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Addressing the Challenges of Climate Change in the Boardroom

May 4, 2022

Solar panels addressing the challenge of climate change with Elizabeth May

On April 11, Principal of The Directors College, Michael Hartmann welcomed former Federal Green Party Leader Elizabeth May to Module 4 for a conversation about climate change and how leaders need to think differently in order to lead their organizations through the threat of environmental change.

The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that the use of fossil fuels must peak by 2025 and cut in half by 2030. Canada is not doing well against these recommendations, continuing to make policies that encourage fossil fuel development. In 2019 the Government of Canada acknowledged that climate change is a systemic threat.

Versus other developed nations, Canada is 21% above 1990 levels, the balance of Europe is 40% below and even the United States is sitting at only 4% above. Globally, we are 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than before the industrial revolution. Holding to this level, which is still causing disastrous results, does not look possible at this point.

Leaders need to understand that they must think differently to ensure they are considering all risks, not just the short term, the long term, one crisis over another. Our systems outside of personal choice are heavily ingrained with fossil fuels, as proven out by the pandemic when expected drops in emissions were far lower than believed.

Renewable energy is accelerating to catch fossil fuels, but governments are still subsidizing fossil fuel energy companies. Climate targets in Europe remain the overarching focus, despite current political unrest and other threats.

In a climate discussion, as in any true discussion, leaders need to be working from the same information. Unfortunately, deliberate misinformation is rampant, making real and actionable dialogue difficult. Resisting the temptation to judge and demonize opposing views is paramount.

When multiple systems are being threatened, rapid innovation can occur. Actively engaging on all fronts, against all risks, will create larger and more focused opportunities. This is the challenge for today’s leaders, in the boardroom and around the world.