Sustaining our planet and COP26

War, War, is better than Jaw, Jaw’

This is the opposite of what Winston Churchill allegedly said, back in the 1950s (in fact, he never actually said ‘Jaw, Jaw, is better than War, War’, but it has often been attributed to him).

The Ultimate Sacrifice by So Many Just to Give Us Another 100+ Years…Really!

However, with Armistice Day just passed, it is very sad to contemplate the millions of people who died in two world wars and all the other wars in the interim, including those still ongoing. We have been fighting, nation against nation, for so long that we have overlooked or forgotten that Mother Nature can obliterate us all. So, in the event of another World War, even the victors will lose, as Climate Change, left inadequately addressed, will eventually win.

This seems a time for us to put aside our cultural differences, our fears and instead, to find ways to work together to ‘Save our Planet’. Different countries, including the UK, have spent £billions competing for supremacy in the arms race…. but for what? Did all those people really die in order to give us another hundred years or so to destroy our beautiful planet?

It was such a missed opportunity that China and Russia chose not to attend the COP26 Conference in Glasgow. Other polluters, such as Australia and India, sadly chose not to sign up to the collective agreements reached or, at least, not in the manner agreed necessary to keep further global temperature rises below 1.5°C. Though the conference lasted 2 weeks and ran into extra time, the results were sufficiently disappointing for COP26 President Alok Sharma to barely hold back the tears in his closing address.

Cartoon by Wilbur Dawburn & reproduced with kind permission of Private Eye

(Cartoon by Wilbur Dawburn & reproduced with kind permission of Private Eye)

Collective Global Effort

We need to bring our massive Global capabilities together to save the planet for future generations. This needs to be our next ‘World War’. This could be a World War like no other, one in which everybody wins. It certainly won’t be easy, especially amongst countries who have yet to have their ‘industrial revolution’ and feel perfectly justified in having their own, as we, in the UK, had our own and caused massive levels of pollution and environmental damage as a result. We are certainly in no position to take the moral high ground and to lecture to others as to what they should do.

Selfish or ignorant as we may have been in the past, this is now a global war, the like of which we have never previously experienced. Wildfires, floods and other weather extremes, on such an alarming and destructive scale, must be contained and ideally reversed. This is our responsibility. My greatest hope is that we can, multi-culturally and multi-nationally, put our fears, suspicions and differences aside, whilst working together towards a common set of objectives and, consequently together, make war on the issues that affect our planet, and not upon each other.

Bringing this a little closer to the food and drink reality, being our largest employer, more than 30% of greenhouse gas emissions are a bi-product of food production in the UK, about a third of which is wasted. The elimination of this food waste creates up to a further 15% of emissions. The message is very clear. We must create fewer emissions in the initial production of food and create far less wastage towards the ideal ‘net zero’. Some companies have already made huge efforts and achieved great success in this, companies such as Diageo, Cranswick Foods and the newly created Innocent Drinks factory in Holland, but far more needs to be done, globally. Whilst what we do could be seen as insignificant in global terms, it is up to us in the West, mainly Europe and North America to set good examples, especially as we largely caused the current crisis, through our ignorance and profligate wastage.

Guidance, Technology and Money

The developing world will be looking to us for some guidance. We cannot tell them that they are not allowed to do what we did, as it would be socially and morally reprehensible to do so. They have a right to develop their own industrial bases and consequential prosperity, as we did, but they don’t have to do it the way we did it. We are far more knowledgeable now than we were then and there is better technology available in the deployment of renewable fuel sources such as solar, wind, wave, heat pumps, and more.

But, if we expect the developing nations to deploy such resources, instead of ‘dirty’ but readily available fossil fuels, then we must be willing to help. This would have to be in the form of openly sharing our best ‘net zero’ technology and in providing such nations with the necessary finance to encourage its usage. At COP15 in Copenhagen during 2009, the developed nations agreed to pay $Billions to developing nations to help them implement green technologies. Only a small fraction of that commitment was realised by 2020, by which time it should have reached $100Billion per year. Even though COP26 did not fully achieve its objectives, let us at the very least hope that agreements made this time will be met and ideally improved upon.

Back to the Future

Back to our own improvements. We can set great examples to the developing countries by creating fewer carbon emissions in the first place and then wasting less at every stage of food production and the food chain. Simply continuing to produce food by the current methods and wastage levels ‘because that is the way we have always done things around here’ is not good practice, is not setting a good example and is not sustainable.

If you want to embrace change to improve your own ‘bottom line’ and for the global good, we are here to help, not just to ‘Jaw’ but to collectively make ‘War’ on emissions and wastage.

Roy Green, Managing Director, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, Harford Control Ltd, December 2021

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