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TED Countdown: Changing climate change

10 October – 10.10.20 – marked the launch of TED Countdown, a global climate change initiative, with over 500 virtual TEDx events around the world. The launch kickstarted the global year-long programme of ideas that is set to culminate in a summit in Edinburgh in October 2021.

The goal? To call on every organisation, company, city, nation, and citizen to take action on climate change so that we can count down to a better, greener, healthier and resilient future. The mission is to accelerate solutions and transform how we think about climate change.

Why now?

That fact that action is needed urgently is hardly news. To paint a simple picture: right now, we are at one degree of warming since the industrial revolution started, and another half a degree could devastate the planet. This small rise in global temperatures would bring heatwaves, 3-4% reduction in crops, 10% reduction in insect population, and flooding caused by ice cap melting. To put this into local perspective, this means over 22,000 homes in Bristol flooded and Glastonbury underwater by 2050.

A call for ambitious thinking

In 2015, 197 countries came together to commit to the Paris Agreement, aiming to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. Since then, the climate action tracker has been monitoring the climate commitments and actions of 36 countries totalling roughly 80% of today’s global greenhouse gas emissions. The tracker has made two problems clear: firstly, the targets being set by countries involved aren’t ambitious enough to keep temperature increases under 1.5 degrees, and second – worse still – they aren’t even delivering on these inadequate targets.

What will it take to change this? We need to transform our thinking to innovate and see the potential as well as the hard work required: apart from the obvious benefits of cleaner air and more a safer, more stable climate, the transformation of the key sectors of the global economy will create millions of jobs.

Leadership transition

When we talk about leadership in climate change activity, two names spring to mind: Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough. One just 17, the other 94, they represent very different generations, yet bring attention to the two aspects of the same problem – climate change and loss of biodiversity. These are interlinked; yet it’s only in the last couple of years that the UN committees on climate change and biodiversity have got together and realised that they have been talking about the same problem.

Where are the breakthroughs going to come from?

TED organisers highlight the need to strive for a future that’s not just sustainable but regenerative, and talk about both individual and business responsibility.

On average a person in the UK produces 10 tons of carbon emissions every year, the amount that need to be halved in the next 10 years. However, individuals ditching plastic straws, switching to a more plant-based diet and walking or cycling where they used to drive isn’t going to achieve the Paris agreement goals alone; it’s transformation at the systemic government and big business level that needs to accompany the efforts of individuals.

But is this possible? We are creatures of habit and changing the way we live and how our organisations function is big ask. However, if 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that change is possible, at a global scale and in a short amount of time.

Read more from this edition of Ahead of the Curve

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