Just a few years ago, you might have been forgiven for not really keeping up to date with the climate change conversation. You might have also been forgiven for throwing used batteries away in the trash, or leaving your old-fashioned incandescent lights on over night. Not anymore.
The conversation about climate and the environment has escalated exponentially over the last five years, and with good reason, too.
There are a number of ‘points of no return’ that our environment and planet is rapidly approaching, and each and every one of us has a duty to take action.
In this article I will look at what’s changed and how clever, sometimes simple, technologies can make a big difference. I speak with one of our clients about their fun, yet provocative ClimateTech app that gets people thinking and talking about their climate impact.
There have been decades of amazing work to understand, model and forecast climate change, to raise awareness of it, to influence individual and corporate decisions, and to guide policy makers. However, it is only relatively recently that the momentum has really begun to build.
A few years ago I would have felt like a radical, or a “climate-warrior” talking to my friends, family or parents about switching lightbulbs to LEDs, or to 100% Green energy suppliers. No longer. Not only does this now feel a much more approachable conversation, but I often find these actions have already been taken.
The increased awareness and urgency comes from collective realisation of the risks as well as top-down-bottom-up alignment between all (human) stakeholders in the conversation.
From a top-down approach the last couple of years have born witness to historic, catastrophic world events and global mega-trends. These events have helped corporations, global organisations and governments appreciate the value and urgency of sustainability.
Wildfire seasons have become more prevalent, ferocious, damaging. The Australian wildfires of 2019 emitted a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide whilst ravaging millions of hectares of bushland and forest, killing billions of animals and leaving a long-term economic 1.9% scar on the country’s GDP.
This, along with the Amazon and California fires, captured the media’s attention and drove home the message that the environment is in crisis, and can impact us all. In Europe there are tens of thousands of forest fires a year, and as the weather continues to warm, more forests turn to tinderboxes.
In a previous article, I wrote about how meaningful, substantive corporate led positive climate change actions would only, or at least most likely, come through radical reforms to the financial and investment communities that financed them.
In 2020 Blackrock and Fidelity were part of a movement that was coined the “130 Trillion Dollar Mega Trend”, issuing open letters warning the CEOs of their largest investments that money might dry up if they didn’t start focusing more genuinely on their environmental, social and governance goals, also known as “ESG”.
Ironically, President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement might have done more to raise the awareness of it than any other single action. Now, the new USA administration has provided fresh backing and new homeland policies to drive green and climate focused initiatives. Additionally, there are global and government initiatives all pushing in the same direction, the Green New Deal, the UK’s new Green Bond, and the UN’s Climate change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow later this year.
“You are never to small to make a difference”- Greta Thunberg, COP24, Dec 2018
From the bottom-up, individuals are realising that every action no mater how small, can have an impact, and when they start to make these changes they become more aware of others doing the same.
In fact, in many of the conversations I have had across “TechWithPurpose” and “TechForGood” domains, most people report feeling a sense of surprise at how much good was actually going on all around them. They’ve told me that it wasn’t until they started talking with others that they realised it was ok to have the conversations, that there was more they could personally do and that there was a lot of positivity, even in the face of such an enormous challenge.
The common piece of advice I heard was to talk more about this topic. When you start sharing ideas and experiences with others, you will be amazed at how much of a difference you can make by inspiring just one or two more people to do the same.
So let me tell you about my day in Climate Court, and my ASBO sentence.
First of all, a quick definition for those lucky enough not to be aware of this particular British legal term: An ASBO, or Anti Social Behaviour Order, is a UK civil order made against a person who engaged in anti-social behaviour.
So how did I get mine? I got my Climate ASBO by taking myself to Climate Court.
Climate Court is an innovative and fun approach designed to help raise more awareness about our individual contributions to climate change, and what steps we might take to reduce our carbon footprint.
Climate Court was an idea that came to our client, Dan Pearson, which combined is passion (sustainability) with his profession (the law).
I spoke with Dan to find out how a lawyer made his way into launching a ClimateTech app.
“This all started for me a couple of years ago, when I went to see a play my daughter was in at school”, said Dan, “It was called Eddie The Penguin Saves The World. It was a fantastic, little show where Eddie penguin and his little penguin friends left Antarctica and wandered around the planet speaking to lots of different people explaining that the planet was in danger and what they could do to save it.
But it was the last line of a play that had a huge impact on me. All these five and six year olds stood on stage and asked the audience of parents a simple question: ‘What are you doing to help save the world?’ I thought about my answer and realised I didn’t have one. Despite being aware of the environmental crisis, I personally was doing nothing about it. And if I’m not doing anything, am I expecting everyone else to solve the problem? Am I waiting for the small children on stage to do something at a time where it may be too late?”
Dan wanted to leverage his experience as a lawyer, to create something that helped other people have that ‘aha’ moment about their own lives. He decided to give them a tool to start having powerful conversations with their peers, parents and employers.
“People genuinely really don't understand how their behaviours impact the environment. Especially in areas like food and clothing, they have absolutely no idea. So I thought that the best first stage was to create something that essentially is an awareness tool.
People are generally scared of courts and they do love a legal drama on TV. So I thought why not why not give people the opportunity to take someone’s sustainable behaviours to a court? It provides that little bit of drama and excitement to the conversation.”
Dan hopes that people use his app to have a bit of fun whilst starting a meaningful conversation on the environment.
When I tried the app, I might have committed a little Climate Court perjury, by being a bit too lenient on my climate actions and decisions. Even still, I didn’t walk away Scott-free, I ended up with an ASBO - which surprised me. In fact, it surprised me so much that I immediately took my wife to Climate Court, too.
Initially she was a little taken-aback about being summoned to court over breakfast, but then she got in the swing of it, and ended up with a five year climate sentence. Since then she’s been let out on good behaviour, and taken other family members to court, to see how she compares to them.
The dramatic court-based gamification works well, and Dan is hopeful that even if it inspires even just a few people to critically look at their lives and make small changes, then it will be worth it.
You can read more about our process from design and discovery through to development and launch for Climate Court here.
Greta Thunberg famously said, “You’re never too small to make a difference”, which is a powerful, inspiring statement.
Climate change is a huge challenge and we know it can sometimes seem daunting or insurmountable. But it needn’t be. If everyone takes a moment to better understand how their decisions can have an impact, makes even a small change to their behaviour, or takes just one positive step towards cutting their own carbon contributions, then collectively this ads up to a big change. Moreover, our collective decisions, habits and behaviours influence others to make a change.
So, take a moment now to better understand how your decisions impact the environment, better still involve a colleague or family member and take them to Climate Court today.
Download the Climate Court app on iOS or Android here, answer six simple questions and receive your verdict. Will you get off lightly with an ASBO, or be taken into custody with a five year or life sentence? Let us know how it turns out, and don’t worry, you won’t really end up behind bars!
Is your business passionate about sustainability? Are you working on the next ClimateTech or GreenTech revolution? We would be only too happy to help you help save the planet and all her inhabitants. Please do get in touch to see how we might be of support.