Over the next few weeks, BusinessGreen will run a series of essays from leading business figures on what the emerging New Environmentalism means for UK Plc
Sometimes I wonder about the psychology of modern environmentalism and the demands it places on those who want to see the development of a genuinely green and sustainable economy. This is not a new observation, but the dialectical tension placed on environmentalists by the need to promote the good news presented by clean technologies and effective green policies, while not shirking from the staggeringly bad news presented by climate change, ocean acidification and myriad other environmental crises, can on occasions be stretched close to breaking point.
The last week or so has been one of those occasions, with the latest warnings from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on rising sea levels and record ice melt largely ignored by a political and media community more interested in an utterly guileless and blatantly co-ordinated effort to impose fracking on the British countryside and roll back green policies.
When risk management luminaries such as former BP man Tony Hayward and former Northern Rock man Matt Ridley are agreed on a course of action, you'd think it would set alarm bells ringing. When newspapers seek to confuse their readers to promote an agenda, you'd think cool heads in Whitehall would demand a closer look at the evidence. But apparently senior figures within the government have bought the argument shale gas can save us and green policies are a luxury we cannot afford.
More worrying still is the way enthusiasm for fracking is contrasted with the ongoing political conflict that characterises the wider green economic agenda. Much of the right wing commentariat has declared war on the green economy, unconcerned by the scientific reality that urgent action is needed to tackle climate change, nor the polls that show strong public support for green technologies and policies. As a result, the Prime Minister refuses to demonstrate his effusive support for energy efficiency and renewables in the same way as he is happy to go into bat for the fracking industry.
The attacks on one of the few areas of the economy that is actually growing demands a fight back. A high-profile demonstration of the steps businesses, engineers, scientists and policymakers are taking all around the world to advance the green economy and deliver a credible response to environmental challenges. A reminder that while climate change poses an existential threat and political leaders prove themselves incapable of rising to the challenge, all the technologies and techniques we need to build a sustainable economy are already available. Whether it is solar power that can compete with coal on cost, the emerging thinking on carbon bubbles and circular economies, or the widespread public support for renewables, it is important to remember there is still plenty of good news out there.
For much of the past year I've been banging on about how this fight back is taking the form of a New Environmentalism, an environmentalism that wrestles with the dialectic presented by harsh environmental realities and clean technology potential. An environmentalism that argues environmental challenges can be overcome while improving global living standards, primarily through the adoption of clean technologies, green business models, effective risk management and a necessary shift away from crude GDP measures of economic success or failure. An environmentalism that is being successfully enacted by many companies, investors and policymakers as a means of driving green economic success while cutting environmental impacts.
None of this thinking is particularly new or innovative – a business and technology-led response to environmental challenges has been advocated by many business and environmental leaders for decades – nor does it go far enough, we are still a long way from delivering the cuts in emissions that are required. But this thinking is becoming more widespread in boardrooms and lecture theatres around the world, offering a vital counter-punch to the free market ideologues desperately trying to conceal the success of green businesses.
This summer BusinessGreen is to make a modest contribution to this expanding school of thought with a series of essays on New Environmentalism and the business response to environmental threats. Over the next few weeks, BusinessGreen Plus will host exclusive essays from EU Climate Change Capital's James Cameron, Carbon Tracker's James Leaton and the Carbon Trust's James Smith. To prove you do not have to have to be called James to qualify, we've also got contributions from the CBI's Rhian Kelly and Lib Dem MEP Fiona Hall, while a number of other high-profile figures are also working on their contributions. The series kicks off today with EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik's excellent essay on the case for a more energy and resource-efficient economy.
The essays will cover everything from the carbon bubble to resource risks, clean tech innovation to the green policy landscape, and green liberalism to green business leadership. As with any essay collection, no one will agree with every word, but each contribution will aim to explore how growing numbers of businesses are leading a pragmatic and progressive response to environmental challenges, regardless of what the pollutocrat commentariat would have you believe.
At the end of the summer we'll bring the contributions together in a collection that we will make available to all our readers. I hope you enjoy the essays and if you have any comments or ideas on who we should have join the collection please get in touch.
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