Let’s say you’re living your life and the angel of death comes to you and says, “It’s time to go”, and you say, “But, no, you’re supposed to give me a warning so I can decide what I want to do with my last week.” Do you know what death will say to you?

I’ve given you your whole life? How were you not aware that your time is limited and you’re supposed to be using it for something meaningful? I gave you 52 weeks this past year alone, and look at all the other weeks I’ve given you. Why would you need one more? What did you do with all of those?

If asked that, what are you going to say? “I wasn’t paying attention? I didn’t think it mattered?” That’s a pretty amazing thing to say about your life.

Until very recently, climate action wasn’t a priority for me. I used to consider it too big for one person to make a meaningful difference. I was reckless and careless. Switching off a light or the air conditioning when I go out won’t save our world, right?

Yet my purpose to make work better for millions of employees, one person at a time, made me realise that my journey from ‘I to We’ and from ‘Ego-system to Eco-system’, means addressing the root causes of disruption to business, society and the environment. I realise now that I am guilty of the silo type approaches that address the problem at the symptom level that largely misses the interdependency across these problems. I would like to thank Professors Bill George of Harvard Business School and Otto Scharmer of MIT for enlightening me.

The 2015 United Nations Framework Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) will be held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015. It will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The ecological divide is a disconnect between self, business and nature that shows up in many forms of environmental destruction, of resource scarcity, of falling water tables, of climate change, and of soil erosion. And if you want to put a number on the ecological divide, that number is 1.5. Today we operate the world economy that uses 1.5 planet Earths. In other words, we use 1.5 times the regeneration capacity of our planet Earth.

If carbon emissions continue unchecked, average temperatures could increase by 4.8 degrees in this century says the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The level of the world’s oceans could rise by up to 98cms. Effects of global warming include acidification of oceans, destruction of coral reefs, extreme weather, refugees from climate change, threats to food security, biodiversity and pollution.

In the run-up to COP21, the engagement of the public, religious leaders and business community may be the greatest cause for optimism. But the graph below shows the relative web search interest in climate change from 2005, demonstrating that interest in global warming has decreased substantially. We are simply not searching about the topic as we used to. It could be that we feel suitably briefed about the issue, but I’d suggest the figures indicate an overall decreasing interest.

20 years of UN climate negotiations have been unable to produce a legally binding and universal agreement. The Paris gathering has raised hopes that world leaders will at last make a serious move towards a decarbonised world. Failure to produce a binding agreement among member states would be a devastating blow to the world’s confidence that the process could eventually yield acceptable results. They’ve set themselves the goal of limiting the rise in the Earth’s temperature to 2 degrees in this century. To do this, we would have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 40 and 70% over the next 35 years.

The US military now considers climate change to be a threat on a par with terrorism. And in China, air pollution has reduced life expectancy by five years. Here are some of the current and short-term symptoms:

  • Water: During the twentieth century, the global demand for fresh water increased six-fold. This was accompanied by a reduced supply of fresh water. Water is in short supply in countries where one-third of the world’s population lives and one in every five people on earth lacks access to safe drinking water.
  • Soil: The loss of topsoil is largely irreversible during the course of a human lifetime, yet over the past forty years soil erosion has caused nearly a third of the world’s arable land to become unproductive.
  • Climate: From 1995 to 2006, every year except one ranks among the twelve warmest years ever recorded. Carbon dioxide is at record levels in the atmosphere.

I am proud to be associated with One Young World. At this year’s upcoming Summit in Bangkok, a young leader from every country on earth will address their Heads of Government on mainstream media for three-minutes each.

Take a moment to imagine that. Then consider what’s the story of the future that you want to be part of?

Sir Bob Geldof, Professor Muhammad Yunus and Kofi Annan will take our message to the International community. And our message is clear:

“In Paris, you will decide who will live or die.”