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 selects five partners in Global South to implement gender main...

The intersection of climate and innovation remains a male-dominated...

EIT Climate-KIC selects five partners in Global South to implement gender mainstreaming into entrepreneurship
In The News
Citizens inspire a car-free Leuven

A broad survey, possible solutions displayed on screens, inspirational...

Citizens inspire a car-free Leuven
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC accelerates climate tech solutions for a net-zero Africa 

Climate-focused start-up teams in developing countries face distinct challenges...

EIT Climate-KIC accelerates climate tech solutions for a net-zero Africa 
In The News
New European Bauhaus Hackathons will reward most innovative solutions

EIT Community New European Bauhaus partners will be hosting...

New European Bauhaus Hackathons will reward most innovative solutions
In The News
Slovenia takes a pivotal turn towards circularity

Slovenia has decided to actively combat climate change by...

Slovenia takes a pivotal turn towards circularity
In The News
Innovative climate projects part of EIT Community New European Bauhaus initiat...

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

Innovative climate projects part of EIT Community New European Bauhaus initiative
In The News
A new air and climate plan for Milan

The City Council of Milan approved the Air and...

A new air and climate plan for Milan
In The News
Meet the three EIT Climate-KIC innovators nominated for EIT Awards

Three innovators from EIT Climate-KIC’s community have been nominated...

Meet the three EIT Climate-KIC innovators nominated for EIT Awards
In The News
100 European cities take up the challenge to become carbon neutral by 2030

On Monday 13 June, the representatives of the 100...

100 European cities take up the challenge to become carbon neutral by 2030
In The News
The role of cities and regions in transforming wood value chains

Climate smart forest economies It’s a crucial decade for...

The role of cities and regions in transforming wood value chains
In The News
Glasgow City Region pioneering forest economy innovation to drive climate acti...

Scotland’s largest city region is actively tackling climate change...

Glasgow City Region pioneering forest economy innovation to drive climate action
In The News
Forging sustainable timber construction in Europe

EIT Climate-KIC and Built by Nature, announce an initiative...

Forging sustainable timber construction in Europe
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC launches new Circularity Thinking training programme

EIT Climate-KIC is launching Circularity Thinking courses to tackle...

EIT Climate-KIC launches new Circularity Thinking training programme
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC announces four winners of EIT Community Booster

EIT Climate-KIC selected four cleantech start-ups to be part...

EIT Climate-KIC announces four winners of EIT Community Booster
In The News
Science reveals last paths to stop irreversible planetary damage

Climate change is going to get worse, but curbing global warming is...

Science reveals last paths to stop irreversible planetary damage
In The News
EIT Community presents New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards winners

Supported by the EIT Community, the New European Bauhaus...

EIT Community presents New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards winners
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC joins forces with the Government of Ireland to stimulate clima...

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Marine of...

EIT Climate-KIC joins forces with the Government of Ireland to stimulate climate innovation in the agri-food sector
In The News
Climate Lab: EIT Climate-KIC co-initiates hotspot for Vienna’s climate ambit...

Climate Lab in Vienna will give climate actors an...

Climate Lab: EIT Climate-KIC co-initiates hotspot for Vienna’s climate ambitions
In The News
Seven takeaways from the latest IPCC report

On 28 February, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)...

Seven takeaways from the latest IPCC report
In The News
EIT launches new Global Outreach website

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

EIT launches new Global Outreach website
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC and Amazon launch call for sustainable start-ups

Working on transformative, systemic innovation to accelerate a net-zero...

EIT Climate-KIC and Amazon launch call for sustainable start-ups
In The News
Votes open for the 2021 New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards – Audience Awar...

Do you want to support innovative solutions that integrate...

Votes open for the 2021 New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards – Audience Award
In The News
Brill Power’s new innovation radically increases battery life and storag...

Brill Power, supported by EIT Climate-KIC, has launched the...

Brill Power’s new innovation radically increases battery life and storage capacity
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop gives TEDx Talk

EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop delivered a talk,...

EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop gives TEDx Talk
In The News
Putting theory into practice: EIT Climate-KIC Pioneer innovating the Greek mar...

To tackle complex climate challenges, we need a broader...

Putting theory into practice: EIT Climate-KIC Pioneer innovating the Greek maritime sector
In The News
EIT launches call for proposals to boost innovation in Higher Education Instit...

Unlocking the potential of higher education institutions for innovation...

EIT launches call for proposals to boost innovation in Higher Education Institutions
In The News
The Dolomites forging climate resilience

The Italian Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are...

The Dolomites forging climate resilience
In The News
People-powered resilience: Andalusia announces new climate action plan

The region’s climate action plan has been announced, with...

People-powered resilience: Andalusia announces new climate action plan
In The News
Built by Nature: new initiative to accelerate the transition to sustainable co...

The built environment accounts for close to 40 per...

Built by Nature: new initiative to accelerate the transition to sustainable construction in cities
In The News
The State of California and EIT Climate-KIC advance partnership for climate in...

Glasgow, 8 November – The California Governor’s Office of...

The State of California and EIT Climate-KIC advance partnership for climate innovation