I’m sure many of us have been listening to the reports from Glasgow with hope and scepticism. The promises, goals and rhetoric are great but we know action is much more difficult to deliver the changes needed to address a green and just future.
One of the best speeches at COP26 was by past president of the US, Barak Obama (November 9th). Among a number of truths and encouragements he said, “We can’t afford hopelessness. Instead, we are going to have to muster the will and the passion and the activism of citizens, pushing governments, companies, and everyone else to meet this challenge.”
He pointed to the basic need for citizen political pressure, to address a range of requirements for a green and just future. However, even his encouragement is tame considering the urgency and challenges facing us.
It seems to me, we need a courageous, collective and coordinated strategy to build back better if humanity is going to survive. And this strategy has to come from civil society as governments and industry are incapable of leadership.
Civil society activists – environmentalists, union organizers, social justice advocates, Indigenous leaders, youth groups and many more – are well placed to play a leadership role for action. Not only can we ‘push governments’ as is being done now, but we can and must ‘pull governments’ with leadership.
Essentially NGOs represent the broad public, the citizenry, who must have a formative role in building back better. While governments can and should participate in a strategy and implementation, they are partisan and limited to short electoral cycles. No government policies or international agreements on the environment are going to reduce fossil fuel conception without the political and practical support of citizens.
Collaboration among NGOs will also lead to more effective partnering with government, business, corporations and industry, all required to be engaged in a green and just future. Building back better will require finance, resources and technology from those with the existing power to change the structure of our economy, the foundation of a positive future. However, government policies and programs can only succeed if citizens change lifestyles, values and material expectations.
A strong non-partisan coalition will have the credibility and capacity to mobilize public action to reduce energy consumption and waste of natural resources. Public and non-governmental implementation can be more responsive, to mobilize consumers and communities of interest, to act broadly and urgently.
For this to happen, every one of us has a responsibility to both push and pull our organizations, in our communities and in our lives, to take action towards a green and just future.