Today, the Guardian teamed up with SAB Miller to host an afternoon of live online debates on how to achieve ‘interconnected action on water food and energy’. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to tune in to any of the live streams, but I have tried my best to catch up on all the online discussions following.
Being part of the wider ‘Guardian Sustainable Business’ professional network, the debates largely focused on corporate responsibility and technological innovation, and it was great to see a wide range of speakers from both public and private sectors . However, I still felt like there was a lot that went unsaid. There was much talk of ‘valuing our natural capital’, whilst cleverly avoiding controversial topics such as food speculation and land/water grabbing. And, despite many mentions of ‘international collaborations’, there still appeared to be a firm distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’; both in terms of the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ world, and the ‘corporate’ and ‘public’ responsibility.
I would have liked to have seen a greater discussion on the role of the ‘rising middle’ in climate change mitigation and adaptation, and by that I mean the growing number of middle-income countries, and the rising trend of the middle class in the developing world. The Middle is becoming increasingly important in the development agenda, because this is a cohort that has rapidly moved from the ‘extreme poor’ to the ’emerging middle class’, yet remains particularly vulnerable to external stresses in the environmental and socio-economic climate. Considering that this expanding middle is also coupled with a trend of rapid (sub)urbanisation in developing countries, it is clear that we need to move beyond the ‘urban=mitigation’ and ‘rural=adaptation’ generalisations in climate change research and policy.