This time last year, we wrote a piece on the 2022 Earthshot Prize. Intended to bring together some of the most innovative minds and technologies in the sustainability sector, the prize was introduced by Prince William and David Attenborough with a view to transforming the conversation on climate change – replacing the bad news with promising stories of revival, rejuvenation, and hope.
There’s nothing more quintessentially British than rolling green fields, dry stone walls, single-track lanes that wind up hills like coiled snakes, and sheep dotting the green with puffs of white. Farmland has been a prominent feature in this country since around 4,000BC and, besides the odd telephone pole, passing combine harvester or high-vis jacket, very little has changed.
The UK needs to embrace renewable energy at scale if it’s going to meet any of its targets for reduced carbon emissions or carbon neutrality. That much cannot be argued. While homes supplied by private systems or companies fuelled by commercial solar installations are leading the way and demonstrating quite how feasible it is to divorce ourselves from unsustainable energy, it is unrealistic to think that, between now and 2050, every home and building across the UK will be supplied in the same way.
There are many different ways for a business to become greener, but there are also many different ways for a business to make itself appear greener without ever putting in that investment of time, money, or moral energy to make any genuine, meaningful impact on the world.
Every industry will feel the effects of the climate crisis in one way or another. Even those who feel far removed from the most obvious hazards – volatile weather, for instance, or the delays and shortages caused by disrupted transportation routes – will be impacted either financially or operationally by global warming.
There was once a time, not too long ago, when most of us could embrace a seasonal spell of hot weather. A summer of high temperatures, low rainfall – a few rumbles of thunder every now and again – and maybe even a drought warning didn’t feel out of place. Sooner or later, September would set in, the temperatures beginning to slump back down again, and the world would counterbalance a few months of bright sunshine with a few months of rain, snow, and frost.
It’s no secret that climate change is having an extreme impact on some of the most vulnerable parts of the world. There are areas where the opportunity for relief and aid are often few and far between, where fundamental resources – clean water, food, shelter and medical help – are hampered by lack of access, conflict, or insufficient funding, and where the economy simply isn’t equipped to recover from a profound loss of infrastructure.
It takes a lot of money to create change. That’s the reason most of us are relatively powerless against the biggest crises and issues the world is facing, and the unfortunate explanation behind the slow uptake we’ve seen from governments based around the world.
For those in possession of the largest cash reserves, any real sense of commitment to sustainability has, so far, proven relatively elusive. Something to be delayed. There’s no denying the fact that boosting even a single nation’s sustainable infrastructure – wind farms, commercial solar installations, better public transport, regenerative farming – comes at a mammoth cost, but, however daunting, the prospect still pales in comparison with the risk of allowing the climate crisis to spiral further out of hand.
On Friday 19th May, the Guardian reported on the climate crisis that is currently unfolding in Somalia. History has made the country no stranger to flooding, but nothing like this. Torrential rains in the highland have caused flash flooding at an unprecedented level. In just one week, 250,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes – homes that will, in some cases, be destroyed by the deluge.