As world leaders gather in Glasgow for COP26, we take a look at some ways that governments can begin dealing with the climate crisis.
Whose responsibility is it to face down the climate crisis?
It’s a question with many avenues but really only one answer – everyone’s.
It goes without saying that governments play a huge role in combatting the crisis – something that is starkly crystallised in all our minds as world leaders gather in Glasgow for the COP26 summit. We’re sure you don’t need to be told just how important this summit is for establishing a blueprint for the world to reach net-zero, but perhaps the focus on government’s role in dealing with the climate crisis is a bit of an over-simplification.
Unless they have more authoritarian tendencies or an iron grasp over the economy in a way that a country like China does, governments simply don’t have the power to implement the society-wide changes necessary to fully solve the climate crisis.
That’s not to say that there aren’t vital things that governments should be doing like ending fossil fuel subsidies, making public transport cheaper, and creating social programs to support things like insulation to name but a few.
However, what is really needed is a campaign to change public thinking across all sectors of society, from businesses to schools to everyday homes.
One of the most powerful things about the government’s response to COVID-19 was not its stay-at-home order; it was the campaign that convinced people that it was the thing that they needed to do. The vast majority of people shut themselves away from their loved ones and any kind of social gatherings for an entire year, not necessarily because the law dictated it, but because we knew it was the right thing to do; the only thing to do.
The same can be true of dealing with the climate crisis.
Thus far, activism has been one of the few voices advocating for action on the climate crisis, be it from groups like Extinction Rebellion, public figures like David Attenborough, or articles like this one.
Activism is essential but is, by nature, counter to the establishment. The establishment needs to endorse these messages. No one needs convincing that the climate crisis is real anymore, nor that action is required. People need to be told by institutional figures what can and needs to be done, building consensus and co-operation across our society.
What we need is a civilisation-wide ideological shift – so that the world of business turns towards greener pastures, so that people know what changes they need to make in their homes, so that no one is wondering why nothing’s being done because we’re all doing it.
It’s not the government’s responsibility to solve the climate crisis, it’s all of ours. But government does need to nurture the environment for that knowledge to become ingrained in our social psyche, as well as righting all the systematic wrongs that is exacerbating this emergency.
The climate crisis is not something that can be solved by one single authoritative body, it needs co-operation and constant pressure from the incredible power of the collective.
Together we are mighty – it’s time that government started utilising that power.