As COP26 rapidly approaches many mediators have been thinking about how they can play a positive role in helping to deliver the ambitious targets needed to prevent a climate disaster. It is clear that we are a small community but the supermarket slogan “every little helps” definitely applies.
One of the ways mediators can help is by learning lessons and adapting practices based on what has been happening in the Covid pandemic. During that period there has been an explosion in online activity with mediation happening in people’s homes on a screen with mediators in their homes too. Not only has that been convenient, and whilst the experience has been different, it has certainly worked. Now, whilst not all mediations will be as effective online, there are likely to be a significant amount that will be; certainly enough to make online mediation a central part of mediation delivery as we go forward. All this in contrast to the days when “technology” didn’t have much of a role to play for the mediator.
So how does this impact the climate? The most obvious way is that the environmental cost of transporting everyone involved to be in one place, which can be significant, can now be avoided. An additional environmental impact is the reduction in the amount of paper being generated. Documents can easily be shared and read online and multiple sets don’t have to be printed for everyone involved. Even where it is felt necessary for parties to meet in person I will certainly be asking if everyone involved needs to attend physically and I’ll be thinking about what the most sustainable way to travel will be.
If online mediation is to play a big part of the future, then mediators will also need to share their experiences and adapt their practice to ensure that the mediation they deliver meets the appropriate standards and meets the needs and expectations of the parties involved. Scottish Mediation is supporting those discussions and is ready to make sure that our standards cover “online” as effectively as they do “in person” mediation.
The other things we are doing include encouraging mediators to consider their environmental impact by signing up to and promoting the Mediators’ Green Pledge. https://womacc.org/mediators-green-pledge/
There is however a great deal more that we can do and the critical one for me is how we can use mediation and a mediation approach to help the difficult discussions that are taking place across the world to make net zero a reality in day to day lives. Instead of creating the change we all know we need by telling people to comply by passing laws we believe that real change can come more effectively by getting people to agree to change their approach.
As an example of this approach organisations across Scotland are signing up to Regional Land Use Partnerships supported by the Scottish Government. It’s a great initiative and it’s clear that there’s a lot of goodwill to move discussions forward. There will be times where disputes will arise whether through misunderstanding someone’s motives, not understanding the practical difficulties people face or because it doesn’t look possible for different positions to be resolved. Mediators are used to dealing with these sorts of difficulties everyday and whilst the situations are likely to be complex, getting to what people needs are in such situations can play a positive part in delivering the sorts of solutions that will be needed.
In the run up to COP26 there are likely to be a great number of negotiations going on between nations and groups of nations in order to be able to come to agreements on a global level, about the actions needed. Whilst these discussions are very much in the public eye and very political, I know there will be mediators supporting them in the background. I do hope that common ground is able to be established and that the different needs of those nations and groups of nations can be recognised in a way that allows the global community to agree on the actions needed to move forward.