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Open Translation

STOCKHOLM: Author and Global Commons Alliance (GCA) director Owen Gaffney says awareness of the transformation needed by 2030 to stabilise the planet is "worryingly" low.

Earlier this year the GCA, a partnership of over 50 organisations covering philanthropy, science, business and advocacy, commissioned Ipsos MORI to ask citizens aged 16-75 in 19 G20 countries what is needed to preserve the global commons.

Gaffney thinks the results of the poll should be a wake-up call for political leaders:
• 73 percent of people in G20 countries believe Earth is approaching potentially abrupt or irreversible tipping points because of human action.
• 58 percent are extremely or very worried about the state of the global commons.
• 83 percent are willing to do more to become better “planetary stewards” and protect and regenerate the global commons. People in developing economies showed greater willingness to do more to protect nature and climate than those in advanced economies: Indonesia (95 percent), South Africa (94 percent), China (93 percent) compared with Japan (61 percent), Germany (70 percent), and the United States (74 percent).
• 73 percent agree their country’s economy should move beyond a singular focus on profit and economic growth (GDP) and focus more on human wellbeing and ecological protection and regeneration.
• 69 percent of people believe the benefits of action to protect the global commons outweigh the costs.
• 59 percent acknowledge a very rapid energy transition is needed in the next decade.
• 8.0 percent acknowledge the need for broader economic changes in the next decade.
• 71 percent agree the pandemic recovery is a unique moment to build societies more resilient to future shocks.

When we sat down to design this survey we wanted to capture a moment in time: a specific moment in the Anthropocene. We are at the start of a decisive decade. This is a planetary emergency. We are in the midst of a pandemic. The global commons are at breaking point. Across the planet, are people concerned about the risks? Do people want to become better planetary stewards? Do people feel it is time to adjust our economic priorities to support human well-being and a resilient planet?

Spoiler alert: a defiinitive ‘Yes’ to all of the above.

Several recent surveys have asked people about their own personal behaviour and response to the threat of climate change. These have shed useful light on consumer attitudes, but few surveys have explored the systemic nature of the challenge, attitudes to transformation and views on planetary stewardship. This survey attempts to capture: long-term values (based on what values people think it is important to teach children), attitudes to global cooperation and attitudes to a notion of global citizenship, for example.

Based on this, who, then, are the emerging planetary stewards? They tend to be young (under 45), female, well -educated and urban. They tend to identify themselves as global citizens rather than having a very strong national identity. These are the people pushing for change. They are the warriors fighting hardest for our future.

Is our future nature positive and zero emissions? Judging from the results of the survey, this is the future people want. The vast majority of adults in G20 countries want to become better stewards of the planet. They want their governments to become better planetary stewards. They support the work of the United Nations to improve stewardship of the global commons. And they want governments to engage them more in this long-term vision.

The vast majority of people in G20 countries want the economic system in their countries to adopt “Wellbeing economics” - an approach to build greater social and natural capital rather than a myopic focus on growth of GDP. And the vast majority of people across the G20 see that the benefits of action to protect the global commons outweigh the costs.

However, despite the risk that over the next few years hundreds of millions of people will face severe water scarcity; despite the risk that more people will experience heat and humidity that today makes parts of the world uninhabitable; and despite the evidence we are reaching mass extinction rates for life on Earth, awareness of the scale of the societal transformation needed in the coming decade to stabilise the global commons is worryingly low.

The majority of people in G20 countries are aware that an energy transformation is needed in the next decade, but awareness of a system-wide transformation across all parts of the economy is less developed.

Awareness of the challenges facing humanity tends to be lowest within the wealthiest economies. This should ring alarm bells. Perhaps people in these countries are more insulated through global trade from the physical reality of collapsing ecosystems and subsequent impacts on societies.

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic is a transformative moment. It has changed behaviours and may have even nudged values and worldviews. The writer Arundhati Roy has described the pandemic as a portal between two worlds: before and after. The survey results indicate the world agrees. Within G20 countries, at least, people feel the pandemic is a transformative moment: there is no going back. It is a moment to build societies resilient to shock, to bring us back from the brink.

As political leaders from as many as 195 countries that signed the Paris agreement in 2016 prepare for COP26 in November, 66 percent of the G20 poll respondents say they support nations working together to solve global challenges.
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