In 1989, one-hundred and ninety sevens countries agreed to ban the gases that destroyed the ozone layer.
Climate change is a huge challenge and it is easy to get disillusioned. Yet, we can learn from success stories and by starting a discussion on a positive note, the chances of positive outcomes are higher. We, humans, are reciprocal creatures and we mirror each other, often without realising it. A negotiation that starts on a negative note, tend to end without any real progress.
It is better to start negotiations with areas that you agree with and then move to areas of disagreement. This strategy is used in a range of situations from divorce negotiations to negotiations with hostage-takers. The Climate Change Conference, Cop26, concludes on Friday so it is too early to determine how successful this conference has been. Yet, one thing is certain, we stand in front of a challenge so huge that the negotiations will continue for a long long time.
We are facing huge problems related to climate change as well as a loss of biodiversity, but even though these are indeed more difficult challenges compared to the ones we faced/are facing related to the hole in the ozone layer, we can learn from ways that we handle this crisis. One crucial factor that contributed to our rather quick and successful approach to the ozone layer was the importance of scientific research for agenda-setting and negotiation.
Another important factor is that the decision/makers are proactive.
“We acted on the ozone layer even though the evidence was not universally accepted”, former German Environment Minister Klaus Töpfer says. “Scientists from the Max Planck institute knocked on my door and said: you must act now for the future of mankind. And we did. But there was resistance from industry and from other scientists.”
Admittedly, the problems related to the loss of biodiversity and climate change are more complex and involve a range of complex relationships. Yet, the majority of scientists have been in agreement that climate change is happening and that the cause is man-made rather than the result of the natural warming of our planet. The image of a hole over our planet was easy to communicate to the public. A simple image of the impact of climate change and loss of biodiversity is simply not there. The impact is more diverse and complex and depends on where on earth you live.
What images and language would you use to secure a similar agreement like the Montreal protocol? How can climate change and loss of biodiversity be explained in a simple yet powerful way?