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Photos: iStock and Jens Dresling, Ritzau Scanpix

Visions as a driver for change

There is no single solution or single vision.
Interview in the project Nordic Stocktake and Visions – Pathways to climate neutrality

Just as there are multiple pathways towards climate neutrality, there are a multitude of different visions of what the climate neutral society could and/or should look like. As will be evident throughout this report, some visions depict a society that closely resembles the one we know today – just greener and smarter. Other visions describe societies radically different from current ones. All these different visions are valid and the variation between them constitutes a good starting point for a societal dialogue on how we would like a climate neutral society to look.

What does a good life look like for a regular middle-class person in 25 years? When it comes to questions like that it is difficult to not get bog­ged down by fear of what such a life could look like. But I think that’s really what we need … to have some­thing to strive towards, and also something to be excited about, the oppor­tunities that these transitions can give to our lives.
Emma Holten, discussions at COP27 in the Nordic Pavilion

In the green transition, countries that have the tools, know-how and institutional and financial capacity must step up and lead by example. The Nordic countries fulfill these criteria. But leading by example is not just about providing feasible pathways towards climate neutrality. It is also about contributing to a positive, global narrative about climate neutrality and the opportunities for achieving increased human well-being in the process.

We are way too afraid of talking about goals – about how we would like things to be.
Interview in the project Nordic Stocktake and Visions – Pathways to climate neutrality

Visions and goals can help us maintain hope for a better future – despite the multiple crises we are currently facing. Positive visions can create buy-in from citizens and decision-makers and can highlight the elements of change that we need to start addressing now to achieve the vision.

The process of “visioning” also helps building future resilience in a society. Future resilience is the “capacity to live and develop with change and uncertainty (…)
Rockström, J., Norström, A.V., Matthews, N. et al. (2023). Shaping a resilient future in response to COVID-19. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-023-01105-9
” and we need it to navigate the many pathways to climate neutrality and their uncertainties.

Getting the narrative right is the biggest challenge.
Interview in the project Nordic Stocktake and Visions – Pathways to climate neutrality

Humans tend to prefer the status quo and are inherently skeptical towards change
Lang, C. et al (2021). Status quo bias and public policy: evidence in the context of carbon mitigation. Retrieved from: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/abeeb0/meta
. This is why positive narratives of the necessary changes are key. A positive narrative can act as an enabler for climate change action while the lack of narrative – or even worse, a negative narrative – makes people disconnect and avoid the issue rather than act on it
Suttie, J. (2018). How to overcome “Apocalypse Fatigue” around climate change. In: The Greater Good Magazine, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_overcome_apocalypse_fatigue_around_climate_change
. Research shows that catastrophic scenarios of climate change can overwhelm people, prompting apathy or depression
Moser, S. C. & Dilling, L. (2007). Creating a Climate for Change: Communicating Climate Change and Facilitating Social Change. Cambridge University Press, USA.
Another aspect to consider is the need to envision a future that encompasses other regions as well. In the Nordic region, we have a strong Nordic identity and a lot of things in common, but we live in an interconnected world, and our actions in the Nordic region have impacts on people around the world. In the Nordic region, we have the capacity to begin a dialogue on positive narratives on what it means to live in a climate neutral future, but those narratives also need to be appealing to other regions and other parts of the world.

We will all appreciate it once we're there. We just are not all ready to take those steps, you know, and why are we not ready? Because we're not presented with a vision and a plan. If you don't see the end goal, why would you start running?
Interview in the project Nordic Stocktake and Visions – Pathways to climate neutrality