work, in all of our daily decisions; what causes we support, what we spend our money on, what we invest in and how we vote.
And another thing:
Politicians need to get a grip and defend people and planet.
The fourth economic revolution is the sustainable revolution.
Profit before people is the dark heart of unrestrained capitalism.
Economic illiteracy characterises UK Government’s energy policy.
Our culture will prevail over cowards with guns and bombs.