Politicians seem to have drifted away from principled leadership to managerialism, focused on small, almost cosmetic fixes to a system that many feel has let them down.
This is great line from the author and activist Iyad El-Baghdadi. It’s intended as a description of one of the key failures of contemporary politics but is particularly apt as a description of the responses of many national governments to climate change and environmental issues more broadly.
So often climate change is framed as a threat to which requires simple technocratic responses, for instance reshaping the market through incentives and regulation or reducing energy use through energy efficiency measures. These are important no doubt but considering the scale of the response needed to tackle climate change what’s lacking is a unifying vision for national , even global efforts. Fighting climate change will require not just technological and economic solutions but political and democratic ones that unify and galvanise public opinion behind climate action. This is where vision and clear plans are so important but still so lacking.
El-Baghdadi argues that a large part of the problem of resurgent authoritarian nationalism around the world today and the public dissatisfaction fueling it can be traced to the “lack of a plan” amongst our leaders which results in a tendency to simply leave the system to run on “bureaucratic auto-pilot”. This seems eminently true in the case of climate change where the complexity of the problem and the power of oppositional vested interests like fossil fuel companies shows up in the lack of a consistent and strong plan for dealing with it. Tackling climate change can not simply be left to the market. Action must be galvanised with strong national and global visions and plans like the Paris Agreement to cap the increase in average global temperatures to 2C. And a vision for tackling climate change should focus on solutions in order to encourage public support for action and may even benefit from framing renewable energy as a patriotic project or cause. Most importantly people need to be convinced that they will benefit from this vision whether through jobs, cheap, clean energy or leaving a livable world for their kids.
The lack of a plan to deal with climate change leaves a space for opposition and invites costly delay. A plan and a vision, particularly for national governments will complement necessary technocratic solutions and strengthen public support for creating a clean energy future and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.
Photo at top: Department of Energy Solar Decathalon on Flickr