This post is by Tracy Wyman, a director in Deloitte’s WorldClimate Team. This article was first posted on LinkedIn and reflects her personal opinion.
For people with generalised anxiety, like me and perhaps certain older members of my family (though they called it ‘worry’ back then), the world is a maze of hazards to be planned for and conquered. A trip to the beach is not a jolly for us, it’s a battle to ensure all involved are suitably hatted, sun-creamed, nourished and hydrated, and most importantly that all survive the deadly sea, which has been known to swallow whole families unexpectedly (see ‘sleeper waves’, this is a real thing in California, probably more common than they let on). Luckily for the rest of you, we have you covered. We may look peaceful on our towel, book in hand, but our eyes are on the water, ready to raise the alarm at the slightest sign of sea shenanigans. This is not fun for us, but it’s who we are.
We worriers are everyone’s mum
You may not know us as ‘my anxious friend’, but you appreciate that we plan for every eventuality, with back-ups for our back-ups. You know we’ll have masks and hand cream and water and snacks, charging cables, and cash, whatever the circumstance demands. Expecting disaster makes us reliable. We worriers are everyone’s mum.
That was before we found out about climate change. Now we are everyone’s mum and that annoying git who keeps telling everyone to go vegan and get solar panels and move to the Outer Hebrides and WAKE. UP. and vote for leaders who will do something. Our anxiety is now shared with an unenviable sub-set of the population who suffer from ‘climate anxiety’, a prescient understanding of the dire state we’re in, punctuated by panic attacks, swaddled in feelings of despair and utter helplessness.
We, the permanently anxious, alongside our newly climate anxious brethren and the world’s scientists, have watched the rest of the world in stunned disbelief as many of you go about your lives as if Everything. Is. Absolutely. Fine.
Because it’s hot. It’s really hot, and I’m glad.
I’m glad, because floods and fires and droughts and hurricanes, which are arguably more interesting and certainly more dramatic (though less deadly) than a bit of a hot spell, can be shrugged off, despite the devastation they cause. But now no one can sleep and it’s too hot to be outside, and we aren’t even supposed to go to the beach (which is ill-advised anyway now all the anxious wave-watchers are staying home). It’s hot and getting hotter, and we don’t like it and I’m glad. Because all the anxiety-ridden soothsayers and scientists in the world can’t do a damn thing more than we’re already doing to draw attention to the future that awaits us.
You are more powerful than you know
We have already given up meat, installed solar panels, and searched for property in the farthest reaches of Scotland (though we will never actually live there). As practically professional worriers, our core competency works against us when we try to influence others. We have worried so much for so long, we are dismissed like ‘the boy who cried wolf’. But you, you carefree people who blithely trot off to the beach because it’s fun and go out into the world recklessly unprepared, with neither tissues nor sewing kit, you are more powerful than you know.
The scientific community tells us we must halve global emissions and stop destroying nature by the end of this decade (yes, only eight years), and get to net zero emissions and nature covering 40 per cent of our planet by 2050 to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. That will reverse global warming and prevent the worst effects of climate change.
The problem is the lack of political will and investment
That’s a big mandate, but it’s achievable. We have the solutions; we must now deploy them at scale. Most countries and many companies have now made net zero commitments, and you’d think that would be enough. But the problem is lack of political will and insufficient demand from companies’ stakeholders to justify investment. The plans are not being implemented quickly enough because politicians have competing priorities like the cost of living crisis, and company bosses must show investments in net zero plans won’t harm the bottom line. Bold leadership is needed.
This is where you come in and use your power. Support political parties that prioritise net zero and the transition to a green economy. Ask your representative how green skills and green jobs are being promoted in your region. Ask your local council about sustainability initiatives where you live and get involved if you can. Vote with your purse by supporting green companies and buying fewer, better quality non-consumables.
For more direct impact, leverage your talent. Ask if your employer is committed to science based targets and if they’re on track to meet them. Ask yourself if your employer is doing enough to address the climate and biodiversity crises. Take a critical look at how you spend your days and assess whether your time and energy are contributing to fixing things or making them worse. Demand from talent is a major motivator of corporate investment, and you can choose where you invest your time.
If you have authority, use it
Finally, if you’re in a position of authority, use it. My team has spent the last six months working with Green Alliance to identify the most compelling opportunities for Deloitte North and South Europe to accelerate solutions for climate and nature, alongside our clients and partners. We’ve identified priority themes: sustainable food systems, sustainable transport and mobility, circular materials and built environment, renewable energy, natural capital, sustainable cities and green skills, and specific opportunities within each of them. Over the coming months we’ll be working with our colleagues and clients to create coalitions for change.
If you’re in a position of authority, ask yourself “what’s the most my team and my organisation can do?”, and turn your energies, resources and relationships towards doing those things.
Transforming our world to become net zero and nature positive is possible, but it’s also an all hands on deck job, and we need you. Bring your brain, your heart and your best ideas. I’ll bring the sun cream.
Deloitte’s WorldClimate Team has been working with Green Alliance on the Gamechangers project to identify the best opportunities for the professional services sector to contribute to the transition to a net zero, nature positive world.