Wasted.ie talks to Stephen Prendiville about the action we haven’t taken
On November 6th, the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt will host the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 27).
Following some frustrations after COP26 last year, we talk to Stephen Prendiville from EY in to see how much progress has been made on our sustainability journey and whether or not enough action is being taken.
The short answer is no, not really.
The truth is that there is still much talking about the issue of climate change and sustainability – and a lot less evidence of real and true action taking place at corporate level.
What appears to be clear, is that there are two groups emerging this year: First, there are the corporates that appear to have placed a value on their commitment to change. But they are talking about the actions, rather than actioning the talks.
These organisations are like the empty vessels, according to Stephen – the ones making the most noise.
In the meantime, there is a second group, just slowly getting on with things, making changes, introducing better procedures, making things happen. This group is gaining momentum.
The issue is that climate change has fallen off the list of priorities, again. Companies (and indeed individuals) are more worried about the rise in the cost of energy and the cost of living right now. Businesses are diverting action and cash into solving these issues, and who could blame them. They need to keep the lights on.
The problem, of course, is that there will always be something that will steal our attention away from climate change and sustainability agendas. Right now, we are consumed with the energy crisis. Before that (and of course inextricably linked to), it was the potential threat of the war in Ukraine. Our heads are constantly turned toward the threat that seems more imminent.
According to Stephen, it is because the recent global events mean that people, companies and governments are grappling with many complex issues – and sustainability is just one of these.
When the threat of Covid-19 started to subside for example, people were only concerned about getting back to where they had been – safe, secure, stable.
They were not thinking about moving forward, making future changes. It was about getting through, and getting ‘back to normal’.
But climate change is not something that will simply come and go. The effects on our environment will be felt long after the climate events we witness on a daily basis. The droughts this summer in Spain will have severe impacts well into the next few years. This is not a situation that will end in a couple of years. Not without real and immediate action.
Stephen said in a recent interview with the Irish Times:
“The science… says we need to accelerate our climate action and, in light of this, there is more work to do to help increase the pace of our climate or sustainability ambitions. Our climate ambition and sustainability goals require that we adapt and think differently about how we function as an economy.”
However, Stephen is also quick to point out that in the last 6 months, the urgency has become more evident within the business community and leadership is more defined.
He has faith in the work that our government has done so far and knows that there is real support for businesses looking to take action and not be accused of being an empty vessel.
Let’s hope he’s right.
For anyone interested in Stephen’s thoughts on sustainability, we would urge you to read one of his recent LinkedIn Posts: Sustainability Metamorphosis: Creating Social Licence.