We felt privileged, honoured and trusted to be asked to facilitate the first Global Summit on Psychology and Climate Change, which took place in Lisbon, in mid-November, 2019.
The Summit was attended by 44 leaders of Psychological Associations around the world in order to review how psychologists can best address this rgent global challenge.
We were joined by the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who spoke inspirationally on how he saw the importance of psychology in this area. He felt that psychologists should have a key role to play in helping shape and change human attitudes, habits and behaviours to climate change.
“We must have a global response to this as there is not a single country that can address this subject alone,” he said.
There were graphic presentations from different countries showing the impact of global warming, and reinforcing the urgency of the situation. A Resolution signed by participants publicly reinforced the commitment of all those attending to work collaboratively ‘to encourage governmental, educational, health and corporate leaders to promote sustainable and corrective behaviours’.
Industry has a key role to play. There is mounting evidence that changing human behaviour at the individual level, whilst helpful, will not of its own solve the problem. Households can contribute somewhat through changing energy consumption, diet and travel patterns but changes to systemic organisational processes and practices can have a more significant impact.
So, what does this mean for airports? Well, here, there is already a good story to tell. Leadership attitudes and behaviours towards the environment are already changing. Airports recognised this problem relatively early through the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme, initiated by ACI Europe in 2009, which now extends globally.
There are four levels of accreditation: the first three levels have been reached by 227 airports and the highest standard, level 4 (carbon neutral) is now achieved by 61. It’s a small proportion of all the world’s airports, but a step in the right direction, and a good example of foresight and collaborative working.
What else could the aviation sector be doing? We see a number of possibilities:
- Extend the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme and further promote offsetting
- Research and promote new technologies that reduce emissions at source
- Give greater weight to environmental criteria in performance and risk evaluation
- Look for new ways of working to make the aviation sector as a whole more efficient and sustainable across the whole system – airports, airline, air traffic control, regulators and others – at all organisational levels.
Still, the sector is growing rapidly, and aviation CO2 continues to grow as a proportion of total emissions. There is likely to be increasing political and social pressure to curb growth.
‘Flygsham’ (flight shame) is a new Swedish word for the environmental guilt some passengers feel when taking flights.
Aviation’s ‘license to operate’ and grow depends on taking the environment seriously. Flying could become less acceptable if environmental issues aren’t addressed comprehensively.
All of us have a part to play. People matter.