Top Sustainability Events in 2020 Affecting the World
As we are approaching the end of 2020, it has become time to wrap up this year's top sustainability events affecting the world. This past year sure was a unique one, carrying a pandemic crisis and the U.S election, as well as impactful human rights events and the establishment of a new European biodiversity law.
In this blog post we are focusing on five of this year's most significant events, discussing their impact on the world – as per usual from a sustainability point of view.
1. Alarming Insights From Covid-19
Covid-19 sure has come to affect our lives in many ways. One may think of the pandemic both as aneffect of environmental degradation, as well as a catalyst for short-term climate benefits.
Previously this year we published a blog post on The bittersweet benefits of Covid-19, including pandemic insights from a sustainability point of view, mentioning its positive impact on the environment. A recent United in Science study shows that the global lockdowns have had a significant short-term impact on emissions of greenhouse gases. For example, the daily levels of greenhouse gases fell by 17% in 2020, compared with 2019. In terms of emissions and air quality, the worldwide lockdowns during Covid-19 sure have had a positive and immediate impact on the environment. Unfortunately, these positive effects are not here to stay.
It becomes crucial to acknowledge COVID-19 as a possible consequence of humans' way of life, and to learn from it. The pandemic is often spoken of as an effect of biodiversity loss and intensive food systems, making zoonotic diseases more likely. This is related to human interaction with animals in food systems, and linked to environmental degradation. Furthermore, COVID-19 reminds us of the interrelations between our natural and societal systems, whereas societal resilience depends on resilient environmental support systems.
In order to avoid the onset of future zoonotic diseases such as Covid-19, we need to take responsibility for – and act on – the biodiversity loss and environmental degradation.
2. The Climate Aspect of the U.S Election
In the run-up to the US election, the climate aspect became an important issue, leaving lots of people worried about what the consequences of the final result might be. According to climate change scientists, a re-election of Donald Trump could have made it impossible to keep global temperatures in check, whilst Joe Biden's climate plan would give the planet an actual chance in fighting global warming.
Trump's position on climate change has been questioned a lot, as he has been denying that anthropogenic climate change is real. Gina Mccarthy, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and now the president of the NRDC Action Fund, argues that “the Trump administration has done everything they can to deny the science and denigrate scientists. They have really done everything humanly possible to try to convince people that what they see and feel and taste just isn't happening in front of them."
Previously this year Joe Biden presented his plan for climate change, aiming to make the US energy sector carbon-free by 2035, allowing the United States to become a net zero emitter by 2050. Biden is also suggesting to build 1.5 million sustainable homes and housing units. Also, he is presenting ideas to revolutionize transport in the US, using electric vehicles and trains.
Biden is also seeking to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, which Trump formally withdrew from in early November this year. According to Biden, the U.S will be a part of the agreement as soon as in February.
The initiatives suggested by Biden will have an impact not only in the US, it will help keep fighting global climate change.
The final results of the U.S election is looking positive from an environmental point of view.
3. Black Lives Matter - a Global Human Rights Movement
Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a decentralized political and social human rights movement, advocating for non-violent civil disobedience in protest against racially motivated violence against black people. The movement was initially established in 2013 and got huge attention worldwide in March 2020, following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
The 2020 Black Lives Matter protestshave gathered over 20 million people to participate, making the movement the largest one in American history. The movement has also gathered international support with demonstrations in over 60 countries across every continent, due to the issue of racism being familiar in almost every society. Furthermore, the movement has created huge engagement in the media, creating headlines all over the world as well as an enormous social media interaction. As of today, 25 millions of people have shared a picture with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter.
The protests have started important conversations about the responsibility that industries, organizations and the media have to address institutional racism. Most importantly, the impact of the Black lives matter movement stresses the need for serious reforms to address systematic inequalities in order to support human rights.
4. Human Rights Violations in Belarus
In August this year Alexander Lukashenko was announced as the president of Belarus. This resulted in mass protests, triggered by beliefs of a rigged election in favor of the long-time leader. It is now months since the election, but the human rights situation in the country remains extremely worrying.
Brutal police violence against peaceful protesters is causing fear in the country, making vulnerable groups escape the country. As reported by BBC, protesters have been injured and even killed, and thousands of people have been arrested and some even tortured at the hands of security forces. Innocent people have been imprisoned for raising their voices, including Lukashenko's opponent Sergei Tikhanovsky, who was detained on charges of inciting violence. Mrs. Tikhanovsky argues that the imprisonment of her husband is an effect of the corrupt society, arguing that "All of this blatant lawlessness and injustice shows how this rotting system works, in which one person controls everything, one person who has kept the country in fear for 26 years, one person who robbed Belarusians of their choice"
Although Belarus is not a member state of the Council of Europe, the country is bound by international rights law and obligations, and the United Nations are concerned about the situation. The spokesperson for the UN human rights office warns that “the Belarusian Government continues to wield the machinery of the State to commit human rights violations”.
The situation in Belarus is a terrifying example of how corruption can put human rights at high risk, and we can all agree that there is no sustainable development without human rights.
5. The Impactful Biodiversity Strategy 2030
The biodiversity strategy 2030was announced in 2020 by The European Commission. The strategy is effective from 2023. With the aim to protect nature and reverse the ecosystem degradation, it plays an important role in putting Europe's biodiversity on a path to recovery by 2030, benefiting the people, the climate and the planet. The EU Nature Restoration Plan is a part of the strategy, including several actions and commitments to restore ecosystems by 2030 and onwards manage them sustainably.
The strategy also aims to build our societies’ resilience to possible threats, for example; climate change impacts, forest fires, food insecurity or future disease outbreaks. The forest fires aspect becomes crucial , as Brazil's Amazon rainforest is suffering the worst fires in a decade. In September this year over 32 000 hotspots were recorded in the world’s largest rainforest – a 61% rise from the same month last year.
We have witnessed a unique year in many ways, challenging our normal lifestyle, forcing us to stop for a while and to reflect. There have been positive and negative events happening this year, bringing good things as well as learning us important lessons. We are excited about 2021, looking forward to seeing what the upcoming year has to offer.
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