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DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — An environmental expert has accused world governments of a "complete lack of vision" when it came to addressing and advancing the cause of sustainability.
Speaking at the K show in Düsseldorf John Elkington, an expert on corporate responsibility and sustainability, referred to calls for industry to reduce to a net zero position its emissions by the second half of the 20th century.
"Politicians don't understand the nature or scale of the challenge and even if they do they aren't acting decisively enough," he told an audience in a lecture hosted by trade body PlasticsEurope.
There was a lack of political will regarding sustainability, one which was exacerbated by companies lobbying governments and slowing down the pace of change, Elkington argued.
Governments could be persuaded to act by the force of their electorate "when things go really wrong", such as the clamor surrounding the problems with the ozone layer in the atmosphere, he said.
However politicians "completely lacked vision" over sustainability. Instead they were "leaning over backwards" to protect the interests of big business.
Elkington said that while there would be many opportunities to advance the cause of sustainability there had been and would continue to be failures. "The challenge will be how to respond to the setbacks," he added.
He commended PlasticsEurope's commitment to reducing plastic waste in the environment and acknowledged that some companies had the vision necessary to both get the message across and put the theory into practice.
On the subject of litter Elkington said certain parts of the world were "fairly intelligent" when it came to dealing with the subject but others, notably India, Africa and "parts of the UK" were faced with a bigger problem.
"If people's mindset is that they can get away with littering it creates a disconnect when it comes to thinking about things like climate change. They don't think it's important either, but the two are strongly linked."
When it came to marine litter Elkington said that rather than come up with schemes to retrieve and re-use waste found in the world's oceans we would be better off preventing more of the stuff finding its way into the sea.
"There's a bit of an 'out of sight, out of mind' mentality with some people. We should look at things like whether it is a good idea to put landfill sites near the sea," he added.