Sustainable Climate Action Requires new Mindsets

Audience at a conference. Photo.

The UN Climate Change Conferences regularly fail to adequately address climate change. Does this relate to how the conferences are designed and organised? Could developing a different culture of cooperation and communication help to make progress? Which mindsets and associated inner qualities might be conducive in this process? A new study and article by Professor Christine Wamsler and colleagues explores these questions.

In cooperation with Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), Chalmers University, and the University of East Anglia, the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) designed and set up a “Co-Creative Reflection and Dialogue Space” at the 25th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP25) in 2019. Visitors were invited to talk about their perceptions of the current COP culture, the inner qualities and mindsets that support a negotiation culture that is conducive to climate action, and how they can be cultivated.

The new study fills an important research gap. While there is a growing body of research that calls for greater consideration of inner dimensions to support transformation towards sustainability, very little is known about the conditions and skills that could support such a change. The key results of the study were that:

• A mindset shift is already emerging across sectors and contexts.

• It relates to new, relational modes of knowing, being and acting.

• A paradigm shift has however not yet happened at the collective level.

• Safe spaces can function as a visible manifestation and catalyst.

The authors also identified five clusters of transformative skills that can support transformation towards sustainability:

  • Openness, self-awareness and reflection: The ability to meet situations, people, others and one’s own thoughts and feelings with openness, presence and acceptance.
  • Compassion and empathy: The ability and desire to see and meet oneself, others and the world with care, humility and integrity.
  • Perspective-seeking and relationality: The ability to see and bring in more perspectives for a broader,relational understanding of one’s self, others and the whole (e.g. related to one’s understanding of the stateof the planet and how information is processed).
  • Agency, empowerment and sense-making: The ability to see and understand broader and deeper patterns, and our own role in the world in this regard. This also relates to optimistic/ hopeful emotions and attitudes.
  • Values-based courage and engagement: The ability to navigate oneself through the world, based on insights into what is important (intrinsic values), and to have the courage to act on them. It relates to principled action-oriented attitudes.

The results make a significant contribution to support sustainable climate policy.
Read more about the study and its results in the journal 
Environmental Science & Policy