As global climate change protests become more common, there is increasing pressure on Governments to declare a “climate emergency”. There’s no accepted definition of what this means, or what happens once one is declared. It may prove to be little more than an empty political gesture for some, a clear signal things will change for others.
Were a Climate Emergency declared, it’s likely to be followed soon after with a swathe of regulatory changes designed to tackle imbalances in the economy. That means business will have to act, potentially quickly. Potentially to poorly thought through, but headline grabbing, regulations.
A war on carbon and plastic pollution
Carbon and plastic pollution are high on the agenda for the climate activists. While governments may speed up schemes to replace fossil fuel generation with renewables, it’s business that’s best placed to tackle plastic. Replacing non-recyclable plastics in packaging will inevitably be the starting point, building on work already taking place and forcing it along at pace.
Herein lies the problem. A sudden shock to the economy could prove problematic. It takes time to reconfigure supply chains and build up carbon neutral capabilities. Contracts may have to be renegotiated, production lines reconfigured, even entirely new facilities built. There doesn’t appear to be enough global capacity to recycle plastic, so forcing companies to change behaviours without a supporting infrastructure is a recipe for disaster. The previous rush to recycle led to countries drowning in plastic and illegal waste finding its way into the food chain.
We must take (more) action
Climate change is no doubt the biggest threat facing the human race and urgent action is needed. Every business has a responsibility to reduce the impact of its activity on the environment. Some are taking this on willingly. Others need prodding with a big stick.
Sadly, the way the debate is shaping up at the moment a Climate Emergency might prove to be more of a political wet sponge.
Image courtesy of Matt Brown on Flickr & used under Creative Commons