It’s time we all make peace with our planet — you and me, parents, professionals, leaders and the upcoming generation. All of us have to make 2021 the Year of Peace. Here’s why: We’re at war with our planet. Even if we declare a truce today and start to live more sustainably, it will take decades, if not centuries, for Earth to recover.
COVID-19, now responsible for nearly 2 million deaths worldwide, emerged because of habitat encroachment and destruction. Meanwhile, the last decade was the hottest on record, while events like hurricanes and raging wildfires increased in frequency and intensity because of climate change. Air pollution now kills 9 million people every year. The concrete, metal, plastic, bricks and asphalt we produce now weighs more than all living things on our planet.
Climate Change Will Impact the Human Rights of Millions
In our oceans, two-thirds of commercially harvested fish species are overexploited. By 2030, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Coastlines are eroding, and cities are sinking as sea levels rise. Mangroves and reefs that ordinarily protect them are either being cut down or are dying from climate-induced changes like rising sea temperatures. Because of the greenhouse gasses pouring into the atmosphere every day, our planet is heading for a 3˚C to 5˚C rise in global temperatures that will wreak havoc on our health, wealth and world.
Living out of balance with the environment is culminating in a pressing existential crisis. Instead, imagine waking up every morning in 2021 with the intention to make peace with the planet. Each of us can be the change we need by pushing our leaders in the public and private sectors to be better stewards of the Earth. With that in mind, here’s my New Year’s resolution. These are the four actions I will ardently advocate leaders take to help us all make peace.
Investing in green infrastructure can solve our energy and infrastructure needs while restoring biodiversity, which has suffered over recent decades. Nature-based solutions such as using dunes and marshes to protect our coastlines shield us equally or better than sea walls. Simultaneously, these can help us meet Paris Climate Agreement targets by reducing global atmospheric carbon emissions by up to one-third. It is cheaper to build a renewable energy power plant than it is to operate an old coal one. We won’t just see benefits for our health and environment. Such investments come with substantial financial opportunities. The UN estimates that green technologies can create at least 18 million jobs worldwide.
Pay Your Fair Share
We need to connect global finance with climate risks. 2021 will be an excellent year for financial markets to finally start aligning investments with their actual costs and benefits to people and the planet. Companies across the globe will soon be required to disclose their climate risks to the public. It starts on the London Stock Exchange in January 2021. In March, the EU’s new disclosure regulations on sustainability come into force. The incoming US administration is heading in the same direction.
I say put the costs of planetary destruction and pollution where it belongs — on those who cause it. To get out ahead of what’s assuredly coming, companies should start the new year by investing in climate risk disclosures and environmental, social and corporate governance actions. For those who don’t proactively get on board with this movement, 2021 and 2022 could prove to be a tougher slog than it needs to be.
Be Nicer to Your Neighbors
We share this planet with a rich tapestry of wildlife. But biodiversity is in crisis, and we need to help. We can do this by increasing the number and size of nature reserves, helping endangered species recover and by supporting sustainable nature-based livelihoods like fishing and forestry. The good news is that these kinds of investments do double duty by combating climate change while bolstering species. For instance, forest restoration helps reduce carbon emissions: A single tree can sequester 4 kilograms of carbon annually.
Our human neighbors could use some similar kindness. Low-lying island nations are bearing the brunt of climate change, and some are sinking before our eyes. Yet less developed countries have few resources to meet these challenges, and adaptation funding only makes up 20% of all climate funding. Even in the most advanced nations, we choose to leave many communities behind. Social equity and environmental justice must be part of our New Year’s resolution.
Lose the Excess Carbon Weight
2021 is an ideal year to lose those atmospheric carbon dioxide love handles. To get on that diet, nations must agree on a timeframe and plan to become carbon neutral. The UK, China and several other countries have already made the pledge, but this has to be an all-in agreement. Our ability to create viable COVID-19 vaccines in less than a year should give us confidence that, once we put our minds to it, we can find workable solutions to our energy and societal needs that don’t require us to burden the planet with more CO2 pollution.
There are many ways business leaders and governments can make peace with the planet in 2021. But there’s also plenty we can do as individuals. I intend to make peace with the planet by choosing wise and compassionate actions, from how I spend money to which places I visit and what leaders and causes I support. Aligning action with intent will build inner peace and a better world. Peace, after all, comes with choosing to do what is right.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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