Benchmarks: part of nature, part of us
Human psychology being what it is, we’re happiest when working to a clear timetable. So it is that we set deadlines. In the case of longer term deadlines, we tend to embrace decimals: a ten-year plan, for example. But such deadlines have no direct bearing on the real world around us. The same goes for the EU’s 20% sustainability targets: they are not underpinned by scientific research, nor do they relate to the end goals that have more or less been mapped out. Now the year 2020 looks to be losing its appeal in several member states because the targets no longer seem attainable, new deadlines are being set in the 2030 and 2050. But what is the actual challenge we are facing?
|Looking for directions (c) Thinkstock|
Lack of long term strategy
Those who match that date with the associated transition targets will be forced to conclude that there is no link to a clear and final goal. It’s not the case that leaders or governments, the United Nations or even the global Climate Council have decided
|We have as yet failed to agree on the sheer necessity of climate-saving measures and are far from certain about whether they can actually be realised|
Those of us schooled in strategy have learned that setting clear end goals is a necessary condition for creating and maintaining unity of purpose. Interim goals constitute points of measurement and milestones helping to maintain momentum on the long road to change by flagging up the progress that’s already been made. Are we then to conclude from the current state of affairs that we actually don’t have a strategy to tackle an issue that many regard as a clear and present danger?
At the same time we can discern another influence at work, this time originating from that valuable source: experience. Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched, the saying goes, and it’s this life lesson that’s reflected in the simultaneous ramping up of the use of fossil fuels on the one hand, and on the other, the ongoing effort to develop and deploy more sustainable energy sources. This approach from the empirical school, life’s Alma Mater, didn’t originate with great thinkers or visionaries. More than 10 or 15 years ago experts in the field were already indicating that the transition to sustainable energy could only be made gradually. When it comes to fundamental provisions such as energy, a revolution is simply not feasible, they argued. Not because of a lack of will, but purely because such transitions take time. A revamped energy system based on wholly different principles can only be achieved without major damage and disruption if it is realised on the basis of a gradual dismantling of existing structures and a controlled conversion to, and replacement by, new processes. Proponents of a rapid changeover, who regard global warming as an irreversible danger already well underway, accused the experts in the field of pursuing their own interests. With commercial and industrial positions at stake, business interests were being allowed to prevail over the common good. In various cases these critics will have indubitably been – and be – right. But objectively speaking the case for a considered and gradual transition to renewables rather than an energy sector revolution is more realistic.
All these deadlines then, such as 2020, or the road maps for 2030, or 2050 are not so much based on a strategic approach or a compelling end goal as part of a process of gradual adjustment. Nature, in the form of our environment in the broadest sense of the word, is up in arms.
|At the same time we can discern another influence at work, this time originating from that valuable source: experience|