The Decade That Matters

What our climate change conversations can teach us about the next 10 years

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    TEN YEARS AGO, when BayWa r.e. was founded, we were all already keenly aware that the world had entered a state of profound change. The fact that the environment was facing previously unseen challenges was not new information to major corporations, leaders in government or individuals at home, just as it isn’t today. 

    Now, ten years on, we are at a unique point in time. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) seminal 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C highlighted the critical need to target 1.5°C if we are to avert catastrophic climate change. The UN has also warned that unless global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6% each year between 2020-30, the world will miss its last chance to get on track towards 1.5°C.     

    Yet, we have seen emissions increase by 1.5% per year over the last decade, only flattening in 2019. Driven by Covid-19, they fell by 6.4% in 2020 but the UN’s World Meteorological Organization has called any decrease resulting from Covid-19 as a ‘tiny blip’ in the rise of global emissions.     

    The UN’s ‘Emissions Gap Report 2020’ is unequivocal: we have just a small window within which to radically reduce global emissions, a window that closes around 2030. 

    The ‘Decade That Matters 2021’ report examines online climate discussions over the past 10 years and what these may tell us about where we are heading over the next 10 years. 

    As the report shows, the tone of discussions across social media was becoming more urgent as ‘climate change’ transitioned to ‘climate crisis’. Discourse turned more to the practical steps and action that could be taken. And the climate crisis became mainstream with ever louder and increasing calls for corporations and government leaders to take action. 

    But as the report also shows, the Covid-19 pandemic has since dominated discussion, with an increasing focus on more immediate economic concerns.

    Yet here is where we find hope. If nothing else, from the discourse that has taken place, we see the pandemic has proved our ability to act on what the science tells us and respond to threats on a global scale – through societal reengineering, governmental adaptability and industry-wide reorganisation.   

    As we continue to grapple with the effects of the health crisis, the global imperative of rebuilding world economies must become inextricably linked with averting catastrophic climate change. The phrase first coined by the UN to ‘build back better’ must become as synonymous with global environmental recovery as it is with our recovery from Covid-19.

    To us, that presents an opportunity. If we can connect the dots between how the planet is discussing the environment and how those trends manifest as actions, we can make talking about change, become change.  

    This report, therefore, aims to separate the signal from the noise. The decade of debate, supposition and speculation has ended: for us at BayWa r.e., the ‘Decade That Matters’ is the decade in which we must finally make actions speak louder than words. 

    Make no mistake, this is a defining moment. Where those conversations go from here – and what we as business leaders, governments and society decide to do next – will determine our direction of travel for the rest of this decade. 

    In turn, it will determine whether we avoid a global climate catastrophe or make it a reality.

    Matthias Taft
    CEO, BayWa r.e.

    Climate conversations: the last decade

    How have our climate conversations changed? How are attitudes shifting? To find out, we’ve pored over a decade of data, looking at specifics around the broad themes of climate change, global warming, and renewable energy. 

    Utilising a suite of tools, we’ve explored 10-year trends across platforms, channels and mediums. And, to get a clearer view of the rapidity of change, we’ve also undertaken a more specific investigation into the conversations from 2018 to now.

    2020, Covid-19, and beyond

    When we focus on 2020, we again see a shifting tide in the way the world discusses the environment. The data reveals a year defined not only by a global pandemic, but also by an ever-shortening timeframe in which to make a difference when it comes to the planet’s survival.

    And within those changes, represented here within our collective digital vocabulary, we can start to see how our methods of adapting to one global threat can teach us a lot about how to mitigate another.

    Nations, individuals and corporations

    Who is most responsible for carrying the conversation around climate? And who has the most influence? In a world where social media platforms give individuals and businesses the same stage, it’s worth us looking at the divide between the two. 


    In order to make proactive use of our findings we must now bring these insights into digital conversations together, and learn what’s currently missing from the climate and renewables story.

    The data we’ve uncovered points to three key areas of note around how we discuss the challenges that face us as a species. While seemingly separate at first glance, aligning these trends can help provide a path along which we might find meaningful environmental change.