The Time is Now

Christiana Figueres, Former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, reflects about entering the most critical decade of human existence.

by Christiana Figueres, July 15, 2020

Header: Charles Deluvio via Unsplash.

When it comes to climate change, the science is done. The politics is done. There will be ongoing questioning; there will be other crises to handle; there will be scrutiny of plans; there will be legal setbacks – that is all to be expected in the course of the greatest transformation of our time. 

As we prepare to beat climate change, what has yet to be ‘done’ is a culture of climate optimism; the belief that the world will be better, the confidence that we can make it, the recognition that the action required is urgent, exciting, necessary and full of opportunity. Culture is just as important as science and politics, but neither scientists nor politicians are in a strong position to define it. Scientific reports and political manifestos set out the long-term direction, not the motivation and excitement we need here and now. 

The Mirrors or Movers II: The Superpower of Media is a progress update and a call to arms for media companies. Focusing on what we call the ‘brainprint’, the report is concerned with media’s superpower: the ability to shift hearts and minds, and the enormous social, political and environmental change this can create.

You can access it by clicking on the picture or here.

The media sector – in all its glorious forms and formats – has a proud history of tackling society’s darkest moments head on; slavery, suffrage and civil rights to name just a few. What if we could use the inherent cultural power of media content to solve the defining challenge of our time? 

The 2015 Paris climate agreement represents the integrity of human spirit. Despite its ambitious goal of reaching a global economy of net zero emissions by 2050, we are currently witnessing a gap between current efforts and actual requirements: between our greenhouse gas emissions and the planet’s tolerance for those emissions. Politicians and climate scientists alike refer to this as the emissions gap. 

I prefer to think of it as a culture gap. A gap between what we are doing, and what is possible and in fact necessary, on the other. No industry is better positioned to close this gap than the media sector. 

Even as we place absolutely vital energies into handling another crisis – a public health emergency that threatens millions of lives across the globe – we must not lose momentum on the climate emergency, which also threatens a vast swathe of humanity. The response to Covid-19 surely demonstrates the ability people have to come together in times of need; we must continue to apply this energy to our ongoing battle for our environment. 

Mirrors or Movers II is a status report and a call to arms. It shows what media companies have done and can further do to utilise their unique influence in a way that benefits society as well as shareholders. Together, we can inspire more enlightened behaviours, amplify the stories that need to be told, question business as usual, campaign for change and, finally, normalise sustainable living. 

We are entering the most critical decade of human existence. By the end of the ‘20s we will have largely decided the quality of life on this planet for centuries to come. There has never been a more urgent need for the superpower of media companies. The time to use it is now. 

About Christiana Figueres 

Founding Partner, Global Optimism and Former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2010-2016).