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Climate Action 2020

Earth Day 2020 on 20 April marked the 50th anniversary of this holiday and this year’s theme is Climate Action.  Climate change was one of the top three environmental issues  facing Britons in 2019 - our hottest decade. 

A study in 2013 found that 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause. The 2015 Paris agreement endeavour to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 in order to mitigate the 1.5 to 2 degree rise in global temperature to zero by 2050. Unfortunately political will has not been strong enough so far to initiate a massive policy shift away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable forms of energy.    

But suddenly we see clear skies as air pollution levels have decreased and wildlife returning to walkways and beaches!  Why? We are in a lockdown

British wildlife has been liberated and enjoying the new depopulated beaches and forest tracks. There are more sparrowhawks, stoats and deer on these once heavily populated areas; and moles are daring to come out from their underground habitats to hunt for worms. When we move aside, nature moves in.  But will we give them a shock when we move back and encroach upon their habitats?

Another accidental positive benefit, albeit a temporary one, is that the skies are clearer and air pollution has decreased. The sudden reduction in global economic activities resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic have led to carbon emission cuts that all efforts to do so far have not achieved -  18% in China between February and March and between 40% to 60% over the recent weeks in Europe. 

Sadly, the above is a temporary positive glitch, be it in the air pollution and carbon emissions levels or the return to natural wildlife environments. The question is what happens when the global lockdown is lifted and life returns to ‘normal’ by our definition?

Wildlife be shocked and retreat once again. Carbon emissions will return to its real levels and the planet will resume its march towards global warming.  

Studies have shown that global warming is likely to be the greatest cause of species extinctions this century. This destruction of habitat and biodiversity has created the conditions for new viruses and diseases such as Covid-19 that has led to the current global lockdown and profound health and economic impact.  Is this nature’s payback time? One wonders!

We are facing an existential threat and action is necessary. Perhaps more than extreme weather events such as droughts, wildfires, heat waves, melting Arctic ice and flooding , the increasing threat of pandemics will convince the public to put more pressure on policymakers to act urgently to curb carbon emissions and address this issue of climate change  before it’s too late.

Aside from climate change, the other environmental two issues facing Britons in 2019 were dealing with waste and over packaging of goods.

When we talk about waste, the elephant in the room is PLASTIC. By the year 2050, the world’s oceans will contain more plastic waste than fish – ton for ton.   

We need to make sure we dispose of our packaging carefully for collection for recycling or other treatment. We must also be mindful of the fact that recycling has its limits. Resources such as energy, water and other costs are involved to collect, sort and clean the waste. Recycling should only be an option when it saves more resources than it uses. If you have to use single-use packaging, make sure it’s compostable. Statistics have shown that recycling can only decrease the environmental footprint of plastic by a tiny amount. 

The waste problem has also  been laid at the door of packaging. We need packaging, but this should be kept to a minimum and sustainable. There are many ways of showing support for sustainability through packaging:

  • Promoting and encouraging the use of more plant-based packaging material;  More and more plant-based materials which are biodegradable and easily disposed off are used for packaging.
  • Minimizing packaging and hence waste.

There is increasing demand for sustainable packaging from regulators as well as consumers. Consumers are more aware of what biodegradable and recyclable packaging is and what is simply ‘green washing’. Packaging needs to be genuinely produced in a sustainable way. Element Packaging advocates the use of eco-friendly and refillable containers. Element packaging is home compostable, compostable and biodegradable that does not leave nasty footprints unlike plastic packaging.