Hard to believe but the first Earth Day was in 1970. Earth Day 2021 feels special. There is a lot of momentum. More than ever before. We need it. A lot has to change. The encouraging moments add up. China committing to carbon neutrality by 2060. The US coming back to the table to be part of the sustainability dialogue. And today on Earth Day 2021 the US announced the reduction of carbon emissions by 50-52% by 2030 in comparison to 2005 levels. That is in addition to the EU’s reduction of 55% by 2030 in comparison to 1990 levels and the UK’s 78% by 2035 in comparison to 1990.
As soon as the UK government made its announcement for the improved carbon emission targets, the all-important question arose. How will they achieve this? The government has not presented a plan in regards to what needs to be done to achieve these ambitious targets. In fact, the opposite is true: they continue to create additional carbon emissions which they then have to neutralise. Oil drilling permits in the North Sea, coal mines in Cumbria, HS2 construction. None of this supports the ambition of this new commitment.
The statement of an ambition alone is not good enough, and has never been good enough. Certainly now with a climate crisis at hand there is no time for big words and no action. Politicians have to stop using their energy to make vague statements, trying to present impressive numbers while obscuring context which reduces the scope for comparability. Politicians need to put all their energy into agreeing and implementing the actions that will take us to the goal of carbon neutrality. In time to save our only earth.
Unsurprisingly, Greta Thunberg has criticised US lawmakers: “How long do you honestly believe that people in power like you will get away with it?” This is a very interesting question. Is it too cynical? Does it represent the public’s perception of what politicians do?
Taking action is directly relevant to our own daily work in sustainability. We work together with our wonderful clients to not just communicate the new environmental policies but to develop the strategy that takes them to carbon neutrality and then translates that into actions which can be measured and managed. The focus is now on making it happen, which is why we work so hard with our clients that sustainability is not merely a policy statement but a clear plan of actions that clearly sets out how ambitious targets will be achieved.
(Photo credit James Wheeler)