This article was originally published by Business Green on 12 December 2019.

I write dismayed as the Global Carbon Project forecast that 2019 will see global carbon emissions rise by another 0.6 per cent, when it needs to be falling at monumental rates. How on earth can we do that? The good news is that ambition and realism on what's needed rose high in 2019, and that might just set us up for the 2020s to really be the ‘decade of delivery'. With the UK hosting the critical ‘ratchet up of ambition' COP26 in November, next year is set to be a really hot year for climate action in the UK.

So as we kickstart a pivotal decade, I wanted to share five things I learnt in 2019 that can help shape your 2020:

1. The wave of national and corporate net zero pledges is encouraging - offering us a springboard going forward. Systems can shift when unusual actors and forces coalesce. In the summer, following heatwaves, mass civil disobedience and clear guidance from its official advisors, the UK government committed to being net zero in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The number of countries that have net zero by (at least) 2050 commitments now stands at 77, plus over 100 cities. That is encouraging, and would not be the case without these diverse forces. System change approaches can help to understand your role in ratcheting up pressure for action.

2. The urgency from climate science is also rising. I've previously said that the UK could not settle for net zero by 2050. We at Forum are speaking with leading scientists and deeply concerned by their soon-to-be-published findings of tipping points of no return such as runaway ice shelf melting. It is a sobering edge-of-the-cliff moment in humanity's time on earth. We must find ways to turn this urgency into a tidal wave of action rather than fatalism, and Extinction Rebellion and the Climate Strikes are playing a strong role in that.

3. There are more practical ways to act emerging all the time. Businesses and public authorities have more ways than ever to play their role. Examples abound - from switching to 100 per cent renewable energy in the RE100 collective, to making rooftops, buildings and land available for community energy groups to build zero carbon power systems in the newly-launched PowerPaired platform.

4. Leaders are waking up to inevitable, unavoidable disruption. The business and non-profit leaders Forum for the Future work with are getting that business as usual is no longer an option. Instead we face the shocks and huge decline in productivity from uncontrolled climate change. Or there's the disruption, opportunities and threats that come with totally transforming our energy, transport, agriculture, construction and industry systems; a transformation that will likely mean rewiring the very purpose of our economy. This is richly described in Forum's < 2C Futures scenarios. Core to pathways that are most palatable to all but the Trumps and Bolsenaros of the world is ramping up community involvement in the transition. It creates social cohesion, build resilience and buy-in to accept and welcome the disruption.

5. We aren't just talking about a just transition. As the New Economics Foundation's recent report states: "Britain has a terrible track record of managing deep industrial change in a just way". Concerns about the economic and social costs of a transition to net zero are being actively acknowledged and sophisticated responses are emerging to minimise them. To various degrees, a thread of social justice is woven through the UK political party manifestos. Trade unions, local authorities and employers are coming together in places that are most dependent on fossil fuels for their wealth. The "Green New Deal" that I proposed as a way to deliver net zero by 2030 features heavily in Green Party and Labour manifestos, as does funding for a "just transition" which also appears in the Liberal Democrats'. Forum for the Future sees a smart, systemic response to impending disruption; a response that enables on-the-ground, community-led planning and action to renew local economies through zero-carbon industries and regenerative farming practices.

Whilst a lot depends on who is in No 10 on Friday, whoever has the keys must act with great urgency and determination - as must all business, civil society and public sector leaders. The conditions for this are in our favour. 2019 has given us some valuable lessons we must heed in the decade ahead. Afterall, history is all we have until we create the future. I feel ready to respond to the science with the monumental urgency it dictates to us and overwhelmed and excited by the challenge in equal measures. I'd love to hear how you feel as we enter the decade of delivery.

Will Dawson is Forum for the Future’s Associate Director for Climate and Energy. You can read more about Forum's work and the Net Positive approach here

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