As you may have gathered from previous posts on sustainability and design thinking I am, by nature, an essential optimist.
That said, I never held out a great deal of hope for Copenhagen. It all seemed destined to play out like the prisoner’s dilemma, and so it has – narrow self-interest drawing leaders away from binding agreements, even though the rewards are infinitely greater if we all collaborate.
But, you know what? I’m not down about it. Indeed, in some respects I think Copenhagen has done us a huge favour.
To borrow from Johann Hari’s fantastic editorial in yesterday’s Independent, it’s simply thrown into sharp relief the fallacy that we need politicians as some supranational group of mummies and daddies legislating for our safety.
They had the irrefutable evidence in front of them and still they couldn’t agree. As a result, the message is now loud and clear – if you believe something has to be done about climate change, don’t bother waiting for politicians. It’s up to us now to do what we already know needs to be done.
In any event, change, in the order of magnitude required, is never going to be achieved by beating recalcitrant CEOs over the head with a big regulatory stick. It will only be achieved when they recognise that it’s in their own commercial interest; that sustainability-led innovation and transformation actually provides a better route to bigger profits.
In that sense, whether politicians reach agreement or not is largely an irrelevance. What matters is business leaders getting their heads round the business value of sustainability, and that’s an entirely independent process.