Half a decade ago, on 22nd April 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets to show their support for environmental protection. Mass public demonstrations to legally limit water and air pollution and ensure the preservation of endangered species have laid the foundations of the modern green movements.
Fifty years later, Earth Day is a global event recognised in over 190 countries and supported by hundreds of thousands of organisations. Although much has been done since American students led people to the streets to protest environmental ignorance, five decades later the world is facing the greatest challenge yet – the climate emergency caused by fossil fuel driven economies.
Intention vs implementation
Last year saw the issue of climate change hit front page headlines on a regular basis. The world watched as Greta Thunberg and millions of children walked away from their school desks to join street demonstrations and demand actions that would reverse global warming. Multiple scientific publications, including the ‘World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency’ report supported by over 11,000 environmental experts, delivered new evidence on human-caused climate change and sent a strong message for the global leaders – they need to act now.
A previously unseen level of environmental protests, combined with a changing attitude of industrial and commercial businesses towards decarbonisation and sustainability of their operations, put pressure on governments. In May last year, the UK became the first country in the world to make the 2050 net-zero emission target legally binding. In total, 1,482 jurisdictions in 28 countries, with a total population of 820 million people, have declared climate emergency.
Scientists agree it is still possible to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Any change in temperature affects the planet’s eco-systems, but an increase below 1.5°C will have a far less devastating impact than an increase above 1.5°C.
The United Nations’ ‘Emission Gap Report 2019’ warned that to get on track with the implementation of the Paris Agreement, global emissions must drop rapidly to 25 gigatons per year by 2030. However, based on today’s commitments, emissions are on track to reach 56 gigatons of carbon by 2030; more than double the recommendation. Accordingly, emissions need to be reduced by at least 7.6% every year between now and 2030 to reach the desired level.
Earth Day in the time of pandemic
Today’s 50th anniversary of Earth Day is unlike those of previous years. As half of the world is on lockdown to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, celebrations, environmental protests, and informative campaigns have gone digital with thousands of virtual events across the world.
The leading theme of 2020 Earth Day is ‘climate change as the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.’ To face this challenge, the world needs to unite in its efforts to limit carbon emissions and reverse damage caused by global warming.
The initial outcome of COVID-19, whilst tragic on many other levels, has proven that governments are capable of drastic and immediate action if deemed necessary to save lives. A few months ago, none of us imagined we would suspend our normal lives, cancel travel plans, and close schools and businesses. Whilst the global lockdown has shown us the true fragility in our way of living, it has also demonstrated that we are capable of making sacrifices under tough conditions and uniting during challenging times.
“The climate crisis has the potential to be far more devastating than COVID-19. It is clearly visible on the horizon, allowing us the chance to take decisive action. But we are still moving too slowly to address it,” said Maria Mendiluce, CEO of the We Mean Business Coalition, which works with world’s biggest businesses to accelerate the Net-Zero transition.
“Pairing economic recovery action with climate action will ensure that economies can end up stronger than before [the pandemic], while simultaneously reducing emissions,” Mendiluce continued. Her views are supported by the findings of the 2018 report from the New Climate Economy which shows that shifting to a low-carbon economy could create a $26 trillion growth opportunity – and 65 million new jobs by 2030.
Emmanuel Macron, French President and an advocate for global decarbonisation, told the Financial Times that ‘the current health crisis will change the nature of globalisation and the structure of international capitalism’, prompting the governments to prioritise human lives over economic growth and advancing the global fight against environmental disaster.
Economic and environmental recovery
Earlier this month, the Chair of the Global Carbon Project, Rob Jackson, estimated that the current economic standstill might cause CO2 emissions in 2020 to fall by the largest amount since World War Two. Mass shutdowns, and fall in road and air travels globally, have caused the pollution to plummet to the levels unseen for decades, uncovering clear skies even above the most polluted cities, and providing real life evidence of the damage caused by fossil fuel powered economies.
“The answer to both economic recovery and climate emergency lies in technological advancement. Once the fight against the pandemic is over, the world and its businesses will be looking for the most effective and sustainable ways to recover lost revenues and prevent further global tragedies,” explained Michael Phelan, CEO and Co-founder at GridBeyond.
“As the world’s leading provider of technology for energy markets, GridBeyond is committed to supporting industrial and commercial organisations in making the best decisions for their business, whilst helping to tackle the climate emergency”, added Phelan.
Full decarbonisation of the economy starts with advanced technological solutions that help eliminate fossil fuels from the energy networks. This can only be achieved when the grid digitalises to the point it can manage greater levels of renewable and decentralised generation, integrate technologies such as electric vehicles and unlock flexibility to balance demand and supply. Large industrial and commercial business can support the transition into carbon free economy by becoming active and flexible participants in the energy markets.
Find out more on how your business can assist with decarbonisation, whilst accessing long-term revenue streams through grid balancing services, energy trading, asset optimisation and more, all without initial CapEx. Contact our team for more information.