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The world’s sustainability community has advanced a number of important proposals in recent decades to forestall accelerating climate change, slow deforestation, provide clean water and sanitation, generate clean energy and practice responsible consumption and production. Limited progress has occurred as measured by concrete outcomes rather than aspirational statements and pledges at international conferences and by corporations.
While opposition from the fossil-fuel industry and its political supporters are primarily responsible for this result, the inability of global sustainability proponents to persuade enough people to support their agenda merits a re-examination of their arguments and strategies. A look back at the recent COP26 gathering and its inability to galvanize world leaders into making substantive, verifiable commitments to protect the planet leads to a conclusion that the current sustainability narrative and its coalition of supporters have already reached their peak influence.