The Front Page
The economic realities of this decade have succeeded in planting protective sentiments across large populations globally. Such sentiments, fueled by limited public resources struggling to cope with competing priorities, gave birth to a populist political agenda worldwide. While this agenda may have led to some favorable domestic policies in the interest of parts of the citizenry, it had a major impact on some of the larger, in terms of sheer scale, global challenges such as climate change.
Having said that, move beyond the 140 characters and one can still find plenty of reasons to be hopeful.
Most recent polls show that the number of naysayers who do not believe in a man-made change in climate has consistently gone down over the years. At the same time, while exploring the possibilities, in terms of technological innovation, is an ongoing work, a number of other pieces of the climate puzzle are not entirely unknown.
The key principles of a successful transition to a low carbon economy will include technology that is accessible, risk-bearing that is affordable and an implementation model that is scalable. The pace of this transition will be guided by the effectiveness of the public and private sector actors operating within the constraints of their respective economic, social and political realities.
The Crystal Ball
It’s never easy to look into the crystal ball. However, given the recent developments in infrastructure, communications and technology, it seems safe to foresee the defining roles the following forces will play in the near future.
Digitization: Over the past decade, the world has been digitized at a mind boggling pace. The good and the bad news is that nothing stays local for too long. With the power of advance computing in the hands of a single person, a diverse range of data and ideas flow at lightning speeds. This improved connectivity enhances collaboration and partnerships that have considerably reduced the time it takes to bring ideas to reality (or not). Furthermore, smart analytics are increasingly acting as a catalyst to drive productivity and reduce costs.
Globalization: Barring aberrations such as the 2008 economic crisis, there has been an increasing trend in international trade over the last half century. With the diminishing concept of physical boundaries, the world has become smaller and smaller. Though not bereft of its own set of complexities, movements of people, financial resources and technology today are much simpler than they were last century, thanks in large part to faster means of commuting as well as communicating.
Local leadership: Empowered by the digitization and globalization of the modern world, individuals at the community level are equipped to bring about change, putting them in positions of leadership like never before. Local action is no longer dependent on the traditional actors, national or global, to initiate the most appropriate course to climate action.
It’s not that these developments are not fraught with challenges. The rate of digitization is outpacing the ability of humans to comprehend and exploit its true potential. Multiple barriers, such as lack of adequate levels of transparency and predictability, among others, continue to hinder global trade. And while the common man now has the tools to act, there is inadequate capacity and limited awareness to use the new found voice effectively.
Concerted effort by the global community, traditional as well as non-traditional actors, is required to address all challenges. However, if harnessed efficiently, these three forces together are capable of making a significant dent in the barriers of accessibility, affordability and scalability of climate-smart technologies, and facilitate a speedier transition to a low carbon economy.
Until then, whatever the realities of today, we must keep focus and carry on.
We don’t need a crystal ball to tell us that.