A recent report published by the World Bank* paints a terrifying picture of what the world would be like if it warmed by four degrees Celsius by the end of the century, which is what scientists are nearly unanimously predicting will happen without serious policy changes. The scenarios are devastating: inundation of coastlines, unprecedented heat waves, high intensity cyclones, water scarcity, severe risks for food production, malnutrition and irreversible loss of biodiversity.
Such nightmare scenarios have been in our collective consciousness for some time, but it is jobs and growth that are uppermost on minds in many advanced economies as we struggle to recover from the worst economic crises in a generation.
We do need growth, but it is essential that that growth is sustainable.
At a debate last month hosted by the Carbon Trust, the question was asked whether Europe was falling behind other world leaders in green growth. Despite all the effort invested, emissions in Europe are still rising. The majority view of the panel was that lack of political cohesion was a key impediment to progress. Europe is good at making grand statements, but there is a real failure in implementation. And this presents a missed opportunity as European consumers have a comparatively greater understanding of the issues and companies have made significant advances in re-thinking their business practices.
Whether the impetus comes from Government, business or the public, for progress to be made it requires strong leadership.
Looking a little closer to home, it is worth noting that precisely such leadership has been demonstrated recently by the British bus industry, which is offering free bus travel to job seekers for the month of January. The “Bus for Jobs” scheme is a real example of a “win win” scenario. Buses are crucial for getting people to work and lack of transport is a key barrier to finding a job. In helping job seekers find work, bus companies will also recruit more passengers. Not only will the scheme help the drive to get people to work and get the economy moving, it also provides clear social inclusion benefits and, in the longer term, the potential to encourage more sustainable travel behaviour.
Sustainable development has three pillars: economic, environmental and social. The “Bus for Jobs” scheme ticks all three boxes, and is the kind of initiative we need to see more of.
*Turn Down The Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided, prepared for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Climate Analytics, November 2012: Download PDF
Image by: Martin Addison