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It’s time for leadership!

Last week the EU announced its ambitious targets of curbing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% within the year 2030. The pledge makes the EU the first major global emitter to put its position on the table ahead of the UN climate meeting in Paris at the end of 2015. In their statement the EU said that they hoped their bold move would put pressure on the rest of the world to achieve a landmark accord in Paris. This is the sort of leadership we need in a world where inertia and business as usual is simply no longer an option.

During Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign one of his chief strategists, James Carville, coined the popular phrase “It’s the economy, stupid”. While Carville really only wanted to send a reminder for the staffers on the Clinton campaign on which key messages to push to the American people, it became the most memorable slogan of the entire presidential election. Mostly because it was so obvious and simple, but also because it conveyed the pulse of the national debate.

This phrase came to my mind as I travelled back to Norway after having attended the Climate Change meeting in New York in September. Or to be specific – a slightly revised version of it – “It’s leadership stupid!” Because while the economy still matters (of course) – now it’s all about leadership. The courage – or will – to lead. To take the world one step closer the society we all want.

New York left me optimistic about many things (read my summary here). Not least, due to the strong unity and common aspiration for a better future. But most importantly – we are witnessing an emerging common understanding of what is needed for us to get there. Still, what continues to disappoints is the lack of leadership – the absence of politicians and business leaders who are willing and able to translate this knowledge into action. To me, – this illustrates one of the biggest challenges we are faced with as a global community.

Right after having announced the EU targets, Connie Hedegaard said the following “we have done our homework, now we urge you to follow Europe’s example”.

What the EU did was decisive and an example of leadership. Yet many other leaders in public and private sector are asleep at the wheel.

Long road ahead!

Let’s look at the bright side.

More and more politicians and business leaders acknowledge that we must change course in order for the coming generations to flourish on planet earth. This starting change in mindset is positive and necessary. However, awareness without action changes nothing!

Because we have a long way to go. We are painfully aware that we are not doing nearly as much as we can and should. What’s more – we know that what we do is not done in the right magnitude. We move way too slowly to make the necessary changes to a pathway towards sustainability.

Having said that we shouldn’t forget that leadership is not as it used to be. The risk reality is changing, climate change has started and it is an uncertain world we are entering.

Climate change is of course no new phenomena. However the knowledge and technological base we currently possess is. We are probably the first generation to truly understand the complex and systemic reality surrounding us. That means we know where we are going if we do not change course. It also means that we can actually influence how we proceed.

This is where leadership comes in. Because knowledge comes with a responsibility. A responsibility to act – and to move forward. We must never forget that global warming’s victims – future generations – do not vote.

Let’s seize the opportunities

Let me start with one thing that is clearly missing. That is the right mindset. And here I am not only talking about world leaders. I am talking about the entire world community. I am talking about our tendency – as human beings – to focus more on averting loss than on seizing opportunities.

Together with our partner, the Danish based think tank Monday Morning, we have ventured into an exciting new endeavor called the “Global Opportunity Report”. I have mentioned it before here on the blog, but I would like to bring it up again. Simply because I believe this concept possibly could be one of the missing links on the road to a safe and sustainable future. And a key cornerstone for leaders looking for tools to facilitate the transition they realize they will have to face and act on– sooner or later. Our ambition is to push the traditional risk-based way of thinking about the world around us towards a more collaborative opportunity- and solution inspired outlook.

With the Global Opportunity Report we wish to replace the concern instilled by risk with the confidence inspired by opportunities. I firmly believe that the greatest risk we – as a society – is facing right now is not seeing the opportunities inherent in the transition to a safe and sustainable future.

This can only be done through the transformation of knowledge into sustainable opportunities – for societies and for business.

This is why I believe leadership is so important going forward. The transformations to a low carbon future will be paved with opportunities for those countries, organizations and businesses that are able to seize the opportunities the change represents.


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Leadership ahead!

So what kind of leadership is required to take us through the transformation?

I believe tomorrow’s leaders are those who accept that the task at hand is huge, complex and that we don’t have all the answers. In addition to the traditional “top down” approach of defining a strategy and following it up with action plans, tomorrow’s leaders will quickly realize that a  “bottom up” processes is just as important.

Tomorrow’s leaders will be those who are:

  • Able to articulate a new narrative, a clear vision and goals for their country, company or organization.
  • Willing to engage their organizations “bottom up” and ask for new ideas and new mindsets. Understand that we only through partnership, collaboration and a deep understanding of the power of connectivity and social media are able to connect the dots and position us for the future.

It is also about being able to identify, leverage and scale up readily available solutions that are already there. Last week the SUSTAINIA 2014 Award for the world’s best sustainable solutions (read more here) was handed out in Copenhagen. The event was filled with entrepreneurial spirit, young leadership and positive sharing of new solutions as building blocks for tomorrow’s society.

Because in the end, what it boils down to is being able to inspire and implement change. It is about the ability to make true impact and shift the bleak trajectory we are currently on towards one that is filled by prosperity and sustainable well-being for all.

The first test comes tomorrow 2. November, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is launching its ‘synthesis’ report. Over the past 13 months, the IPCC has released three major reports on the physical science, the impacts and the potential methods of dealing with climate change. The Synthesis Report will take the most important elements of all three and blend them into a new document that will be the most important science framework for policymakers and business leaders for the next few years.

When a 17 year old girl wins the Nobel peace prize for her efforts in fighting one of the most threatening global risks there is, politicians, leaders in public as well private sector should be able and willing to act, to communicate a new and inspiring narrative and to take leadership and make the necessary and coercive efforts needed to fight climate change and take us in the right direction.

It’s Leadership stupid!

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