Blog Post

Business as ‘un’-usual

Friday 20th March saw the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) host an event on “Business, finance and cities: Climate Action for Paris” as part of their #GlobalChallenges series.

The subtitle of this half-day conference was ‘ideas and actions to change the world’ and given this years momentous opportunities with the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa in July, the 70th UN General Assembly, culminating in the adoption of the SDGs and the COP21 in Paris to agree a new climate deal, 2015 is indeed a year that is taking #GlobalChallenges by its horns – tackling them head on from a variety of angles ranging from human development, to climate financing to rethinking business as usual. This broad-spectrum of approaches is promising. The world is facing complex interconnected challenges but the problem solving is attempted in silos and thus the solutions that emerge are incoherent and lack a holistic address of the problem.

Mary Robinson delivered a keynote address, challenging us to bring the most vulnerable and voiceless into the frontline and fora of global challenges. The decisions that we make today will impact the generations of the future. No one should be left behind, neither in the climate agreements or the post2015 agenda. And what better way to ensure inclusivity of the outcome than by ensuring inclusivity in the decision-making?

The agenda can be set by thinking in advance of what the ideal outcome should be. This may seem an obvious observation but there is value in conceptualising the shift from business as usual with this in mind. Mary Robinson and her foundation for Climate Justice (MRFCJ) have spent time mapping out what they believe the agenda should look like by envisioning their desired outcome: summarised in their Declaration on Climate Justice.

Mary Robinson more closely examined the rhetoric around ‘business as usual’ – what do we even mean by that? We are not just looking at a transition from carbon-based energy but at a human rights framework that is equitable for current and future generations: equity in terms of wealth distribution, gender equality, bridging the north south divisions, and paying attention to both rural and urban needs. Only with such a framework can we create more resilient and equal societies, now and in the future.

Moving away from business as usual is conceptualised as moving out of the comfort zone and thus primarily framed as an unpleasant, uncomfortable, sacrificial change. However, the comfort zone is purely familiar, not necessarily an ideal situation. Given the initial choice between dirty fossil fuels or clean energy not many would actively seek the former as their comfort zone. The same applies to a choice between a fair and equitable society and one with deep discrepancies in living standards. So moving away from that comfort zone can be disruptive in a good sense. And this is where creating a good strong positive narrative comes in, showing that a transition is a move to something much better than far outweighs the costs of change.

So how can we reframe the narrative? If 2015 is a good year it will put us on a pathway to achieving our long-term goals, to treading along the agenda that we set ourselves by envisioning the outcomes we want, an equitable framework for a resilient world.

Posted by Future Justice on 30 March 2015



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