COP26 & Politics – Sort It Now Or Pay A Bigger Price?

Dr. Iain MacRitchie

How do we make change happen when it is clearly needed? How do we break today’s habits when we know they are escalating the costs and risks for tomorrow?

Will truth and honesty win the day or be drowned out by drama and provocation? Drama is prevailing and with it, inevitably, comes the two extreme sides of any argument, and their trolls. Soundbite over substance. The reality gets muddied, and the silent majority get quieter. The risk increases when a loud minority changes the rules for the majority. At some point common sense must overcome and balanced decisions return.

Let me call out three truths to start a process of creating honesty as the cornerstone of progress.

Firstly, let’s make this newsworthy in a business context. There is an industry of professionals creating glossy business plans and financial forecasts, the majority of which will not happen. Businesses don’t grow in straight lines, but banks won’t fund business plans that don’t. Handling the troughs created by competition, actual demand, and performance dictates success. Handling failure can add hugely to capabilities and resilience, in individuals, teams and organisations. Having come through failure is a badge of honour.

Secondly, are politicians and policy makers focused on change beyond their elected terms of office? We know fundamental change is unlikely to happen within them. Like the climate change debate, we have seen behaviours about the now of vested interest despite the future risk and damage that they may cause. Neither developed nor developing worlds can claim the high ground. Let’s be honest on how long things take but commit to the series of steps required that will bridge the now to a sustainable future, in the time we have.

Instead of accepting 5-year political manifestos and the illusions of change that they create, let's demand 10 years as the minimum. Outcomes sought, the plan and steps to be taken. Create simple but independent effectiveness reviews to avoid the spin from all sides on impact. Independence brings accountability. We vote for who is delivering. Facts, not opinion or whipped up emotion. Our constitutions are sound; it is just our system of politics that isn’t.

Thirdly let’s get above the constant sleaze headlines and as the norm have confirmation of how and who every decision benefits, now and in the future. A simple declaration. Commit to combine economic and social policies and ensure they become two sides of the same coin. Those who gain disproportionately economically, simply balance out with their social contribution. In a post COVID world it makes absolute financial and social sense. As with MCR Pathways school mentoring, there are ways to ensure young people are defined by their potential and not their postcode; whilst at the same time benefit mentors and their employers to perhaps an even greater extent.

Climate change is calling out the reality of our systems of government, institutional vested interest and where our energies are focused, and what the media fuels.

The system we have dictates that now matters much more than tomorrow. However, we can use COP 26 to persuade closed mindsets and call out the short-term only approaches. We can accept the need for economic growth now but deal with the medium term need for change. Accept that we continue to extract fossil fuels, but their days must be precisely numbered. It isn’t easy and we will make mistakes.

There is hope and COP26 can be a catalyst. The same applies to the levelling up agenda, care system reviews and all other fundamental initiatives that traditionally get bogged down by bureaucracy and intransigence. Accepting poverty is inevitable and denying people the opportunity based on their postcode, is the same as denying climate change. Homelessness and all forms of social disadvantage is a ridiculous reality when we have so much.

Did COP26 fail to avert 1.5 degrees? The numbers say it did but maybe the failure was the tipping point. The best thing to happen is to show us what not to do the next time, and the power of truth and honesty.

About the Author:

Dr. Iain MacRitchie
Founder & Chair
MCR Pathways
Visiting Professor at University of Strathclyde

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