A barrage of industrial activity and thoughtless human habits has left the earth facing a 'triple planetary crisis': climate disruption, nature & biodiversity loss, and pollution & waste.
According to António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, "We have only one Mother Earth. We must do everything we can to protect her." Though he seems to be stating the obvious, it is high time that the earth and its environment are treated as a primary concern and are no longer an afterthought. A recent study tabled by the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), states that the world's most populous countries have already reported a loss of over 24% out of 4,000 wild food species, plants, fish, and mammals.
It will require a concerted multi-stakeholder effort to transform our economies and societies – make them more inclusive, fair, and connected with nature. All stakeholders, including Governments, think tanks, industries, financial institutions, NGOs, communities, and citizens, have to play a more active role in this transition to work. Keeping sustainability centre stage across all processes and operations has become non-negotiable for the industry to halt further biodiversity loss and protect and revive degraded ecosystems.
To achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) corporates and industries have to be the catalysts needed to work towards halting climate change and biodiversity loss through the designing and adoption of green business strategies based on sustainability. It has also become critical for organisations to continually improve energy efficiency to reduce their carbon footprints and invest significant financial resources in digital technologies. The constant innovation in these technologies will enable circularity by identifying and tracing products made from sustainable materials and components. The impact of these ambitious circular performance strategies can be communicated transparently, through traditional reporting structures.
Corporates need to collaborate with industry and national authorities, inter-governmental organisations, and civil society to collectively brainstorm and help develop policies to build a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy. Adopting low-carbon fuels for long-range and heavy-duty transportation, shipping, and aviation can go a long way in making carbon-intensive industries like transport and logistics more sustainable. In the case of large-scale infrastructure development, government organisations should look at using natural and recycled materials for construction and development.
Another vital contributor to the climate crisis and the greatest threat to biodiversity is the lack of sustainable efficiencies in food production, processing, and delivery. India's biodiversity loss is a case in point that is just as rapidly concerning as other countries. As per the Centre for Science and Environment's (CSE)'s report, 'State of India's Environment In Figures, 2021', over 90% of the area under the country's four biodiversity hotspots has already been lost disproportionately. To combat this, we have to start by minimising deforestation and encouraging the conversion of other natural habitats.
Ambitious and consistent policies and their sustained implementation by committed leaders are essential. Governments also need to take decisive actions globally and nationally to halt the depletion of nature and restore terrestrial and marine ecosystems by setting targets backed by solid action plans and financial support. Tax subsidies by governments for organisations engaged in sustainable production to reduce environmental degradation will prove instrumental in improving the socio-economic and sustainable growth of the country. To meet these goals, governments worldwide will need to relook at their national accounting systems and establish natural capital at the heart of assessments to guide economic policy.
Governments across countries are also the critical cogs in the efforts to drive sustainability on a large scale by implementing cross-sectoral transformative change either at the global, national, or regional levels. Implementation of policy changes has become vital to avoid a climate catastrophe and ensure GHG emissions fall by up to 45 per cent by 2030. Policies that discourage the use of, and lead to the phasing out of fossil fuels, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and incentivising renewable energy to build energy efficiencies are the order of the day. Levying a tax on organisations for fossil fuel use will further incentivise industries to develop climate-friendly and energy-efficient processes and products.
The march towards sustainability and net-zero is meaningless without large-scale fund mobilisation. Significant funding and investments from development finance institutions and investment funds are essential to moving toward a cleaner and greener future. Corporates and industries must adopt policies and targets and shift capital, investments, and finance to companies using recycled materials or sustainable feedstock to drive sustainability. There has already been significant movement in energy financing to promote investments in portfolios that support sustainable initiatives to build the capacity, services, infrastructure, and human capital needed to achieve the UN SDGs. There is a need to pick up the pace.
The message from António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, is clear, there is still hope, but the 'Time to Act is NOW'. Governments, industry, science, and technology must partner together - to build a future where nature and people can thrive together. A more sustainable path is possible, but it is critical to rally individuals, governments, companies, and communities around the world to take action for the world to meet the net-zero goal by 2050.