Words By Sam Ashby
If you do one thing for this year’s International Day of Climate Action, aside from reading this article, of course, make sure you watch David Attenborough’s new Netflix headliner, A Life on Our Planet. As far as game-changers go, this isn’t one to miss. Attenborough, 94, dons his latest entry a “witness statement” to the environmental changes throughout his lifetime. The “most important documentary of the year”, according to Forbes’ Dani Di Placido, was released on September 28th.
In 2009, the Global Monitoring Laboratory of the American National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) quantified the Earth’s carbon dioxide (CO2) tolerance. 350ppm (parts per million) of CO2 was the maximum. Now, in 2020, atmospheric CO2 is at 411.11 pm, according to CO2.earth. The first of this long-winded, but essential, international movement occurred following the release of this research. Organised by 350.org, demonstrations called for an end to unsustainable energy sources. Environmentalists from 181 nations participated in demonstrations, marches, rallies, bike rides, tree planting, solar panel fittings, and even ‘sing-a-thons’. On 17th October 2009, Mohamed Nasheed, the then-president of the Maldives, held a cabinet meeting in an unusual setting.
What’s wrong with CO2?
CO2 pollution correlates to global warming and, consequently, a loss of global biodiversity.
A self-explanatory concept, biodiversity relates to the diversity of biological organisms and processes. It may be used in reference to local wildlife and ecosystems, or on a global scale.
Globally, biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate. The WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020 calculated a 68% reduction in extant vertebrate (that is, mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians) species from 1970 to 2016. We have lost over two-thirds of these species. In under 50 years. While efforts are being made to reverse this loss, they have been largely unfruitful.
On Wednesday 30th September 2020, almost 150 global leaders met (albeit online) with a common agenda, “if we don’t take care of nature, we could end up in dire straits”, as the UN Environment Programme head, Inger Anderson, put it. Anderson goes on to imply the current global climate, where most nations are at the peril of Covid-19, is “because of a disease that came from our mismanagement of nature”. Ironically, it was agreed no explicit commitments would be agreed until 2021, when a more conventional conference will, hopefully, be feasible. The aim is to draw up a contract, or “biodiversity framework”, to achieve significant advances in natural recovery by 2030. The Aichi Biodiversity Targets, set in 2011, outlined ‘strategic goals’ to be met by 2020. Each group of strategic goals, groups A to group E, comprised four targets. Unfortunately, none of these strategic goals have been met. You can, therefore, be forgiven for lacking a sense of optimism regarding the latest UN ambitions.
But don’t lose hope yet. This pandemic may be the final stroke to bludgeon international leaders into serious environmental action. Executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Elizabeth Mrema, revealed: “there is more talk and action now than there ever was before, and I am more hopeful now than I have ever been”. Shortly after the UN leader’s summit, PM Boris Johnson announces the UK government are “absolutely committed” to addressing biodiversity declines. Johnson goes on to say the 2030 pledge will be “only the beginning. Just one step on a journey of many miles”. Under the remits of the 2030 pledge to biodiversity recovery, the prime minister announced a 30% increase in the amount of protected land in the UK by 2030. Though this appears to be a preventative measure, reducing the likelihood of further significant losses, it could well be “just one step” towards major environmental action.
How you can help
350 emphasise the need for collective demonstration. Whereas individual choices including veganism, recycling, and eco-friendly transport are crucial in the movement towards a more sustainable future, veering away from our dependence on non-renewable fuel sources is not something an individual can achieve. Rather, 350 aim to pressure local governments and energy providers to adopt sustainable measures.
The easiest way to get involved with 350’s activities is via their website, 350.org, where you can join your local demonstration group. A common theme for this year, Covid-19 has put a hold to gatherings within groups. In the meantime, you can sign up to receive information about the latest events and announcements, make contact with your local group, or, if there aren’t any groups near you, set up your own.