‘Stop setting things on fire’: 9 great ideas to save the planet | environment

“Take the money out of politics”
Naomi Klein, author

Naomi Klein
Photo: Adrienne Grunwald / The Guardian

There is no single thing that will stop global warming – but what makes all kinds of other things possible is curbing the power of transnational capital over our governments. It is the ability to financially reward (and punish) lawmakers, in various ways, that is the single biggest impediment to progress. We need to ban corporate campaign donations, direct and indirect, and we need to stop the revolving door between corporate lobbyists and legislators from spinning so that comfortable work in the sector they regulate is no longer an inducement to adopt pro-pollution policies.

Put out sparks in cars, boats and buses’
Bill McKibbin, environmental expert

Bill McKibbin
Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

It is now possible – and necessary – for humans to end the 200,000-year-old burning habit. Fire served us well in prehistoric times, and made some of us wealthy during the Industrial Revolution. But now we need to stop setting things on fire, and instead rely on the fact that the Good Lord placed a great ball of burning gas 93 meters high in the sky, which we now have the power to take full advantage of. Keep igniting joints and barbecues, but extinguish the sparks in kitchens, ovens, power stations, car engines, boats, and buses. And we do it quickly.

“Make health care eco-friendly”
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, boss year of the world health organization

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Photo: Rex/Shutterstock

The health sector is dealing with many of the consequences of climate change. At the same time, it is responsible for about 5% of carbon emissions, making it a significant contributor to climate change, while hundreds of millions of people still serve hospitals and clinics without electricity. After last year’s COP26 conference, 60 countries committed to making their health systems more climate-resilient, and reducing carbon emissions from healthcare. The World Health Organization calls on every country to adhere to the same commitment, and to provide clean and reliable electricity to every health facility.

Switching to reusable materials
Nina ShrinkAnd the The great fighterGreenpeace UK

Nina Shrink, campaigner for Greenpeace UK.
Photo: Will Rose/Greenpeace

In our neglected society, it is as if we are faced with an avalanche of disposable plastic. One simple idea holds the key to turning this around: reuse. This practice has been an integral part of many cultures around the world, yet the corporate world has made us forget those traditions and the value we place on things that took natural resources and energy to produce. We need to shift to reusable packaging that remains in circulation – used, washer, reused and, crucially, out of the environment. The status quo simply doesn’t work: we need to incubate the innovations that will allow reuse to thrive in the modern world.

“Tax the rich right”
Thomas Piketty (pictured) and Lucas Chancelle, Economists

Thomas Piketty
Photo: AFP/Getty Images

To combat climate change, we must invest massively to decarbonize our transportation, energy and production systems: we need billions of euros for this, which is 2% of global GDP each year. The wealthy must pay their fair share of taxes to fund such efforts. This becomes more legitimate when we know that the wealthy contribute a disproportionate share to climate change. Globally, 10% of the population contributes to about half of all emissions and there are also large disparities in pollution within each country.

Empowering poor countries
Sunita NarenEnvironmentalists

Sunita Naren
Photo: AFP/Getty Images

We can save the planet if we can save our common humanity. We have to move from a divisive, hateful and unequal society to one that truly understands the interconnectedness that our common future needs. We have long neutralized inclusion and equality policies because we believed that environmental protection was about finding the next disruptive technology. This will not work. We need Nimbe – not in the backyard – not for the rich but for the abject poor, so that they can say no to the next polluting enterprise; So that the societies and developing nations of the world can say no to the excessive consumption that is driving our addiction to fossil fuels. We need climate justice to be at the heart of climate action.

“Clean up public life”
Mike Berners-Lee, author

Mike Berners Lee
Photography: Alami

While science and technology to save the planet is a challenge, it is not a bottleneck. But to deal with these complex systemic challenges requires clear, high-quality decision-making. Currently, this process is largely disrupted by hidden agendas, deceit, and greed. So my idea to save the planet is to educate and insist on much higher standards of honesty and compassion among our political and business decision-makers. Without it, nothing will work.

Rebuilding the planet
Rebecca WrigleyAnd the chief executive officer From Rebuilding Britainand George Monbiot, author

Rebecca Wrigley, CEO of Rebuilding Britain

Rebuilding – the collective restoration of life on Earth – can repair not only our living systems but also our relationship with them. By allowing forests, wetlands, savannas, coral reefs and other depleted ecosystems to return and regenerate, re-breeding can simultaneously help stop the Great Sixth Extinction and withdraw much of the carbon we released into the atmosphere. This positive environment may be our best defense against despair.

“Returning power to the people”
Jacqueline PattersonAnd the Founder and CEO From The Chisholm Heritage Project

Jackie Patterson, Founder and CEO of The Chisholm Legacy Project

The United States is one of the world’s largest polluters. It also has a major impact on climate negotiations, which have hitherto been crippling, with corporate interests acting as puppet masters. The major shift in our global political and economic situation would be to decouple the outsized influence that corporations have on U.S. legislatures, courts, and regulatory systems, and thus the amount of greenhouse gases the United States emits domestically, as well as their impact on the world. Negotiations and commitments from other countries. In short, to achieve climate justice, we must make sure that power is in the hands of the people.

These nine writers are featured in The Climate Book created by Greta Thunberg and published by Allen Lane (£25) on 27 October. To support Guardian and Observer, purchase your copy from guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

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