Opinion Piece

A language of action and urgency needed to propel us forward

Author: Mark Cooper, Head of Global Communications, BayWa r.e.

Today marks the launch of BayWa r.e.’s new “Decade That Matters” report, a deep dive into online conversations over the past 10 years that highlights how our attitudes to the environment have shifted and where we sit now, in the decade that matters.

The first of its kind, the global report has been formed through the curation and analysis of 10-year trends across different channels and mediums including social media, news and blogging platforms. The report has analysed 1.3 trillion data points.

History tells us the instrumental impact language has on action; how we talk about an issue so often becomes how we tackle it. That’s why I believe the step-change we see in lexicon from climate ‘change’ to climate ‘crisis’ provides us not only with a telling reflection of the state our planet is in, but also of our collective intentions. And that’s to say nothing of the staggering increase in volume and intensity around the subject of climate change over the past ten years.

But what happens when a global pandemic arrives on the scene? 

Covid-19’s early days gave us anecdotal glimmers of one crisis directly affecting another – fewer planes in the sky, fewer cars on the road and wildlife thriving. We also saw other, more pragmatic, stances on the two topics’ intersection centered around the biodiversity protection needed to prevent future pandemics, appearing in the media with promising regularity.

Ultimately, however, in the face of Covid-19 the volume of discussions around both the climate and renewable energy solutions has decreased. Instead, the conversation online has focused on more immediate concerns, with social media playing a significant role in bringing people together, sharing stories, and giving each other hope. Also, and understandably, a massive part of the conversation has focused on the devastating economic and socio-economic impact of the pandemic – a topic that has eclipsed all others. 

And it is on that topic where the future of the climate conversation, and averting catastrophic climate change, now stands – and, somewhat ironically, is where we find inspiration. 

A way forward 

While the sheer volume of conversations on the climate crisis may have decreased, it is the ‘quality’ of the conversations that have been taking place where we find some hope. ‘Green Deals’, ‘New Green Deals’ and, as first coined by the United Nations, a growing chorus to ‘Build Back Better’ – a recognition that the only possible future is a green future, and that the trillions of euros and dollars being ploughed into economies must support a green recovery. 

We are starting to recognise the true fragility of the world we live in. And we are starting to see a clear choice emerge: we can look at Covid-19 as a more pressing matter than the environment, or we can see it as a catalyst to propel the green energy transition forward at the pace needed.  

And it is pace that is key. Whatever aspect of the renewable transition we look at, the pace of change is nowhere near fast enough if we are to end this decade on course to keep global temperature rises within 1.5 °C.   

In July 2020, Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency and one of the world’s foremost energy experts, put the world’s window in which to change the course of the climate crisis and prevent a post-lockdown rebound in greenhouse gas emissions that would overwhelm efforts to stave off climate catastrophe, at just six months. 

There is no doubt we are in the decade that matters, and that there is a growing impetus around our need to take the opportunity in front of us and propel the green transition forward. This sense of urgency and opportunity needs to be amplified a thousandfold by the global online conversation.  We are seeing the language of that conversation becoming increasingly action-focused, driving toward an emotional and economic global green recovery, and in that we can take heart. But we mustn’t let those conversations drop for a second.

Read the full report here

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