Chapter 7 - Human power
Society’s ability to manage necessary changes is bound up in leadership – not primarily the leadership of prominent individuals, who are at best catalysts, but the joint leadership of a range of groups and actors working together while taking responsibility for their own roles.
The measure of this leadership is the breadth and depth of a society’s insight into its own future and its capacity to affect that future.
The breakdown of societies through human destruction of the environment is not unparalleled in history, and is perhaps best described by Jared Diamond in his book Collapse. Diamond looks at examples including Easter Island, the Mayan Society in the Yucatan Peninsula, and the Viking settlement on Greenland – all of which bore witness to their own downfall. Many individuals living in those societies must have noticed the negative trends and recognised the cause, but as collectives they were unable to change direction. The leadership capacity needed to avoid an obviously disastrous long-future was lacking.
True leadership seeks fairness. Solutions widely seen as fair are needed to gain the public support that turns agreement to change into real actions. But a mutual sense of fairness requires a common understanding of the basic facts. In 2009, a shared view on the basic facts of climate change – particularly the available solutions – had only partially emerged.
Leadership is also about taking action at the right time. For nations to make commitments, they will have to be designed so that they do not constitute obstacles to development and do not create an economic shock for any single nation. At the same time, the effects on the power of international competition will need to be reasonable and acceptable for all parties concerned.
Vattenfall study - Outline of a global burden-sharing model
In 2005 Vattenfall published a study that contained key principles and a model for how such commitments might meet these requirements and underpin a successful global climate compact. Here we present an updated and simplified version of this study.