Let’s adjust our climate change lense to our regional infrastructure in Ostwestfalen-Lippe: A region of two million people living in an area covering 6.500 square kilometers. That’s 315 people per square kilometer. Singapore, in comparison, has a population density of 7.000 people per square kilometer.
This means that we are incomparably lucky to be surrounded by so much nature. And yet, despite that luck, we still can see the consequences of the global climate change – or maybe because of it? Being personally aware of the devastating consequences of climate change is not enough and gives rise to the desire that all of society should start to focus on the problem.
The recent positive medial reception of the Federal Constitutional Court’s (Bundesverfassungsgericht) decision to declare the Climate Act of 2019 unconstitutional is proof that the focus is already shifting. The reason for the Court’s decision: The measures described in the Act will result in signifcantly lower emissions only some time after 2030 – which means that the terms of the Paris Accords cannot be met that way.
DECISIVE ACTION FOR TRANSFORMATION
It is slowly dawning on everyone: What is needed is a process of transformation carried out decisively. When we consider our current situation, the scope of the changes necessary becomes visible: The pandemic led to a drastic decrease of economic activity and public life. The result? A reduction of emissions by 5%.
If we would reduce emissions that way every year, we would be well on our way to met the Accords. Unfortunately, we can’t. If we put the decrease caused by the pandemic into proportion to the perceived changes and restrictions, we are forced to conclude that reaching net zero emissions is going to be everything but easy.
More precisely: We will have to create transformation to an extent we have never experienced before.
AN INNOVATIVE ECOSYSTEM
The region of OWL has always been strongly by shaped by its engineering firms; by other industries as well – textiles, construction, furniture, and food. Nowadays, the presence of so many branches of industry gives rise to many opportunites for innovative concepts and solutions that help create a more sustainable future. Remember the interest in the Constitutional Court’s decision: We can see that the demand for climate-neutral goods and services is rising. Protecting the environment, fighting climate change is becoming more important to consumers.
Answering that call by providing suitable products should both motivate and inspire companies. Those who shift their focus now will be ready later for all future challenges. The cooperation between different economic ecosystems is playing an important role. Driven by an open culture of innovation and fueled by the alacrity of “green” startups, new ideas can be decisively and pragmatically promoted and implemented.
STARTUPS ARE KEY
Startups have a dual role. On the one hand, they must be the seed of innovation and progress. They must develop technologies and new business models with high speed, be able to profoundly assess complexities, and be open for fast-paced changes in highly agile situations. On the other hand, they themselves must become sustainable companies. This starts with a cafeteria that serves sustainable, vegatarian food and ends with implementing a circular economy and the complete decarbonization of their value chain. They especially must subscribe to a net zero policy.
REQUIRED: A FIRM GRASP AND DECISIVE ACTION
In face of the large numbers, the time that is wasting, and the massive progress required on so many levels, it’s not easy to look optimistically into the future. In his book Factfulness, the late Hans Rosling, professor for international health, provides us with inspiration how to change our perspective:
“If our worldview is based on facts, we will see that the world is not as bad as it seems – and we can see what we have to do to improve it.”
Consequently, we need a fact-based perspective on climate change. Old KPIs, like the GDP as an indicator for wealth, must be questioned critically. We require a deep, data-driven understanding of the complex interactions that govern our planet. With that understanding, we can use existing and new solutions as well as new innovations with great precision. Dear startups, this is your cue. Go to work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sebastian Fischer is the Founders Foundation’s Climate Officer. He is fascinated by big visions and has a sixth sense for how to address climate change; that’s how he helps push the topics #sustainability and #innovation forward. He is responsible for keeping the Founders Foundation on track concerning our own climate goals and he advises founders on how to act sustainably. Thanks to his background in consulting, he has all the management and technical skills he needs.