Published 2 months ago.
About a 4 minute read.
It’s time for a new summit where citizens, not special interests, have a say. Imagine if COP29 were more like a sports match or a reality TV show …
When citizens are tuning out or becoming disillusioned with the climate process,
democracy is failing. No doubt, the current format is rotten and needs a reboot
— where citizens, rather than special interests, get a say.
Companies are stuck in business as usual, as there are no serious incentives to
embrace a climate-friendly market. At
the lobbyists, business tycoons and corporates queued up like it’s their meeting
— doing everything in their power to influence the agreement or appear greener
than they are. We don’t get better elected leaders than those we vote for; but
these days, politicians seem keener to lend an ear to the special interests than
to serve us citizens. When governments change every four years — or in the
United Kingdom, as parents change diapers — companies don’t get the
reassurance they need to bet on long-term investments in climate. Just see how
the US policies on climate are
If you are the CEO of a US company, there’s less risk in staying verbally
supportive of climate action, but cautious with action to calm shareholders.
Politicians don’t like change, either. The populist politician’s logic goes:
it’s about economy, securing investments and staying competitive in a global
world. If people have jobs, if the economy is prospering, there’s a higher
chance of reelection. They are more focused on the next election cycle rather
than sticking their neck out. We need leaders prioritizing the long term and who
dare to challenge a simplistic growth mindset; we need to add more pressure on
We can’t wait for companies or politicians to rise to the challenge. Now, it’s
up to us. We need citizens to act and vote for change; but people feel left out
and view the climate summit as an elitist exercise with no real
We need a new, engaging and democratic format. Let’s ban the lobbyists, the
business titans, the corporations and the special interests from the summit; we
need a COP that puts citizens of the world first.
Imagine a summit that’s not endless days of negotiations but that’s audience
friendly, democracy friendly. For one day, we gather all heads of state in a
stadium, where they’re surrounded by eagerly watching citizens from every
nation, and the summit is streamed live to the whole world. There are 6
negotiation rounds on important topics — such as, for example, phasing out
fossil fuels. In the beginning, the ambition level is set as recommended by
scientists, who say ‘phase out all (but essential) fossil fuels by 2030.’ Now,
each head of state can decide to put forward their case in no more than 5
minutes for lowering or rising the ambition. That’s accountability for you. We
can hear and see what our elected leaders are saying and doing on the biggest
existential threat facing mankind; and in the next election cycle, we can say
yes or no to them.
We could even add more reality-TV-style direct democracy, so you’ll get people
sitting at the edge of their stadium seats or couches at home. In each
negotiation round, citizens from all around the world can vote from their phones
to remove one country’s head of state from that round. He or she will have to
leave the stadium immediately, only returning for the next round. Or why not add
a time booster? In each round, citizens can vote to double one head of state’s
time to put forward arguments in the negotiation. If one round goes into
overtime, let’s go to a penalty debate format: Each head of state who wants to
lower or raise a target can stand up and defend his or her motion. Citizens can
then vote to let the head of state stay or leave the round, until no heads of
state want to put forward a motion. Each round ends with a celebratory signing
ceremony, where it’s clear which politicians sign or don’t sign.
Before you dismiss the idea of a Climate Change World Cup as laughable,
undemocratic or nonsense, then please consider what we’re witnessing today: lack
of substantive action, lack of engagement, lack of democracy. If you have better
suggestions, fire away.
Published Dec 19, 2023 2pm EST / 11am PST / 7pm GMT / 8pm CET
Thomas Kolster is an internationally recognised marketing & sustainability expert, author and keynote speaker, and founder of the global Goodvertising movement that’s inspired a shift in advertising for the better.