Paul Dickinson is the founder of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a leader in encouraging corporate transparency on climate and environmental impact, whose system is used by more than 20,000 companies. In 2023, the CDP announced it will add plastics reporting to its disclosure process via a new framework released by the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures.
What is the single most important action you think the public, or a specific company or government, needs to take in the next year to advance the climate agenda?
It is vital governments talk about the seriousness of climate change through a concerted public awareness campaign. Citizens will be unwilling to support action until our heads of state explain clearly how we require fundamental change. A massive program of decarbonization requires governments to think differently about how it will be financed and how society itself is structured. In 1940, Winston Churchill asked the House of Commons for a vote of confidence in his new all-party government, explaining: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” Tackling the climate crisis requires a war-time effort from bold politicians.
What sustainability effort do you hope will gain popularity with the general public this year, and why?
Humanity is a vast, complex, adaptive system in the middle of a major reconfiguration. High-carbon products and services are becoming less acceptable and desirable, but we need to focus our efforts on shifting advertising spend. The industry spent $795 billion in 2022, but it is becoming increasingly expensive persuading people to buy products and services that we know are causing damage to ourselves, our planet, and our children. New products like alternative proteins have potential to undercut meat. An electric car is simply a cheaper, better product that makes the right choice very easy to make.
What’s the most important climate legislation that could pass in the next year?
We urgently need to tax aircraft and ship fuels. In general, all climate policies are good, like carbon regulation through the E.U. emissions trading scheme, industrial investment by China in electric vehicles and renewable energy that in 2022 roughly matched the rest of the world combined, or the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S. that offers $370 billion in low-carbon incentives. Like cigarettes, we should ban the advertising of high-carbon products. Whichever countries move fastest to decarbonize will gain leadership in industries of the future. Above all, we must stop fossil-fuel money controlling politics in democracies.
The IRA has sparked a global race to capture clean tech. I would hope to see more efforts by national governments to pass legislation to win over new climate-related investments.
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