Yes we Cancun – why the new climate deal is something to celebrate (really)

Sometimes, most of the time, the environmental movement do themselves no favours. So successfully have they convinced the world that climate change is a huge, intractable problem that when progress is achieved, they are the first to criticise it and write it off. It’s a travesty. When the  need for a calm, rational debate is greater than ever, even the goodies are shrieking from the rooftops.

The deal struck yesterday was not the deal that will solve the climate crisis. The Cancun Accord is weak, un-ambitious and flawed.  It will still see global temperatures rise by over 3% causing destruction and loss of life. The world is still going to hell in a hand cart, we’ve just taken out some shopping.

So why am I optimistic?

Because as my dad is so fond of saying, the best is the enemy of the good. This deal is far from perfect, but it is progress, a platform onto which a more ambitious plan can be built. As any adman will tell you, you have to start where people are, not where you want them to be. Just look at smoking.

20 years ago, if you’d asked your average pub goer whether or not they should be allowed to smoke in pubs, you’d have been laughed out the door. The councillors of San Luis Obispo, California, however felt differently. They reasoned that actually, the rights of passive smokers where being infringed by public smoking. When someone smokes everyone does, and that’s unfair.

In 1990, this tiny hippie town on the west coast of the United States, became the first town ever to ban smoking in all public places.  So simple and brilliant was this idea that, despite bitter and well-funded opposition from pro-smoking lobbyists, public smoking bans have spread, literally, like wildfire. 41% of all Americans now live in places where they cannot smoke in restaurants and bars and 71% cannot smoke where they work. There are smoking bans in most of Europe, Australia and South America. In many counties you cannot smoke on beaches, in doorways or parks. When an idea’s time has come, it spreads.

This, fundamentally, is why I’m so optimistic about fighting climate change. This accord sends a signal to businesses, countries and individuals that the road to a carbon-free future starts now. Realising the price of pollution will only go one way (albeit slowly), companies finally have an incentive and framework under which they can innovate towards a cleaner future. Just as Moore’s law states that computing power doubles every 2 years, so too will new greener technology become better, quicker.

We might, just, get out of this alive.

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