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Are We Losing the Battle on Climate ?

November 22, 2017


Decision makers, and maybe part of us, love happy forecasts and optimistic scenarios…. Among the media headlines today: “36 000 jobs linked to circular economy should be created in Belgium before 2020”. Doesn’t it look like a successful green transition is achieved?


 What one seems to appreciate above everything is the “zero loser” game: to save the climate without any drastic change, and to make profit from green jobs and green economy. Let’s face it: we are used to have a cake and eat it too! Here are several assumptions showing that things may slip out of control and wreak havoc quickly.


Experience, research and history show that country’s choices and decisions aren’t always rational, and based on rational choices. French political scientist Raymond Aron used to write about the 20th century “History is tragic: we are not enough aware of it. It does not care about good feelings and virtuous outrage…not even about justice”. Will we need to witness new tragedies such as the rise of water, floods, droughts, disasters, casualties and climate refugees before we shift from “frivolous”, “light”, “looking advantageous” solutions to real impactful ones? Will we move beyond short term economic and geopolitical interests ?


The second threat is unpredictability linked with instability. Regardless what we’d like to think, the geopolitical situation is more instable and unclear than in the last decades because of new threats. We have moved away from clear and identified blocks and partnerships to “less formal alliances”. The war in Syria has revealed international divisions and the incapacity to avoid collective human dramas. The necessary search for stability in a new quickly changing environment will need to go hand in hand with economic needs and the fight against climate change. As things look like, climate may appear at the bottom of the priorities’ list…


The third problem, and equally important is the lack of clear-cut solutions to solve climate change.  In the areas of energy, green economy, waste management; growing demography or even sustainable urbanization, there is no easy solution. It is almost impossible to find a holistic approach where partners could agree. But why is climate always presented as a “light” topic whereas drastic choices are needed? The question of fossil fuels, but also demography booming to 9 billion in the next decades are likely to hamper optimistic forecasts and scenarios. I do not even add the questions of inequalities and climate justice which are really much part of the problem…


As a conclusion, we should nurture all possible progress. Jobs created by circular economy in Belgium are very good news. It shows that we can make progress and involve civil society, industries and governments in finding solutions. But let’s stop being naïve. Optimism won’t help. We’ll certainly need lots of resilience and mitigation measures…


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