Climate Leadership Means Better Change Management
Copenhagen was not a failure to manage climate, it was a failure to manage change. ‘Green’ politicians and the green movement had got ahead of themselves and their communities. Global leaders failed to anticipate or cope with the complexity of the international change required. In Australia the Government failed to manage the required community change. These messages could be reinforced by promoting real and practical solutions (like those featured in the abc carbon express!).Because change is all about people, the best illustrations will always be personal stories. This from Richard and Joan Cassels of Climate Leadership. Read More
After Copenhagen: the case for resolve.
By Richard and Joan Cassels, Climate Leadership. 11 March 2010.
The Copenhagen Climate Conference has been widely portrayed as a “failure”. Accordingly the political landscape of environmental politics in Australia changed overnight. Before the conference, leaders spoke of great challenges for humanity. After the conference, Kevin Rudd hardly mentioned climate change. China, although unequivocally accepting the reality of global warming and its human causes, undid possible consensus by refusing to accept limits to its growth. It seemed to be back to square one, with everyone looking after themselves.
An article in the Queensland Courier Mail claimed jubilantly that, “once again, coal is king”. Some climate change deniers claimed vindication. It was a sign of the times when a well-respected scientist could be labelled “un-objective” because he was an ‘environmentalist’. Climate-fatigue set in among the media and the public. The zeitgeist had changed.
All this was despite the reality of what actually happened in Copenhagen. The case for human induced global warming was actually strengthened by the latest studies and never seriously questioned by any of the players. International agreement was obtained on the need to limit warming to no more than 2oC, with an ideal target of 1.5oC. More countries were involved than ever before. Good progress was made on R.E.D.D. (avoided deforestation) and a real cash commitment was made to help poor countries adapt. This was all achieved despite the unrealistic expectations and the cumbersome consensus formula of the conference; and despite the history and depth of the problems underlying human induced climate change- international inequity, over-population and over-consumption.
Copenhagen was not a failure to manage climate, it was a failure to manage change. ‘Green’ politicians and the green movement had got ahead of themselves and their communities. Global leaders failed to anticipate or cope with the complexity of the international change required. In Australia the Government failed to manage the required community change.
A lot is known about change management. Key principles are that people must be listened to and their fears addressed..They must be given some choices and some opportunities to control the impact of the change on them. Communications must be continuous and open. Different people react differently to change. Obstruction of change is often due to factors completely unrelated to the issue at hand. Change often involves a loss and this loss must be addressed openly. Expectations must be realistic. And, perhaps most critically, the champion of change must be resolute, and change management must be treated as a project, thought through and resourced.
In Australia, much of this did not happen. The Rudd government negotiated with the Opposition but ignored the voters. There was no comprehensive communication and change management program. The change management team seems now to have been taken off the project and diverted to other issues like health. The change champion, the Prime Minister, appears to be hesitating. These are all well known classic mistakes of an unsuccessful change management.
Communication must be much better. The concept of an emissions trading scheme is quite straightforward. “Cap, trade and transition” mean to set a limit on emissions and slowly reduce it; use, rather than fight, the profit motive; and give transition help to those most affected. We do not need to know every detail. We drive cars everyday without understanding the workings of the internal combustion engine.
The Abbott “Great Big Tax” campaign could be countered by a “Very Good Investment” campaign, with messages such as: someone will inevitably pay for climate disruption and the huge (as yet unbudgeted!) costs of adaptation, and it will be the taxpayer unless we act proactively; acting now will cost much less than acting later; the choice is not “no tax”, it is a little tax now or a lot of tax later. These messages could be reinforced by promoting real and practical solutions (like those featured in the ABC Carbon Express!).Because change is all about people, the best illustrations will always be personal stories.
The rationale for the change is not just global warming. We need to move from fossil fuels to a low carbon economy for many other reasons, not least the short and finite life of oil, coal and gas reserves, the acidification of the oceans, air pollution and the diversion of human energies, resources and innovation away from creating the long-term energy sources of the future.
It is also clear that alarming people is unproductive. The “litany of disasters” has been too much to handle and people have reacted by psychological withdrawal. A 6- metre sea level rise or a 5oC temperature rise are realistic and serious risks, but are, right now, beyond people’s coping capacity. What they want is cool-headed and determined leaders, who show the way forward and solve practical problems.
The need for a practical approach is illustrated in a recent national survey by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities in the U.S.A. (see ABC of carbon newsletter 10-2-2010) which found that, despite a sharp drop in public concern over global warming, Americans—regardless of political affiliation—support the passage of practical federal climate and energy policies.
The survey found support for the following practical measures:
• Funding more research on renewable energy, such as solar and wind power (85 percent)
• Tax rebates for people buying fuel-efficient vehicles or solar panels (82 percent)
• Establishing programs to teach Americans how to save energy (72 percent)
• Regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant (71 percent)
• School curricula to teach children about the causes, consequences and potential solutions to global warming (70 percent)
• Signing an international treaty that requires the United States to cut emissions of carbon dioxide 90 percent by the year 2050 (61 percent)
• Establishing programs to teach Americans about global warming (60 percent).
It seems very likely that attitudes in Australia will be similar.
There is no going back on ‘clean and green’, let alone on climate. The green movement, including action on climate change, is now universal and unstoppable. Green buildings, green infrastructure, sustainable enterprise, sustainable development, carbon trading, wildlife conservation, marine conservation, sustainable cities, sustainable transport, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, low-carbon technologies and environmental lawyers are all guided by the principle that we can and must act now to prevent and then reduce environmental degradation and climate disruption.
To retain credibility, the Government must see through what it started. If Kevin Rudd does not stick to his guns and become a serious change manager with a properly planned and resourced change management program for climate change, he will lose the voters’ respect and the next election. He will set back the movement for a safer, more sustainable and more equitable world by at least a decade- the decade when we actually still have time to make a real difference.