This week, world leaders are in Glasgow, Scotland for the annual summit on climate. COP26, it’s called officially, meaning this is the 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) since Kyoto in 1995.
Rather than go into a review of what action has been taken since the first COP, I want to talk about what contributes to a sense of achievement – or not – as issues like this evolve. When does talk become action? Or, more correctly, how do we acknowledge that talk has already become action, even if we’re not finished?
Companies face this issue when undertaking organizational change. Change is disruptive, and many long-time employees have heard it all before. What’s different this time? And, what will it take for us to declare it a success?
The challenge in documenting progress on any issue is that the target is always moving. As time goes on, we discover new areas for improvement, new thinking comes to light, new opportunities present themselves.
This mix of emotions about what’s been done, and what’s left to do, contributes to a sense of perpetually being behind. We can struggle to see how far we’ve come when the horizon is still so far away.
It’s further complicated when a tangible change becomes normalized and people forget how things used to be, and therefore, how much change has already taken place.
I was reminded of this phenomenon a few years ago at a fund-raising event for cancer research. Significant progress has been made in this field, and in fact, more people are surviving cancers today than even 30 or 40 years ago.
But it always feels like cancer is the undefeatable opponent. Many still think a cancer diagnosis is a death sentence, when in reality, it may not be so.
So back to COP 26. Without dipping into the climate debate, I do wish to challenge you to think about all the innovations and practices that have been adopted since 1995, if even for just a brief moment. Yes, there is still much to do, and it will take a strong commitment from everyone occupying this planet.
But, it might make you feel better about what it takes to turn talk into action.