13 November 2015 | By Richard Gillies Community, Opinion

Why sustainability needs James Bond

With the Paris climate change conference at the end of the month, never have we more urgently needed the action and pace you see in a Bond movie. 

The UN has confirmed that current climate plans – designed to prevent a dangerous two degrees of warming – aren’t enough. Yet that goal is still within our reach. How devastating would it be if we come so close to achieving it and let it slip from our hands?

That ending would never be allowed in a Bond movie, which is why I’m advocating that sustainability needs Bond. We’ve proved we can get people’s attention the world over for a courageous British hero in fiction, now we must demonstrate that we can do it in the real world in Paris next month.

We need leadership from the UK Government at the talks, followed by the conviction afterwards to translate the agreement into national policies. 

Long-term thinking

Recent developments suggest that this should be possible. The establishment of the National Infrastructure Commission, for example, illustrates the government’s recognition that if we want to secure a better future, some things require long-term planning and investment.

For me it’s not a stretch to see the parallels between this and the need for the right outcome at COP, with commitments spanning beyond any single government or parliament – except, of course, the stakes are far greater. 

George Obsorne recently said: “Where would Britain be if we had never built railways or runways, power stations or new homes?  Where will we be in the future if we stop building them now?”

We issue our own challenge in return: where will we be if we don’t invest in the three-quarters of existing housing stock that is leaky and inefficient because it is already more than 40 years old?

With homes responsible for 27 per cent of carbon emissions, we’ve called for energy efficiency to be made an infrastructure priority. But my fear is the government fails to see the wider point.  

A framework of certainty

Business is frustrated by the stop-start nature of policy and incentive support around the sustainability agenda. The government has recognised the need for long-term investment decisions in infrastructure, so why doesn’t it understand that all businesses such as ours are really asking for is the stability to enable us to make our own long-term investment decisions with similar certainty.

We need consistent policy and subsidy support for green stimulus because it takes time to build and establish markets and demand – longer than any single government or parliament. 

And that brings us full circle back to COP because the right agreement in Paris is the key – it paves the path for that to happen.  

That’s why we, together with many other leading businesses and coalitions such as We Mean Business, the Corporate Leaders Group and BSR, want to see the right deal in Paris.  We’ll be there during the talks to demonstrate our continued support.

Our retail brands, Castorama and Brico Dépôt, will be at the trade and climate pavilion in the Grand Palais.  We’ll also be helping people understand what it is they can do to reduce emissions from their homes by providing help and advice, accompanied by eco product offers in our French and UK stores. 

The basis of any Bond movie is the triumph of good over evil. The trouble with climate change is that its threat has been creeping up and, collectively, we all need to look in the mirror to see it. And unlike all the Bond movies where the end is determined for us, Paris needs us to lead, to be courageous and write our own script. It provides us with an opportunity for us to be the heroes and make ours a better, more sustainable world.

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