Why didn’t anyone tell me rapid transition was possible?

By Anna Jonsson on 17 January 2023

Fossil fuels still run our economies and our lives. And now the chief from an oil company is poised to lead the climate talks. I can’t help asking… Is this really happening in 2023?

The climate crisis, the great loss of species, chemicals and plastic spread throughout the globe, and on top of that war and energy security crises. It’s easy to feel both lost and blue in these times, as multiple crises threaten to overwhelm us.

But if you look close enough there are examples that show that change is possible. If we want to. When we understand the urgency and act thereafter. The most obvious and recent example is one that left a huge global imprint: the pandemic.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that this was possible?

In 2020 I was working in the prime minister’s office for the Swedish government, and just before Christmas, I received a proposal to shut down air travel from the United Kingdom and Denmark to Sweden. My task was to confirm that the Green Party was ok with the decision. My colleagues had left for Christmas vacation and I felt quite alone in that big building, with this big decision. But the Green Party’s highest State Secretary confirmed: Just say yes. The same day air travel from the UK to Sweden was stopped.

Prior to the pandemic, the Green Party (whom I represented at the time) in Sweden proclaimed the need for a tax on air travel and many other political parties were furious. I had never even considered the possibility to close down air travel as a legal act. And then it was done, just like that. Okay, I know it was not permanent, but still quite a thing to do.

I wish someone had told me that all this was possible earlier on. Rapid transition had happened literally overnight. To share this insight we have made these animations, showing that: The pandemic was traumatic but showed the possibilities for rapid transition.

Pandemic lessons

Many more things were done during the pandemic that reminds us that rapid transition is possible. Just think of this:

  • People travelling more closeby. An average of 76% of all holiday bookings in 2021 were for so-called ‘staycations’ (which can mean holidaying either at or near to your home, or in your own region or country), an 18% increase on the previous year. Find out more: The ‘staycation’ is here to stay
  • More people got on their bikes. Data from over 100 European cities showed growing cycling rates of between 11% and 48% on average, generating health benefits of somewhere between $1 billion and $7 billion. Find out more: Getting on your bike
  • In November 2020, food waste in the UK was 22% lower than the previous year. Find out more: Hello good food – goodbye waste 

A similarly rapid transition is now happening during the ongoing energy security crisis. For example, the European Council has decided on a voluntary reduction target of 10% of the gross electricity consumption during this winter for the member states. As well as a mandatory reduction target of 5% of the electricity consumption in peak hours. And on a local level, action is also being taken, such as in the city of Malmö, the schools are now serving more vegetarian food because of higher prices of food.

A reminder for 2023: rapid transition is possible

Let’s just remind ourselves in the beginning of this year, the year of 2023, that rapid transition is possible. Just use your imagination to find your way, and feel free to find some inspiration in these animations and these briefings.


Anna Jonsson

Anna is the co-founder of New Weather Sweden.