How to Breath Life into Choked Planet

Image: Huangdan2060, via Wikimedia Commons

A shift to green practices is not only ethical but could determine humanity’s future survival.

Decades of development and civilisation have brought enormous progress and made life much more comfortable. But this is also sending the planet out of balance as resources get extracted with abandon to near exhaustion and waste released with little care, hurting the environment.

Technological advancement has come along with air, land and sea pollution, harming humans and animals alike, alongside increased carbon emission that is stoking extreme weather events as a result of climate change.

Embracing environmentally-sound practices is, therefore, not only a responsible thing to do but also a survival strategy for the human race. The proverbial Doomsday Clock must be stopped from ticking.

It would require all hands on deck – government, companies and investors, and consumers – to consciously move the needle.

Through policies and laws, policymakers can point the population towards ecofriendly behaviour as far as production and consumption are concerned. This could be through tax incentives for cleaner technologies such as renewable energy projects, electric transportation, cleaner cooking fuels and responsible industrial production, including recycling.

At the same time, the government could use sticks where carrots have failed to discourage environmentally-dirty economic activities. One way of going about this is by making such activities and end-products expensive through higher tax and fines.

Governments cannot succeed in this green drive alone.

Companies and investors have to play their part too. Organisations could, for instance, commit to a green procurement code, buying and using cleaner alternatives for both their capital and operating expenditures. But this is not enough – they should go a step further to invest in research and development with the aim of raising the bar on responsible production.

On their part, investors should not only pump their cash in green ventures, but should also support clean tech entrepreneurs and their startups.  This is the part where angel investors, venture capitalists, private equity firms, impact investment firms and development institutions are expected to pull their weight in helping tilt the scale towards a green economy.

It is precisely why impact investment firms such as Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC) alongside its subsidiary Kenya Climate Ventures (KCV) are working to finance and support green startups across Kenya.

Most startups grapple with funding gaps. And the challenge is even bigger for clean-tech projects, given that it is a relatively new field with lenders lacking a complete picture of its viability. It is for this reason that sustainability-inclined organisations are stepping in to plug the gap.

But this intervention is hardly enough.

Commercial banks have a role to play too in fuelling growth of green enterprises, by designing green financial products and opening their purse strings to eco-ventures.

For a bigger impact, there is need for partnerships between financial institutions and impact investment firms, business accelerators and incubation hubs.

Incubation aims to de-risk a startup. Entrepreneurs are subjected to several vetting rounds and molded by business specialists, thereby increasing their chances of succeeding. This should, therefore, give comfort to banks when doing due diligence before issuing them credit lines.

Organisations and investors should create synergies with public institutions and lobby for friendly government policies that would enable them adopt cleaner operations.

Consumers can help create markets for better, cleaner alternative goods and services. When you buy a fair trade certified product or a sustainable product or service, even though it costs more than the traditional alternative, you’re endorsing more production of such green products and expanding markets for the companies producing them.

This will, in turn, enable these industries enjoy economies of scale and expand their investment in research, leading to a drop in prices and ultimately making sustainable products more affordable and available for everyone. And once the mass market is won over, there would be no turning back. As demonstrated, consumer power is an important cog in the green wheel.

It also important to note that a green movement, like with any major change, will come with major disruptions to jobs, incomes and mindsets. A just transition should be at the centre of the whole process, ensuring no one is left behind socioeconomically or disadvantaged as a result of the changes.

In conclusion, no single actor can successfully pull all the levers of power alone in fostering a green shift. All hands need to be firmly on deck – governments, companies and investors and consumers to ignite a green revolution.

This article was originally published by the Business Daily

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