Action now! – But what is our driving power? By Jan-Oliver Distler

Hello everyone,

Still being highly inspired by the opportunity we have been given tonight, at the end of day two at the council meeting of the WBCSD, to watch the new documentary of Luc Jacquet ‘Ice and the sky’ about the work of Claude Lorius, I will write a few words about the thoughts that had been buzzing in my head today. (Claude Lorius was the first scientist to be concerned about climate change and was only twenty-three years old when he went on his first Antarctic expedition. I am twenty-two years old.)

Parts of our preparation for this trip to the council meeting of the WBCSD involved researching Climate Change itself. I found it particular interesting to gain a greater insight into cases where Climate Change is actually having a devastating impact on the lives of people today. For me, that is one of the main motivations and driving powers to act on this issue immediately. It is about the people that are living in this world right now and about enabling the future generations to enjoy the resources and possibilities of this planet as we do. It is about preventing extreme weather events, that often hit the very poorest on this planet and it is about ensuring people do not have to flee their homes, because they don’t have access to water and food due to rising temperatures. Sustainability for me is about humanity, justice and selflessness in an universal sense.

It might not be surprising when I get a little frustrated and uncomfortable, yes even upset, when I reflect the last two days mainly hearing that we have to act on climate change, because it is creating new business opportunities and new markets for organisations. Don’t get me wrong, I do realise I am currently attending the World BUSINESS Council for Sustainable Development, I do understand what is meant by this argument and why it has its eligibility, however I ask myself: Would businesses not act on climate change if it would not create these new opportunities and more growth? There are several environmental and sustainability researchers that argue, that exactly these new business opportunities and markets, even our whole economic system that depends on growth, are the main limitations to this solution.

However, let’s look at it from a different point of view. Today I overheard the question: ‘Why would a company invest in a green bond, if there is no financial benefit from doing so?’ As a business student myself, I don’t feel like I can answer this question in a truly satisfying way. Of course I could answer it for myself, still I feel that it is not the answer that functions in a free economic system, that we live in and that we owe a lot. I believe that acting on climate change does need large investments, it does need strong leadership by the business sector and it does need new technologies.

I really hope it is true that all these actions will create more qualitative growth and new market opportunities in order to actually achieve the vision of people living on our planet within its natural boundaries. However should we realize that economic growth is actually part of the problem, I would like to believe we would act anyway. For the sake of humanity and the passion that I share with Claude Lorius about the planet we live on.


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