Now that the pandemic is releasing some of its grip, the climate issue is returning to the top of Outdoor’s agenda. Sustainability consultant Joel Svedlund provides an overview of the state of climate action, risks and vulnerabilities.

Greta Thunberg created a globally unprecedented rise in climate awareness before the Corona pandemic took over the media channels. Though we may have been distracted with seemingly more pressing matters, the Paris Agreement target of limiting warming to 1.5° C, with a maximum of 2° C, to keep earth system stability has not gone away. Nor have we gotten much closer to reaching this goal. UN Secretary-general António Gutierres stated that “the state our planet is broken” and that “humanity is waging war on nature,” urging leaders of government, business and finance to put climate first and act with urgency.

Following the release of the latest IPCC report we have once again received confirmation that globally, climate change presents even more difficult-to-manage challenges in food production, natural disasters, conflicts, and migration flows than was previously understood. Professor Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, claims in a recent TED video that we have just 10 years to act to avoid long-term destabilization of earth systems.

Judging by the current level of climate ambition globally, it is clear the urgency in that statement has not yet been fully realized.

Outdoor industry is uniquely vulnerable to climate change

The outdoor industry has several concerns to deal with if it is to be relevant in the future. Seasons and weather systems will in the foreseeable future have large fluctuations that affect both outdoor sports and the associated sales. Winter sports are already dependent on cold temperatures and producing snow. At the same time, ski resorts are going green to stay white as it is increasingly difficult to justify CO2 emissions from snow production, cooling and other energy intense processes required to run large sports facilities. Summer activities are also at risk as the incidence of wildfires and heatwaves continues to rise. Similarly, the climate impact from holiday trips to our various outdoor playgrounds will likely be placed under increasing scrutiny soon.

Given these risks, it’s important the outdoor industry begin taking steps to mitigate its climate emissions that are in line with the science, and to increase its resilience.

About 60-80% of the greenhouse gas emissions from the outdoor goods industry come from raw materials and energy from the manufacturing of our products. It therefore plays a large role which materials and energy sources are used and how the products are manufactured and transported. It is a challenge to change global supply chains, but this is where the largest difference can be made.

Growing awareness in the industry, however, gives hope. “Climate Action” is currently a popular expression in both the fashion industry and the outdoor sports industry. It is used (and sometimes misused) in many contexts, often as title for joint initiatives and projects. A contest about who dares to make the most radical climate commitments has begun. One can hope, of course, that this will result in an actual restructuring of the supply chains according to those plans to reach the 1.5-degree target.

Blueprints for successful climate action

For non-specialists to keep track of all this, certifications are emerging to verify the quality and authenticity of corporate climate work. Climate Neutral is one of those starting to be used in the sports industry, following the UN guidelines set for climate work. Companies can also use tools such as the Science Based Targets Initiative or the 1.5 ° C Playbook from the Exponential Roadmap Initiative, which breaks down the Paris goals into step-by-step work.

Radical changes will be required in both society and industrial systems worldwide to reach the goal of the Paris Agreement. Our lifestyles will undoubtedly look differently than those during the earlier fossil-fuels era, but if we take appropriate action now, we can keep the best parts and even eliminate some of the worst parts such as air pollution. The choice is still ours to make.


Joel Svedlund
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