An Opportunity to Lead the De-Carbonised Revolution

First published July, 2015

On the surface, the output from this year’s G7 summit at Schloss Elmau could be described as limited. Reading through the official press releases, the language is typically ‘vanilla’ — of the sort to which we’ve become accustomed from multilateral gatherings such as these.

This is frustrating because the G7 is incredibly well placed to deliver a positive outcome to the global challenges we face today, owing to its role in the global economy.

The concept of the global economy isn’t new. It has been around since the industrial revolution in the 1800s, when rapid development improved international connectivity. The nations that today make up the G7 were instrumental in driving development at that time. What is new about the global economy today is how integrated it is. The idiom that says ‘when one sneezes, another catches a cold’ rings true in today’s modern economic environment — a prominent example being the ongoing global effects of the 2007–08 financial crises.

The announcement that stood out from our political leaders at Schloss Elmau was the ambition to see a fully decarbonised world by 2100 — an important decision that affects countries around the world. With rising temperatures we are likely to see more coastal flooding and droughts, and in the longer term there will be an increased risk of conflict over food and water resources.

The announcement marked a pivotal point in the global consciousness, in which we have collectively agreed to take action against the growing threat of climate change. Sentiment and attitudes towards climate issues within the business community is also beginning to shift, with private-sector entities increasingly acknowledging the need for action.

As One Young World Counsellor and Unilever CEO Paul Polman has said, the cost of inaction in tackling climate change is now greater than the cost of action.

The G7 is not as influential as when it was founded in 1975, but the group’s member states still collectively account for 50 per cent of global GDP, and are well placed to set the parameters for dealing with climate change.

The demand for a sustainable and responsible future has never been stronger. Perhaps owing to the financial crisis, the global community is receptive to the concept of planning for the future, and the G7 should grasp this opportunity to define how we move forward.

Specifically, they must align the case for sustainable values and low-carbon solutions in the areas of transport, construction and technology with global economic growth.

In much the same way that nations came together to fuel the industrial revolution, there is now an opportunity for the G7 to lead the way in the post-carbon revolution.

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