A Message to World Leaders: It’s Time to Pivot
Credit: Anders Hellberg
By Prof. Peter Head CBR FREng
As you arrive in Glasgow for the COP 26 meeting, you have an opportunity to grab a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leave a lasting legacy in your country and the rest of the world. Please open your heart to the terrible risks we are all facing.
I know that your primary concerns are your own country, your people, and ensuring that your continued leadership and power base are maintained. You have lobbies from all quarters urging you in different directions, probably particularly oil and gas and even still the coal-dependent businesses and people.
Don’t listen to them.
Society in your country, and every other, is facing complete collapse by 2100 or earlier unless we urgently stop climate change, reverse deforestation and stop the collapse of ecological systems that support us. As you arrive, the world is on track to increase emissions and increase deforestation rather than the pivot we need to dramatically reduce them.
The children born in your term of office in your own country will experience this collapse directly in their lifetimes, with mass migration, with coastal cities (if you have them) underwater, extreme storms, water and food insecurity, unbearable heatwaves, and forest fires. The poor will suffer most.
Today’s young people live in fear for their future and unless you do something now they will never support your party again. The future of the world sits in your hands right now and we appeal to your head and your heart to take rapid and decisive action to save humanity.
Pivot Projects is presenting an event in Glasgow during COP26, It's Time to Pivot, an element of the Malin Group's Spotlight series. It will take place in person and online starting at 1:45 pm UK Time on Nov. 6. The event is a conversation and a call to action to individuals and groups who want to pivot to a more sustainable future. Please join us!
Here's a blog post about Pivot Projects and the event, with a link to registration.
Here's the registration page
The good news is that you can do something very quickly and the sooner you act the greater will be the benefit as first mover. Every few years you wait, you will be stuck behind the global change curve—destined to be overwhelmed by events rather than being able to keep ahead. This does not necessarily mean spending more public money. The cost of renewable energy generation from wind and solar is dropping so fast that it is a very attractive investment for private energy supply companies, working with communities. You just need to regulate them.
The first step I suggest is to mandate the phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles between now and 2040/2050. Then start to ramp down subsidies you are making to oil and gas companies over this period and transfer the money as incentives to ramp up wind, solar, and hydro renewables. The private sector will respond with investment in renewable energy and private car buyers will provide the energy storage with their batteries connected to local grids.
Stop all new oil and gas exploitation and require these ‘energy companies’ to invest in renewable exploitation using the new incentives. From deserts to oceans, all your abundant natural assets can provide huge future incomes from renewable energy.
Mandate that heating and cooling for buildings moves away from gas and to electricity over the same time period and that buildings become much more energy efficient.
You will find that excess renewable energy can be turned into green hydrogen to power industry and heavy vehicles.
Quickly ensure your design standards for the built environment and for public services and flood protection are updated to cover increased risks as climate change takes hold. Create public private partnerships to bring the built environment up to these new standards.
Incentivise farmers to improve soils and increase food production by adopting sustainable agro-forestry practices.
Create large retraining and upskilling job centres. Unless you do, your progress will be limited by a shortage of delivery skills for the transformation. If you do this now, people in your countries will know you are serious.
Improve community resilience by helping communities to invest themselves and make the change. Free up and incentivise support for social entrepreneurship and those worried young people will make it happen for you. Support them with early warning and disaster risk reduction advice so they go in the right direction.
I have committed my time and energy over the last 10 years to improving sustainability and resilience. As a result, I am convinced that these suggestions will work. At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, I co-founded an organization, Pivot Projects, to see if we could help policymakers and communities pivot to better paths. Over time, more than 500 people have come together to use our heads and our hearts to help the world to pivot along these lines. We are here in Glasgow to meet and share our knowledge and amplify the voices of children around the world calling for fast change. If you want to learn more, register for our live and virtual event, It’s Time to Pivot, on Nov. 6 starting at 1:45 p.m. UK time.
And, world leaders, please carry this critically important message back to your countries when you return home: It’s time to pivot.