Trying to predict the key sustainability trends in 2015 is tricky. It will be a momentous year with the Paris climate negotiations and a UK election that is impossible to call. Undeterred by this complexity here is my best guess at the seven key trends in the year. 

Don’t expect Paris to drive global change. I fear that the Paris climate negotiations will mirror an England football team World Cup campaign. Massive initial hope will be followed by disappointment that will then be spun into something vaguely acceptable after the event. However, I do expect there will be positive movement on the global stage driven by massive change in China and increasing collaboration between the world’s major cities.

Green policies in the UK will be at standstill. It will be a messy year for UK politics with every chance that the election will produce a minority government which might even lead to a second election. Within this turmoil parties will be turning up the volume on issues that directly hit voter’s emotional buttons. Green issues will simply be drowned out in this noise.

Intriguing oil. If oil prices keep falling (which is a big if), the impact will be significant. On the positive side searching for oil in fragile parts of the world will become less attractive. On the downside renewable energy will become less compelling, price pressures to reduce energy use will diminish and the political turmoil could be significant.
Infrastructure will bite back years of under investment in key infrastructure such as energy and flood defences will continually surface forcing government onto the back foot reducing them to introducing sticky plaster solutions. The (false) debate of economic growth vs environmental protection will resurface with a vengeance over airport expansion and HS2.

Watch out for the disrupters. Incumbent industries in key sectors particularly retail and energy will look increasingly vulnerable. They could respond by radically strengthening their sustainability commitments but are more likely to retract to core business and cost cutting. On the positive side there are likely to be an increasing number of new technologies that will make sustainability more attractive for businesses and consumers.

Watch the deeper undercurrents underneath the shouty headlines. There will be a growing movement of people (many of whom will be young) who will be leading a less materialistic life. There will be a growth of community based initiatives with people reconnecting with traditional skills leading to more upcycling, less food waste and better use of resources.

The gap between science and policy will grow. Probably the safest prediction is that the gap between what scientists tell us we should be doing to avoid the worst extremes of climate change and what policy-makers actually do will grow. This should be the biggest concern for us all because at the end of the day the climate doesn’t do negotiations.