Note: This piece draws on the work of, Dreams of a Low carbon-Future project, The Intercept’s, A message from the Future, Rob Hopkin’s, From what if to what next and Christina Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac’s, the future we choose; Naomi Klein’s On Fire, The burning case for a Green new Deal, and my own imagination. All of the projections discussed in this blog are rooted in social and technological realities.
In this post I imagine a future where the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE Bill) has been passed and explore some of the incredible innovations and transformations that have taken place and pulled us back from the brink of Environmental and Societal collapse. Because at this time, more than ever, we need imagination. Because nothing ever existed, that didn’t first exist in someone’s imagination. We need to nurture a mindset of Stubborn optimism and active hope and remember that there was a point where people believed Apartheid would never end, that the Slave trade would never end, yet these injustices were toppled, by individuals just like us.
The year is 2050, 29 years since the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE Bill) was made Law. It was the first of many of its kind and opened the Overton Window of what was possible once there was the political will. It called for a Citizen’s Assembly which began in Ernest in May 2021 and the first order of business was Emissions reduction. After hearing all the evidence about how the burning of fossil fuels had accelerated global temperatures and the repercussions of this, coupled with the realisation that so much time had already been wasted, the Assembly agreed an ambitious and legally binding target of 10% emissions reduction each year for the next decade. There was a number of ways this was to happen.
Firstly, a two year phase out of investing in Fossil fuel companies. Businesses were supported in moving their investments to Green industries. Organisations were set up to deliver clean up programmes in Areas of High Ecological Destruction (AMEDs). These programmes included regeneration projects such as; Rebuilding Soil, Restoring water, Planting trees, and were to be managed by indigenous communities who had local expertise in land upkeep. It was recognised that climate justice went hand in hand with social justice, so working with local people who had been the most heavily impacted by the ecological destruction of their communities was crucial.
Around the same time that the CEE Bill was passed into Law and for the first time in American history, a federal regulatory agency had put out a report recognising climate change as a major threat to the economy.
The report highlighted Physical risks like flooding, socio-economic risks such as health impacts and low productivity due to extreme heat. Then there was “transition risk,” the idea that companies that aren’t preparing for the transition to the carbon-neutral economy are setting themselves up to lose money because their assets could lose value rapidly’. There was a strong call for regulatory action.
Donald Trump lost the Elections later that year and his successor, Democrat Joe Biden, was quick to use the recommendations of the report as a policy road map. Biden heavily taxed carbon and pushed through emergency legislation that began a long process of dismantling the Oil Giants.
Fossil fuel companies had two years to wind down their operations, at which point they would be broken down and restructured. 50% of their operations needed to support regeneration and green infrastructure efforts including building Biopylons for artificial photosynthesis and expanding existing technologies that pyrolyes waste to generate energy and create biochar in a closed-loop system. While the other 50% had to move towards renewable energy in two years. Companies that didn’t comply were fined heavily with money going back into green subsidies.
In the UK, 2 major reports had come out in September 2020. One, by the World Wildlife fund, looked at thousands of different wildlife species monitored by conservation scientists in habitats across the world. They recorded an average 68% fall in more than 20,000 populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish since 1970.
Another, by the RSPB, showed the UK Government had failed on 17 of its 20 UN Biodiversity targets that had been agreed in 2010 at the Convention of Biodiversity. Reports such as these were becoming more commonplace and formed part of the Information that guided and advised the citizens’ assemblies. Everything was publicly available, the Assemblies were live for people to watch online and current affair shows and publications sprung up around the issues that were discussed. Net-zero, once a little known term, entered the national lexicon. The whole country realised the sense of urgency about the crisis, for the first time.
There was an emerging Zeitgeist that if we were going to get through this crisis, we would have to work together. People had already begun local mobilisation to support one another through the global pandemic of 2020. During this time, People were self-organising with incredible efficiency, respect and creativity.“
We saw what could be achieved when we work together. The Climate Crisis now commanded the same efforts.
Community groups sprung up all over the country. A massive network of local groups, exchanging ideas and skills, motivated by a new recognition of what needed to be done. The volatile and unsustainable state of the global food system, soil erosion, Dust bowls, Ocean acidification, rising global temperatures and mass extinctions, all impact on us and suddenly, these weren’t problems of the future, they were here, affecting us all and presenting the prospect of a very bleak future for our children. This shift in realisation shook everyone out of their collective stupor. There was an incredible sense of camaraderie as we united against this existential threat.
At the Policy level, Farming subsidises were paid on condition of land up keep, regeneration of Soil and re-wilding. Money from large ecologically destructive infrastructure projects such as HS2 was redirected to improving existing train lines, creating cycle routes and better broadband so people could work from home. Over the years, with greater public understanding of how many of their energy needs could not be met on a global scale, communities localised their energy needs. Thanks to the continuing reduction in costs of renewable energy technologies like wind and solar power, the old economies of scale were turned upside down so that generating and using energy locally represented better value than generating power in relatively few, large, centralised, locations. Fossil fuels were eventually phased out for good. They were no longer a financially viable option.
It all started when The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill became Law. The whole country saw its leaders taking climate breakdown seriously, and they took it seriously. It was discussed and debated at every level, how climate breakdown affected children’s health, Social justice, peoples’ jobs and the Economy; wildlife and the natural world, housing, food security, public health, education, life chances; The attitude was, treat the climate like it’s about everything, because it is. And people started to realise that their lives could improve in deep and profound ways as a result of the changes required. The myth that the changes needed to save the planet would mean hardship and stifle progress, was just that, a myth. So many amazing innovations sprung up. Solar paint, Biopylons and methods for turning waste into building materials were evolved. During the Global pandemic, the UK economy shrank by a record 20%! Governments needed to invest and quickly realised that investments that are good for the environment are also very good for getting us out of the recession we’d found ourselves in. Mass retraining programmes started to skill up individuals and communities for all the new Green jobs that needed to be done. In schools, children were taught how to make and mend and grow their own food. Community gardens sprung up everywhere and these projects massively reduced mental health problems and loneliness amongst the elderly as people came together with a shared sense of purpose. People were healthier as they were eating better, moving more and breathing cleaner air. And what became clear was the interconnectedness of all of our social ills. The Climate crisis, Mental health Crisis, The Migrant Crisis, the Obesity epidemic, the Systemic oppression of marginalised groups, of women, of Animals, they were all linked; We realised; climate justice was Social Justice.
In short, There was a Scale down of what is ecologically disruptive and socially useless and growth was created through what was green, useful and necessary.
There was a group called Extinction Rebellion. They fought for the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill to be made Law. They made the Government Tell the Truth about climate breakdown. They made the Government Act and they demanded a citizens assembly.
Our future is unwritten
“This is the most consequential decade in human history.” Christiana Figueres
“What happens next is up to every one of us” David Attenborough
There is still time. But we must act now.
Write to your MP and get them to back the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill.