According to the World Health Organization, air pollution triggered 7 million premature deaths in 2012 and is responsible for more than 30 million tons of lost crops each year. Indeed, the debate around climate change i.e. reducing carbon emissions, methane, and other so-called “short-lived climate pollutants”—including black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and high-global-warming-potential hydrofluorocarbons—remain in the atmosphere anywhere from a few weeks to a few years but produce outsized harm.
Part of the challenge in reducing these pollutants is that multiple industries—including transportation, solid waste disposal, agriculture, refrigeration, and brick production—contribute to them. Progress, therefore, depends on collective action. Much is already being done. Companies are finding ways to work with governments and NGOs in various topic-specific forums and coalitions, where everyone sets aside differences to work on the common ground of environmental sustainability.
As just one example, Coca-Cola, Unilever, and other companies have formed Refrigerants, Naturally! to shift cooling technology in the food, beverage, and retail sectors toward more climate-friendly alternatives to hazardous hydrofluorocarbons. Refrigerants, Naturally! is an organization of companies, and it is publicly supported by the UN Environment Programme and Greenpeace.
And that is the point: Activist groups and companies that are sometimes at odds over these issues are finding ways to work together because they all have the same goal: to keep the Earth and its air, water, and other resources clean and plentiful.
It sounds simple—find the common ground and work together—but of course, it’s not. At the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), where we work together to address SLCPs, we’ve learned a few ways to build collective action. They include:
- Ensuring senior leadership engagement, or, in the vernacular of governments and international organizations, “high-level involvement.” At this level, roadblocks can be dismantled quickly.
- Establishing a culture of less talk, more action, through approaches that include trackable goals and comprehensive stakeholder involvement. One environmental minister in our coalition dubbed us the “Coalition of the Working.”
Now there is a need to pay attention by doing action, it is a simple preposition for survival.