SwissECS 2018: Climate Action Isn’t a Walk, It’s a Mountain Hike.

When you hear the words climate change, do you think positively or negatively about the future?

This question, asked by UNEP Champion of the Earth 2016, Leyla Acaroglu, brought home a number of core discussions at last week’s Swiss Energy and Climate Summit (#SwissECS18) in Bern. EIT Climate-KIC was among the 600 participants in SwissECS, Switzerland’s main conference for energy and climate issues, discussing the role of climate change communication and framing, digitalisation and just how radical our political roadmaps need to be for effective climate action.

According to Acaroglu, that most people think about climate negatively brings problems. Fear messaging only triggers a reaction in a small number of people. For example, when humans are put in a situation of fear they usually show three reactions: They overreact. They get numb. They run away.

Acaroglu wants, therefore, to reconfigure how we communicate about climate change, as typical reactions like, “I’m so small, the problem is so big”, are not helping anyone or solve the world’s climate problems.

Thinking about about new forms of communicating climate action might be crucial for achieving global climate targets, but it will certainly not be enough. “Today’s problems are often yesterday’s solutions”, said Acaroglu, stressing how we have  designed addictive systems (and energy is mostly their “heroin”) or how we measure success with misleading numbers like GDP (GDP goes up when there’s a hurricane and goes down when happy families don’t need to purchase anything). So, how do make sure that we don’t create tomorrow’s problems with solutions we are currently developing?

Think in systems. Collaborate. Love the problem.

Acaroglu made clear that people, organisations or legislators need to embrace the work in complexity and think in systems when it comes to effective climate action. Biofuel, for example, sounded like a good idea to many state legislators.

What did not occur to them is the world food crisis in 2017, that partly resulted in crops being sold to biofuel producers instead of the food market.  “Actually, everything is based on systems, (…) [therefore] the intersections between industrial systems and natural systems need to be carefully designed”, says Acaroglu.

A reconfiguration from a linear to a circular economy that creates business models and accounts for ecosystem services, will require lots of conversations and collaboration to be successful. And as not every solution for this new world system will be a low hanging fruit, we need to see the search for efficient technologies and policies, positively framed, as a problem we love, not a burden.  

Love the problem? Love Brexit? Love Trump?

“Love the problem. Love Brexit. Love Trump. I struggle with it,” said British sustainability leader John Elkington, who sat down with Anders Wijkman, Co-President of the Club of Rome and Chair of the EIT Climate-KIC Governing Board, to “rethink the economy” in front of a 600-strong audience, who seemed to relate with Elkington’s comment.

Elkington, who leads “Project Breakthrough” with the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), a platform offering promising examples of sustainable innovation, sees communication about climate action as shifting.

While in the past the discussion was focused on costs of climate action, it now seems to be switching to the return-of-investment of climate action. Although businesses cannot be held solely responsible for making the transition to a more sustainable, net-zero carbon economic system, they have to rethink their business models, which until now seem to be based on an empty world. “As long as we earn more when we sell more, this system will fail. That’s why the circular economy approach will be important”, says Wijkman in Bern, a topic that was discussed later in a deep dive session of EIT Climate-KIC.

Understanding the long-term benefits for climate action through digitalisation (see Exponential Climate Action Roadmap) or machine learning and artificial intelligence (check out DeepMind) will be crucial to making this transformation happen. Building upon Acaroglu’s remarks on the need of systems thinking in relation to climate action, Wijkman referred to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which he believes will not be enough, if looked at one by one. We need to leave the silos and enable ministries, companies and citizens to have a new mindset that allows a systemic approach to climate action.

Anders Wijkman and John Elkington. Copyright by SwissECS

Forced radical climate action?

Fortunately, we are making progress in creating a better mindset for climate action. Twenty years ago a climate conference like the SwissECS in Switzerland would be unthinkable, said former German Vice Chancellor Joschka Fischer. He added, “[translated from German] When I was born there were 2.5 billion people, when my grandchildren will be my age there will be 11 billion. We don’t think radically enough, but the development will force us to think radically.” He’s convinced that countries like China will radically change their economic systems, to benefit political and social stability. 

Put on your hiking boots. The road (map) will be rocky.

Although the SwissECS seems to be a local conference in an idyllic Swiss city, the issues and actions discussed clearly had an international scope, as the problem (that we love) has. Radical, systemic thinking and climate action is now not only something you might hear in New York-based think-tanks, but has arrived in the general discussion about the future of our planet and an effective road map towards sustainability. Because, as the President of SwissECS has framed it: “Climate action is not a walk, it’s a mountain hike.” So put on your hiking boots, climb onto that step, rocky road towards a sustainable world system and don’t overreact, don’t get numb, don’t run away.

Images: Copyright by SwissECS

 
Location
Switzerland
Related Goal
Goal 7: Build circular material flows
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC to host WCEF virtual event on circular economy research and in...

The World Circular Economy Forum brings together business leaders,...

EIT Climate-KIC to host WCEF virtual event on circular economy research and innovation for a green recovery
In The News
Climathon 2020: Citizens across the globe are eager to contribute to a post-CO...

Over 4,500 citizens from around the world will join...

Climathon 2020: Citizens across the globe are eager to contribute to a post-COVID sustainable recovery
In The News
Transformative climate action and COP26: Join our webinar

Are you working to deliver transformative change for a...

Transformative climate action and COP26: Join our webinar
In The News
Madrid, Amsterdam and Milan: Three cities putting citizen participation at the...

The Extinction Rebellion or Fridays for Future global actions...

Madrid, Amsterdam and Milan: Three cities putting citizen participation at the heart of climate action
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC selected to become a member of the European Circular Economy S...

EIT Climate-KIC circular economy expert, Cliona Howie, will join...

EIT Climate-KIC selected to become a member of the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform
In The News
Partnering with EIT Climate-KIC on the New Accelerator: Call for Expressions o...

We are looking for new and existing EIT Climate-KIC...

Partnering with EIT Climate-KIC on the New Accelerator: Call for Expressions of Interest
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC leads collective efforts to accelerate Madrid’s transition t...

A cross- KIC (Knowledge and Innovation Community) initiative is...

EIT Climate-KIC leads collective efforts to accelerate Madrid’s transition towards carbon neutrality
In The News
New online magazine Branch explores the sustainability of the internet

This week saw the launch of Branch magazine, a...

New online magazine Branch explores the sustainability of the internet
In The News
Four EIT Climate-KIC innovators nominated for EIT Awards

Four EIT Climate-KIC innovators have been nominated to win...

Four EIT Climate-KIC innovators nominated for EIT Awards
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC selected to advise European Commission on sustainable finance

The newly created EU Platform on Sustainable Finance brings...

EIT Climate-KIC selected to advise European Commission on sustainable finance
In The News
bound4blue’s innovative wingsail technology gathers recognition across Europe

Cristina Aleixendri, Co-founder and COO of the Spanish start-up...

bound4blue’s innovative wingsail technology gathers recognition across Europe
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC and Glasgow City Region join forces, helping the region innova...

Home to one third of Scotland’s population and provider...

EIT Climate-KIC and Glasgow City Region join forces, helping the region innovate to become climate resilient
In The News
Cassetex from Bangladesh, Sosei from Uruguay and Carbon Craft Design from Indi...

More than 3,000 entrepreneurs from 56 countries participated in...

Cassetex from Bangladesh, Sosei from Uruguay and Carbon Craft Design from India win the seventh edition of ClimateLaunchpad
In The News
World’s biggest green business ideas competition now fully digital, free and...

The three-day Grand Global Final of the EIT Climate-KIC supported...

World’s biggest green business ideas competition now fully digital, free and accessible to all
In The News
Three cities building back better: Madrid, Milan and Amsterdam

EIT Climate-KIC will host a session at the 18th...

Three cities building back better: Madrid, Milan and Amsterdam
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC to work with Google on Impact Challenge

EIT Climate-KIC is delighted to announce that it will...

EIT Climate-KIC to work with Google on Impact Challenge
In The News
What role can finance play in the green recovery? EIT Climate-KIC and UNEP Fin...

EIT Climate-KIC, in partnership with the UNEP Finance Initiative,...

What role can finance play in the green recovery? EIT Climate-KIC and UNEP Finance Initiative ask leading thinkers to weigh in
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supports European green recovery with €4 million for start-u...

EIT Climate-KIC is investing €4 million in nine climate...

EIT Climate-KIC supports European green recovery with €4 million for start-ups affected by COVID-19
In The News
The City Finance Lab calls on urban leaders to help build back better

Organised by sustainability expert South Pole, the competition for...

The City Finance Lab calls on urban leaders to help build back better
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported cities – Leuven, Milan, Valencia and Vienna no...

Twelve cities are in the final stage of the...

EIT Climate-KIC supported cities – Leuven, Milan, Valencia and Vienna nominated as European Capital of Innovation 2020
In The News
The climate emergency demands bold policy innovations – can cities d...

While the challenges of climate change and a global...

The climate emergency demands bold policy innovations – can cities deliver? 
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC joins circular economy side event at UN High Level Political F...

“Bold leaders are needed to drive a collaborative approach...

EIT Climate-KIC joins circular economy side event at UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC and Silesian Metropolis join forces to transform Europe’s la...

EIT Climate-KIC and the Metropolitan Association of Upper Silesia...

EIT Climate-KIC and Silesian Metropolis join forces to transform Europe’s largest coal region in the face of the climate crisis
In The News
Anders Wijkman represents EIT Climate-KIC at the International Society for the...

Speaking online at the inaugural Conference of IS4CE—the International...

Anders Wijkman represents EIT Climate-KIC at the International Society for the Circular Economy Conference
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC receives €8.4 million for innovation projects that stimulate...

Eleven climate innovation projects across Europe tackling COVID-19 related...

EIT Climate-KIC receives €8.4 million for innovation projects that stimulate job creation and support a post COVID-19 green recovery
In The News
CEO Kirsten Dunlop represents EIT Climate-KIC at Climate Policy Forum

On 25 June, EIT Climate-KIC attended the Climate Policy...

CEO Kirsten Dunlop represents EIT Climate-KIC at Climate Policy Forum
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported LOOP-Ports project wins prestigious sustainability a...

The LOOP-Ports project, led by the Fundación Valenciaport  and funded by EIT Climate-KIC,...

EIT Climate-KIC supported LOOP-Ports project wins prestigious sustainability award
In The News
EIT Climate KIC joins roundtable as Republic of Korea moves Green Deal forward

On 24 June, EIT Climate-KIC attended the 7th Green...

EIT Climate KIC joins roundtable as Republic of Korea moves Green Deal forward
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC shines at the GLF Bonn Digital Conference, the year’s la...

EIT Climate-KIC’s Director of Sustainable Land Use and member...

EIT Climate-KIC shines at the GLF Bonn Digital Conference, the year’s largest global digital conference on the environment
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC supported Climeworks raises over €67 million to expand its c...

Climeworks, the world leader in capturing CO2 from air,...

EIT Climate-KIC supported Climeworks raises over €67 million to expand its carbon dioxide removal capacities