As we go through round after round of climate talks with the likelihood of securing a climate deal in the near future looking ever more remote, it strikes me that human kind is yet again failing to learn from past ills. The simple analogy that I draw on is around smoking.

Most countries see aggressive measures to cut carbon emissions as a threat to their economic development. It matters not that without these measure, we face extinction as a planet. Sound familiar? Ever had the argument with a smoker around stopping? Granted the consequences and ‘the fix’ are different, but we continue to burn fossil fuels despite the consequences and ‘passive smoking’ in this instance will affect our children and our grandchildren.

Developing countries feel that the main burden of reducing emissions should lie with developed countries that have had the benefit of burning fossil fuels for over 150 years. Developed countries on the other hand argue that they will be at an economic disadvantage if emissions reductions are not universal. The elephant sitting in the corner is rising emissions, a warming climate and the tipping point, the point where the climate spirals out of control and we have no place to go.

The only way forward in the short term is that we need to create a culture of “smoke enders”, where are those guys when you need them?

From a South African perspective many corporates are still failing to take tangible steps to curb wasteful business practices. Investing in energy efficiency is the classic example. Despite the cost savings benefits, aggressive ROI’s, Eskom incentives and oh yes,  a seriously constrained energy grid that could collapse into load shedding at any point, energy efficiency is still not a top priority! Why do we have a culture of just carrying on smoking? When will the penny finally drop?

A culture of “smoke enders” can only be driven from the top, from leaders who are prepared to take a stand and get their troops on board. Business needs to realign and realign quickly so that the small savings can yield large results. It is hoped that this groundswell will then create enough pressure on our political leaders to put something tangible together within the construct of a climate deal.

We just simply cannot carry on ‘smoking’! The patches will not work, we need to terminate the cause and prevent the cancer that is climate change.

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