More than half of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are closely linked to sustainability and climate change—indirectly or directly.
The phrases climate action and sustainable development have been everywhere over the last few years. And considering the current state of our planet and our present trajectory, it isn’t surprising that these are becoming some of the most important topics we can talk about.
Why are Sustainability and Climate Change Such Pressing Issues?
But before we begin a discussion on how these topics are slowly becoming part of government action worldwide, let’s talk about why these topics are important in the first place.
The plain truth is that we have one planet, and it’s this one. And the problem? Is that we are so good at consuming and taking from it that we’ve caused (nearly) irreparable issues that we need to fix now. Despite lots of digital information hubs like Puratium, focusing on spreading information on topics around sustainability and climate change, it is still not enough.
In our quest to make current life more comfortable, we have succeeded in making the planet a little less habitable for our future generations.
According to the Global Footprint Network, we are consuming natural resources as if we had 1.7 Earths available. This means we are consuming far more than we should, and soon, there will be little left.
What makes this worse is that not all countries consume at that rate. Some more developed countries like the United States and Australia consume far more than 1.7 Earths. Meanwhile, some developing countries aren’t consuming enough.
There is an existing disparity in how we consume, and this ties in directly with our quality of life and the sustainability of our systems.
If we refuse to check our unsustainable practices and do not make the corrective and regenerative actions to change them, the systems we rely on so much will eventually break down.
Over the last few years, you may have noticed hotter summers, colder winters, and rapid changes in climate that you would never have anticipated. The last few years have seen record-breaking temperatures, months-long wildfires, and many other harmful events that were exacerbated by human existence.
Put simply, the Earth’s temperature is slowly increasing, and this increase directly affects us in countless ways. It isn’t just the increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters. It isn’t just dwindling biodiversity.
Climate change also affects our food supply, water supply, and our overall quality of life. And if we don’t make changes now, we’re pretty much dooming ourselves in the future.
What Is Being Done?
The Sustainable Development Agenda
In 2015, the United Nations created the Sustainable Development Agenda, a plan which contains the 17 Sustainable Development Goals some of you might be familiar with.
It’s a 15-year plan intended to spur climate action and sustainable development on an international level. It involves interlocking climate and social issues to create holistic and lasting change.
These goals include those relating to clean and accessible water and energy, building sustainable communities, climate action, good health, among others.
These goals are pushed forth on a global and local level, ensuring that there are regulations and policies in place to achieve the SDGs. These goals are relevant for those in the private sector as well.
It is important to highlight that although this movement is held on an international scale, these goals will be mobilized by national governments. Government agendas and policies must coincide with these goals, financing the legislation required as well as making sure they are implemented.
The UN estimates that achieving these goals would take around $5-7 trillion, which isn’t really that bad considering our global assets reach about $200 trillion worldwide. However, although our global assets are enough to finance these goals, there isn’t nearly enough financing being funneled into SDG-aligned projects.
The Paris Agreement
Another one of the major ways countries are participating in creating a better future is through the Paris Agreement. This one is special since it’s an actually binding agreement signed by 196 parties in Paris, hence the name.
The agenda is to cap global warming by 2 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels. The stretch goal is 1.5 degrees Celsius.
This legally binding agreement is intended to achieve a climate-neutral planet by the middle of the century.
It works by implementing increasingly ambitious climate action in 5-year cycles. Countries part of the agreement must communicate their plans and contribute to greater knowledge on how to pursue better climate action.
It is understood that these countries must then work with each other to fill in the gaps. Meaning, developed countries support developing nations through aid in financing, capacity-building, and technology.
The previous two centered on agendas of the international scale. However, the responsibility to act is still left to national governments.
These policies depend on the capacity of the country and its ability to finance them. Common themes in these policies are better energy standards, protecting natural resources, creating sustainability standards, among others.
Systemic vs. Individual Action
In recent times, there has been an uptick in sustainability trends. Reusable straws, canvas tote bags, and zero waste products are just some of the items that have cropped up over the years. And the theme is individual action.
But if we’re honest with ourselves, individual action alone won’t do much. The change we can make happen individually will not be enough to save our planet in time.
Sure, it’s great that we’re taking responsibility for our actions and becoming more aware of how our consumption impacts the planet.
But this needs to happen hand in hand with systemic change. Only then can we make a difference significant enough to turn the tide around in time.
In conclusion, it’s excellent that climate change and sustainability are now such central themes in government legislation worldwide. But the reality is a bit more complicated than just a list of goals.
We are fighting an uphill battle; there’s no doubt about that. And though we can make sustainability part of our life on an individual level, it is really investing in systemic, sustainable solutions that will save our planet.