Letting go is the hardest part of Sustainability
SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon is an shrewd political operator, and in recent election TV debates she has managed to skilfully dodge one crucial question. Twice I’ve seen her argue that there is no point closing down Scotland’s offshore oil and gas fields immediately as it would lead to imports of oil and gas with a higher embedded carbon. That’s true on one level, but it hides the fact that oil and gas revenues formed a substantial part of the SNP’s economic case for Scottish Independence at the 2014 Referendum.
Likewise when Democratic members of the US Congress turned up at the COP25 climate meeting in Madrid to show that much of the US was still committed to tackling climate change even if the President wasn’t, they recoiled visibly when a Channel 4 News journalist asked them whether they would cut fossil fuel subsidies. A kind of climate St Augustine – “make me zero carbon, but not yet!”
Where politicians do propose limiting certain behaviours, the backlash can be visceral. Back in the UK election, both the Lib Dems’ proposals for a frequent flyer tax and Labour’s pledge to divert road building budget into cycle schemes were met with highly aggressive questioning over the supposed economic impact.
I’ve often said that the litmus test on commitment to Sustainability is not what you start doing as what you stop doing. The very best at Corporate Sustainability revel in creative destruction – announcing the end of problematic products and materials and challenging themselves to find something that functions just as well but in a planet friendly way. Embrace the axe!