There is a lot of discussion on how to convince governments, companies and public opinion of the risks of climate change and the need to change the way we live to curb emissions. Changing doesn’t mean living worse, but the focus has to be put on the increase in well-being, progress, prosperity, instead of growth, and these positive consequences of the needed evolution have to be highlighted.
In fact, sometimes it looks like scientists are almost alone on this quest (convincing of the need to change). Besides, if it is the United Nations who should be the leading player, is it too weak to really drive world policy?
My opinion is that the change management on climate change can be improved. It’s all about managing as best as possible the change needed to limit climate change. (Yes, this sounds very redundant…) We need to change for the climate not to change too much, we need to do it fast and do it well (as Ban Ki-moon said recently, time is not on our side).
Let’s have a look at change management models for how we can do that:
Awareness of the need to change: Governments and the corporate world are slowly becoming aware of the need to reduce emissions and are taking small steps, but there is not so much awareness of the urgency. Unfortunately, the public opinion is even less aware. Planned communication is key to explaining why changes are necessary and creating the awareness by repesting the serious consequences of not acting now.
Desire to participate: There is need to create more incentives to the individuals to support and participate in the change. Penalties, such as pricing carbon, taxing emissions in vehicles, of low efficiency products, have to be leveraged together with positive incentives, like softer loans for net-zero energy buildings, no parking fee for electric vehicles, etc. An example of incentive is the experiment of paying employees for biking to work in France.
Knowledge of how to change: There is a figure for the worlds carbon budget and the limits to those emissions, but there is not a clear picture for each individual and what each of us has to do. If the limit for 9 bn people is below 1 tn of carbon per year per person (and decreasing), everybody should have knowledge of what that means (on what to do and what not to do) in oder to stay below the limit. The interesting thing about personal emissions is that it doesn’t matter where emissions are, so it is a question of universal justice, and exceeding these limits, personally, is unfair to the rest of world population and also to future generations.
Ability to implement change on a day to day basis: Not only people have to be trained and have knowledge, but also be able to implement the behaviours that are required, so society has to eliminate as many obstacles as possible.
Reinforcement to sustain the change: There is still a long way to sustain the required change, but the new paradigm has to be solid and in constant progress, towards more well-being and prosperity.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Let´s have a look at another of the most common change management models, from John Kotter, based on 8 steps;
Step 1: Create a sense of urgency
The alarming messages from science and presented through the IPCC are apparently not creating the required sense of urgency. To create this sense, climate change should be in the news almost every day, and the discussion on the measures to change has to be a first priority, for policymakers, executives and any individual. The threats and the actual effects of climate change have to be shown clearly to everyone. The urgency to change has to be communicated as unavoidable, but as an opportunity to make things better.
Step 2: Form a guiding coalition
The leadership is now UN and the IPCC, but a stronger coalition is required. Not only is it important that Obama leads on climate change, but also that he teams up with other countries. A similar coalition is necessary in the business, such as the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, guiding the change and teaming up to change companies.
Step 3: Create a vision for change
The vision of the future has to be clear (how the world will look like following the decarbonization paths) and positive. This vision of the change is not well defined, in my opinion, the carbon budget helps but setting a goal of a date for a fossil fuel free world economy would be essential (it wouldn’t be free completely, but the use at the same rate of earth’s fossil fuel generation capacity). The strategy, that has to be shared globally, follows this vision, as in any institution/company.
Step 4: Communicate the vision
The communication of the shared “change for climate” vision has to be done frequently and powerfully. For policy makers, in the media, in any company it has to be clear and discussed. This communicating the vision has to be done by walking the talk, as example is the best lesson. Leaders have to behave as any individual should, and the vision has to be embeded in any political or corporate move.
Step 5: Empowering broad-based action
A whole new world structure has to be put in place; Changing systems or structures that undermine that vision and structure for the change. All levels of society have to be aligned with the change in order for action to spread broadly.
Step 6: Create short-term wins
Examples of economies, societies, or companies thriving following the vision is key. It motivates and avoids scepticism and discouragement (before people start to think there is nothing to do to stabilize global temperatures) A recent example of short-term wins, is the leap of El Hierro Island to 100% renewables, communicating this achievement is a boost for global belief in the vision (tried in 2012, now again declared)
Step 7: Build on the change
Systems, structures and processes worldwide have to be changed, and it will take decades, no victory will be declared until probably 2050 (if emissions are cut and temperature is seen stabilized) The improvement has to be continuous, in the search for global prosperity.
Step 8: Anchor the changes in the corporate culture
The change has to be a world cultural change and become embedded in more than 9 billion people, which is a gigantic task. Specially it is so, because the culture of occidental consumption and way of life is still expanding into the world, and changing culture is a slow process.
To conclude, please think about how much is in the hand of each of us to be the change?:
- Consuming responsibly?: low emission products, sustainable homes, sustainable transport, reducing our carbon footprint, etc. And the power of the wallet is what changes companies – their customers, so these changes drive corporate change to sustainability.
- Voting responsibly?: to those that are willing to lead the change and regulate and make the needed policy.
- Educating responsibly?: coming generations may adapt easier if educated in the values of conservation, solidarity, sustainability, collaborative consumption, etc.
- Getting involved?: Associations, cooperatives, NGOs, can multiply the individual efforts to accelerate changes. For example, joining a green energy cooperative utility.
“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is is sight.”
– Jack Welch
(*) The picture is a caricature of taking too literally the quote from Mohandas Ghandi; we should only have max 39ºC fever (2ºC above normal temperature) to be the change we want in the world… Metaphorically, we need the world not to reach moderate fever, but an earth with “severe fever” (+3ºC) has already human life threatening effects, whereas the body equivalent life threatening fever is 41ºC (+4ºC).