Is René Magritte related to Earth’s Overshoot Day?

We are a part of this planet history, being the existence of most of us a tiny fraction in its timeline. René Magritte, the surrealist Belgian painter, illustrated so quite well in its “Human condition” paintings, one of which pictured above.

This realistic vision is also myopic to the extent that most cannot see the collective impact of individual similar actions. Those squandering behaviours continue as more of the old or similar products are available at the distance of a shop or a click & collect. Ecstatic by the new items or services purchased consumers may perceive a life in heaven when in fact are continuing the curse on the Planet. René Magritte’s La Malédiction, (The Curse) from 1963 and pictured below, illustrates it quite well.  

René Magritte’s La Malédiction, (1963) can be seen in Brussels at Magritte museum

We do have a chance to switch the surreal curse into a real paradise! Switching from the unsustainable linear production and consumption model to the circular model is a way to achieve so.

Achieving sustainable circular economy models stimulates creativity and innovation in the quest of giving goods a longer life, increasing thus its usage not only in one product but also in subsequent manufacturing processes.

Reducing the national depletion rate gap which spans from January to December is thus a must. The later in the year the better. And the soon we can change those habits, the better. The big depletion rate comes mainly from the 1% who in their culture of wealth demonstrations drive the Planet to a continuous global warming. How about following Bill Gates in donating fortunes to well managed institutions to tackle global causes instead of continuously seeking to being featured in the Year’s wealthiest person. He is donating his to the Gates foundation. Well done Mr Bill Gates.

Human capital has increased globally yet there are nations that prevent it from being used, either fully or partially. This is a waste of resources that should be reduced too as in so doing and well oriented may lead to Natural Capital improvements.

René Magritte gives us a perspective of our existence. We have a chance to act with overlasting impact, too. Would be good that by 2030 the depletion trend we have seen in the last four decades as illustrated in the graphic below is reduced and by 2050 is reverted. Yes, we can! Obama said so and made history! Collectively, Humanity can achieve what is needed. It does request a mindset shift too.

Would like to check your footprint impact on Earth’s overshoot day? Use the calculator by the Earth Overshoot Day NGO https://www.footprintcalculator.org/home/en. It has its limitations, though.

Earth Day 2022, Invest in our Planet

Each year on April 2022 we celebrate our Planet Earth, which as a living system, changes according not only to the intrinsic but also to the extrinsic factors. Many climate scientists have shown through their research that global warming during Anthropocene has been a consequence of Human activity, accelerated by the industrial revolutions.

As awareness raised so did the pressures to move away from exhausting the limited resources our Planet has been offering us so they can be used and consumed for longer allowing future generations to also use and consume them. To do so without reducing socio-economic welfare requires updates on processes, technologies and mindsets. Investment is thus needed. Investing in our Planet, if correctly done, implies an investment in society and consequently an increase in welfare. The latter stemming from for example reduced health problems due to cleaner air resulting from improved production technologies which pollute less too.

Increasingly more investors are aware of this need and opt for responsible alternatives allocating their money in sustainable investments, enlarging the sustainable investment pie. They also show the mindset change investors need to undergo. Yet risks of continuous greenwashing in investment still exists as the OECD recently pointed out, asking for standardisation to make sustainable investments easier to track and compare. The United Nations estimated in 2018 a range of 5 to 7 USD trillion annually needed to meet the agreed SDGs by 2030. Between 2018 and 2020 sustainable assets under management rose 15% according to the World Economic Forum to about USD 35.3 trillion. Yet, this level is behind UN’s expectations by 17% on average, as shown in the graphic below created by me with UN data. The lockdowns imposed as the Pandemic emerged resulted in a slowdown of investment projects as risks of unprecedented recession emerged, and the resulting drop on the global output might explain to a great extent this deviation.

Filipa Ferreira, UN Data

Also due to the Pandemic the issuance of sustainability bonds, green bonds and social bonds, financing instruments for socio-economic and environmental purposes, accelerated to unprecedented levels too. By the end of this year, sustainability bonds issuance is expected to exceed USD 1.5 trillion. Will the pace be maintained and the sun rise through forests expanding our life and our planet’s?

Filipa Ferreira, a forest in Europe

Three reasons to fall in love with sustainability

Being sustainable means that existing resources will be used in a way that current as well as future generations can access and use them to the same extent permitting similar or better living conditions. So, it’s not only for the future but also for the present! Hence, I’m sharing with you the 3 fundamental reasons why you’ll fall in love with sustainability as soon as you realise the good of it.

  1. Getting healthier

Thanks to technological and knowledge improvements the air has gotten cleaner. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 395 million people suffer from chronic respiratory diseases (CRD), over 10 million die annually and 4 million of them do so prematurely. Other sources identify over 500 million of CRD and a 39,5% increase on CRD between 1990 and 2017. The WHO has identified “tobacco smoke, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and air containing microbes, toxic particles, fumes or allergens” as the top sources of unhealthy air. It is known that GHG emissions have soared since the beginning of the Anthropocene as the world was making economic progress, which paved the way to further research and the current knowledge. It has been a trade-off society has incurred. Given that technological developments and policies have enabled an increased renewable energy generation in the energy mix, powering further progress, society has a duty to transit to a cleaner energy mix, doing so reliably and robustly. Aligning stakeholders to do so has been challenging but as more benefits from deploying such technologies are understood less resistance is faced. An illustration of such improvements is the air quality in Beijing, more in the spotlight in the last two weeks due to the 2022 Winter Olympic games. It has been reported that Beijing has improved its air quality implementing very tough measures such as a winter without heating to force replacement of old coal boilers for cleaner versions and halt of the production from polluting sources. In the graphic below, which I elaborate using Air Quality index data, it’s observable that Chinese air improved during 2008 Olympics but retreated 3 years later, to improve again. Recently, the FT published two pictures of the same location of Beijing in 2008 and 2022. The first showing thick levels of pollution and the second a clear sky. Cutting pollution implies fewer toxic particles in the air and an expected improved air quality, which reduces the number of people with chronic respiratory diseases and hence a healthier population, in what concerns CRD, hence a better life quality. Doesn’t that make you happier?

Own elaboration with AQLI’s data

2. Getting wealthier

Sustainable goods and practices are characterised by being durable, which means they last longer than non-sustainable ones being manufactured for multiple uses. They also should be conceived for reparation and re-integration in the manufacturing cycle extending the product and its components life expectancy. This means that instead of spending for example, 30 euros for a sweatshirt every year, you spend for example 60 euros on a sweatshirt which can be used in great conditions for 7 years. In doing so, the materials you’re saving by reusing multiples times the same product are being saved for future generations, so they can also be accessed and used while simultaneously you’re financially saving.

Multiple studies such as the IPCC reports show that climate change will affect geographies with extreme weather events. Knowing the risks to be faced and how to mitigate them, may allow for future savings, which ultimately increase wealth.

It has been shown that being sustainable has benefits for the Planet, the People and the Organisations. Leading organisations such as Unilever have embraced in sustainable practices and improved their revenues as shown in the graphic below, I created based on macro trends data, along with its profits, share value and distributed dividend and yield. Paul Polman, its CEO between 2009 and 2019 has been the face of sustainable leadership pushing for a systemic transformation in businesses and in society.

Own elaboration with macrotrends’ data

3. Building better

As a responsible citizen or organization, you embrace in sustainable practices, which include consuming and producing responsibly. Doing so, allows the finite resources to be maintained for a longer period allowing future generations to use them and enjoy high living standards. Aren’t we grateful for the land which has been feeding the world? Or to get to beaches and mountains that have been kept accessible and clean throughout the years by our ancestors? Haven’t we benefited from Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, and millions of inventors, studies, good practices that have been contributing to society’s increased welfare and life standards? So why are we preventing future generations from enjoying the good in our Planet and improve future life standards? Do you want to Build Better? Reach out to me, perhaps I can help you!

Photo by Cup of Couple on Pexels.com

COP26

In the long-awaited COP26, 197 parties have agreed to voluntarily comply with Paris Agreement’s articles in a global and shared effort to mitigate the negative impacts of Climate Change, now common and more robust knowledge. Notwithstanding, some nations prefer to ride freely, preventing the Planet to further progress on its population’s wellbeing. Some of its population oppose this attitude but the adopted strategy shows they are a minority. From Glasgow, where parties stretched extra-hours to get an agreement on art.6, my key take-aways are:

  1. Sustainability leaders are making further global commitments to quickly limit global warming by signing the Methane pledge. 103 countries representing 40% of global methane and 60% of global GDP have signed so but not the top 3 polluters, India, China, and Russia, as per UNFCCC. The pledge is a quick win on the global GHG emissions race as methane has been contributing to 30% of them. In so doing, global warming is expected to be limited by approximately 0.2ºC in 2050 and air quality improved, with subsequent health benefits such as less air related diseases or deaths. The light blue scenario in the WMO’s graphic below is more likely with the announced pledge. Cutting methane emissions demands further change on fossil fuels operations (the largest activity contributor) and society’s consumerism behaviour, pressuring especially on the diet as methane stems also from agricultural activity.
  2. The NDCs published aren’t enough. India, the third polluter as shown in the Statista graphic below with Statista data, hasn’t communicated to the UNFCCC its targets announced during COP26. Their intention of delaying to strongly commit for a greener and more sustainable economy and Planet is clear.
  3. Developing countries are consciously polluting deteriorating global society’s welfare while enriching themselves, at the expense of all citizens’ health. The last-minute change from the expected agreement on “phasing out unabated coal” to “phasing down unabated coal”, seems a concession on the developing countries’ argument that they still need to grow their economies and hence, need to burn fossil fuels and increase atmospheric GHG, albeit is now common knowledge that practice has high negative externalities. The two Asian giants claim to have inferior capacities than developed countries, yet in July 2020 India banned power equipment imports from China, on which had been relying to expand its renewable generation capacity. According to Fitch, India imports 80% of the power equipment from China. At the existent internal production capacity Fitch’s estimates that India cannot deliver Net-Zero by 2050, as needed to limit global warming to less than 2ºC. The claim and the announced commitment don’t make sense. Playing with the existing rules and applying a pure money driven short-term resolution turned out to be a nasty step for the Planet and the most vulnerable. India is exclusively looking at its own belly button not playing together for our planet, a shared effort and goal. How will the world be if led by such careless and disrespectful nations? The low tactic played is environmentally unsustainable.

“You’re supposed to be phasing out coal over the next 20 years, you just signed an agreement with us,”

John Kerry, U. S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate to Xie Zhenhua, China’s Special Envoy for Climate at COP26

We said phase down.”

Xie Zhenhua responds to John Kerry through his translator, Reuters 14th November 2021

 If we hadn’t done that we wouldn’t have an agreement,” 

John Kerry to Reuters’ reports, Reuters 14th November 2021

I am a big supporter of globalisation and see both positive and negative aspects of the equation. Continuing with globalisation, enables best-practices to be shared more openly and the world can progress in scientific, business, educational and lifestyle sustainable practices. Not allowing so isn’t learning from history. We’re living in a different era with a global problem not faced previously with current intensity. If globalisation hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have the current common knowledge on climate change causes and impact.

Will COP26 accelerate the path to Net-Zero?

The Emissions Gap Report, published this week by UNEP, supports IPCC AR6 and the UNFCCC’s NDC Synthesis Report with regard to the urgency needed to mitigate and adapt to Climate Change.

The efforts some countries expect to make, recently communicated through the updated NDCs are welcome. The World has become #onestepgreener. Yet, much more is needed as map 1 created by EGR team illustrates. Its efforts combined with corporate pledges only reduce greenhouse gases emissions by 7.5% (EGR, 2021).

effect of latest NDCs on GHG emissions by 2030 vs previous NDCs.
Map 1 – latest NDCs impact on global GHG emissions level by 2030 compared to previous NDCs
Source: Emissions Gap Report: The heat is on

To limit Global warming to 1.5ºC, with a 66% probability, a reduction of 55% from pre-industrial levels needs to be met by 2100, so atmospheric carbon concentration is at the 430 ppm maximum level. Different scientific sources inform the current carbon budget is over 410 ppm. Its increase rate has changed between 2.6% and 1% annually, according to World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) data. If we keep releasing at these rates, the carbon budget will be reached soon. In 2024 and 2025 respectively, as my calculations show in the graphic below, using WMO data. Given the current NDCs and pledges, a 66% probability of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC, by 2100 seems a too optimistic scenario. The EGR informs that with current emissions rate trend, the Planet will have warmed 2.7 ºC by the end of the century.

historic atmospheric CO2 concentration in ppm, WMO data.
Graph 1: Reaching Carbon Budget (own elaboration with WMO data)

Emissions trading schemes, a big topic to agree on during COP26, have been contributing to limit atmospheric emissions in some sectors. As companies operating in those sectors are penalised for the GHG emissions they directly generate above the set threshold, they had to decide on its optimisation. Choosing the right scenario implies a thorough process, where sustainability needs to be at the centre of the decision making. Let me remind you that sustainability is a broad concept based on three pillars; environment, social and governance. A concept not always properly used, as greenwashing cases have shown.

We all inhabit this Planet. We all profit for the care we take of it. Like the community who takes care of its common property, the more stakeholders look after it, following the set standards, the better the outcome. When it’s a voluntary work, there will be free riders who will not contribute but will benefit from others’ collaboration. When collaboration is mandatory, the collaboration’s output will reach a higher level. Very likely welfare gains will also be higher. If this behaviour is scaled to a global level, with each neighbour being each country, mandatory global emissions trading scheme could be the most beneficial for the sustainability of our Planet.

Given that not all the parties have updated their NDCs and only 60% of G20 countries have set Net-Zero targets, how can COP26 succeed in managing the global GHG emissions effectively? Isn’t the world risking for the own backyard mindset to prevail over the protected forest one? Would setting national emissions trading schemes delay the Net-Zero goal as countries spend their resources on deploying so instead of allocating to deploy a global scheme? Getting countries to update their NDCs in a Pandemic scenario has been limited by the short-term political perspective. The EGR mentions that only 2,6% of public budget spent during the Pandemic were on activities that potentially reduce GHG emissions. This shows sustainability’s environmental pillar hasn’t been a core investment criterion. The world wasn’t prepared for the black swan and diplomacy failed to influence properly and seize the opportunity to change for good and speed up decarbonisation.

I agree with the EGR – The heat is On. Acting globally instead of individually, leads to efficiencies on capital allocation. When managing emissions with a global system, most likely corporate admin costs would be reduced. Capital savings could then be used to further decarbonise organisations’ activities. It also shows we are #togetherforourplanet.

NDCs, latest update… The Planet will lose 3 kgs but needs to lose at least another 19 kgs…

The UNFCCC has released its full NDC synthesis report last Friday, 17th of September 2021. Whilst in the previous report only 113 parties had updated or submitted its NDCs targets, which corresponded to 49% of Global GHG emissions, the latest report shows that until 31st of July 2021, all parties had submitted their NDCs. A great progress has been done, as the call on my article from 31st of July.

Implementing those targets requires a collaborative effort, not always well received in spite of the common good all benefit from. The complexity of the system, given the underlying multiple interests and values makes the implementation an odyssey. The seas, currents and waves, through which the Sustainable transformation has been navigating, will take the Planet, Society, Businesses and Governments to lasting Prosperity, as long as compliance is a good practice. The commitments that parties have taken are summarised below in the graphical representation I’ve created.

NDCs implementation commitments as of latest updates from July 31st 2021.

According to the full NDC synthesis report, most of the parties expect to transit to a decarbonised economy between 2025 and 2030. But as “most” ranges between 41% and 70%, achieving Carbon Neutrality by 2030 and Net-Zero by 2050 has a high variability. To keep in the 1.5ºC global warming trajectory, a 45% reduction on global GHG emissions from 2010 levels by 2030 is requested (AR6). As such, high variability in the commitments makes me forecast dark and heavy skies ahead.

This landscape is easily seen on the below progression chart, “Projected total emissions levels in 2030 compared with historical levels and the estimated 2025 level”, was extracted from the report. Although a progress has been made in 8 percentage points, from the NDCs presented in 2016, alignment with 1.5ºC global warming pathway demands a 52.5% cut on GHG emissions from the latest NDCs. Reaching 26.02 GtCO2eq, implies a sustainable transformation in the economy, only achieved with a common effort as #weareallinthistogether. Many factors will contribute to the full economic decarbonisation. Innovation, collaboration, capital allocation to sustainable investments, policies and regulatory frameworks that enable a just transition, along with a clear strategy and roadmap will be key.

“Projected total emissions levels in 2030 compared with historical levels and the estimated 2025 level” 2016 vs 2021 NDCs GHG emissions level relative to historic values.
Quercus faginea, a gift to remind electors on the reforestation promises of a local government political party to the local government elections, to be held soon in Portugal.
Quercus faginea

The report does call for urgent bold actions, through different strategies: (1) overperforming current NDCs, (2) update the existent commitments or (3) a mix of overperforming with new extension of NDCs. It suggests material strategies to align with 1.5ºC pathway, namely the halt of coal related investments, a phased-out usage of fossil fuels passengers ICEV; newly constructed buildings net zero energy consumption by 2020 and expanding the forest area. The latter a measure some politicians aiming to win local governments elections are currently promoting in their campaign in Portugal.

As mentioned above in this article, the decarbonisation and consequent socio-economic sustainable transformation demands a significant allocation of capital. Changing finance policy to promote sustainable initiatives is thus imperative. Many central banks have started to take bolder actions to attain a sustainable transformation pushing through its monetary policy instruments. Commercial banks have been requested to conduct stress tests assessing their resilience to climate related risks, which increase as we approach the 1.5ºC trajectory sooner than expected, as IPCCC’s AR6 has recently shown. As it becomes inevitable, what are your thoughts on how to best contribute on the economic sustainable transformation? What actions have you been taking?

For many sustainability has been only a trend and #greenwashing an acceptable practice. Considering its negative effect on the sustainable transformation, could #greenwashing be penalised as negative externality? A proxy of the #opportunitycost and the #welfare loss it generates by not fully delivering the claimed sustainable value, would be a doable penalty to be paid by the #greenwashers. It would also constitute a revenue source to the national and supra-national public finances and be used for the NDCs’ implementation. Hence, the good players would be benefiting from a good behaviour while the free riders will face a lower incentive to cheat. With time, hopefully this extraordinary revenue will diminish.

How’s the New Year sustainable resolution? What has been of 2020? A mid-year review…

Just before we turned the calendar page to 2021 and amidst historical lockdown’s New Year celebrations across the planet, I wrote a small article titled Renewable Energy in 2020. It suggested potential New Year sustainable resolutions and wishes. The latter reflecting a NY’s tradition in both Portugal and Spain.

As we’re now in July, less than half-way through the end of 2021, it’s time to do a balance on how have we done so far with each one of our New Year sustainable resolutions. In a mid-year performance review style! Have you done yours? There’s still time for correction and stop those extra unsustainable behaviours, so you can be right back on track!

The first of my 2021 wishes, clearly didn’t materialise. Across the world many countries have been re-entering lockdowns due to new outbreaks, driven by Sars-Covid2 mutations spreading faster and with higher lethal risk as the Delta variant. Although some countries have been speeding up vaccination, increasing the immunity of its population, it hasn’t been enough. As of July 29th, the UAE is the country with highest percentage of inoculation, 79.3% with at least 1 dose and 70.8% of fully vaccinated population, according to the FT. Worldwide, the FT shows that 4.1 bn of vaccines doses have been given. Israel was the fastest country to reach 100 doses per 100 residents, doing so by mid-March. Second to Israel was the UK, achieving so by mid-June. According to Reuters, the inoculation speed prize for countries with a population over 1 million is now held by Ecuador with 1446 doses per 100k people. By October 2021 the FT estimates 5 billion doses could be administered with a likelihood just over 70%.

My second wish, has a brighter outcome. Climate Action has improved in 2020.

Arouca Unesco Global Geopark by Filipa Ferreira

 In terms of business and governmental actions, what has been done?

  1. Energy transition is occurring. Worldwide renewable installed capacity has increased by 2 percentage points in the total electricity generation installed capacity. In 2020 261 GW were added, reaching 36.6%, according to IRENA. South America is leading with 67.8%, Europe follows with 49.8% and Oceania with 46%. The latter is the continent with fastest growth, 4 p.p. from previous year. In terms of demand, IEA shows that renewable energy grew by 3% in 2020 reverting the overall contraction on electricity demand, that was induced by Covid-19 pandemic’s output restrictions.
  2. The USA is committed again with the Paris Agreement, officially back in 2021.
  3. NDCs have been partially delivered. 2020 was the deadline for the Paris Agreement signatories to submit or update its Climate-Action plans, 40% of the parties representing 30% of global GHG emissions have done so with the majority expecting to do so throughout 2021. The new commitments have increased coverage of the parties’ GHG emissions to 99.2%. Some have already started implementing their action plans, others set 2021 as the kick off year. The UNFCCC estimates that the current plans are insufficient to meet the Paris agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC by 2030. GHG emissions are expected to reduce by 0.7% in 2030 in comparison to 2010, yet 45% reduction is needed. The remaining 60% needs to present and implement its Climate-Action plan urgently.
  4. Corporate Sustainability reporting has increased, but not all show the joint commitments requested to limit global warming to 1.5 ºC – 2ºC by 2030. More companies have signed pledges to do so and made public commitments to decarbonise its activities. Zero taskforces have been set up, to push industries to take bolder actions to decarbonise its sector. It’s a good step, we all would be much better if more embrace so and more material commitments are made, too.
  5. Climate risk is increasingly part of central banks stress testing. Sustainability compliance is becoming now a criterion to be financed across the whole finance value chain.

With COP26 expected to be held in Glasgow in November, what is being done? Some examples:

  1. Alok Sharma, COP26 president has been pushing for bolder commitments across the globe.
  2. The EU has approved its Climate Act and among other measures banned the Top 10 single-use plastic goods of Ocean leakage – cutlery, plates, cups and lids, straws, bottles and caps, food and beverage containers, lightweight plastic bags, cotton bud, tampons applicators, pads, balloons plus its sticks and fishing gear containing plastic. As of July 3rd, they no longer can be transacted. The expected impact of this ban is a 50% reduction on Ocean’s leakage, avoided annual emissions of 3.4 million CO2, and savings of Euros 6.5 billion of consumers’ annual budget. Hopefully the existent stock won’t end up in the Ocean.
  3. Sectoral Engagement is being carried out by the UNFCCC. Lookout for yours, engage and influence others to do so, too.

Myself? I certainly became more sustainable in my practices. I have been supplied by 100% sustainable energy sources for the longest time in my life. I have reduced my food intake to healthier portions, adding my sand grain to mitigate soil exhaustion and LULCF. I also managed to influence some people to recycle and reuse, extending certain products’ life cycle and participating even further in the circular economy. I’ve recently calculated my carbon footprint, too. It’s 53% below the UK average.

The Northern Hemisphere summer holidays season has started. It’s a good time to do your balance and, if needed, reconduct your sustainable behaviour. Happy Sustainable holidays!


Unesco Arouca Global Geopark

Packaging waste

According to Statista, packaging generated 46% of worldwide plastic waste in 2018, followed by the textile sector, as illustrated below in the packaging waste by sector diagram gathered by Statista in 2021.

With the 18.75% surge on the global e-commerce sales during the 2020 Pandemic, as reported by the UN Conference on Trade and Development at the beginning of this month, the need for secondary packaging has moved alongside that surge. Alibaba, Amazon and other online resellers’ procurement departments may have been extremely busy ensuring packaging procurement wouldn’t be disrupted by the international trade restrictions imposed on supply chains due to the global and quick multiplication of Covid-19 infection. Amazon has even managed to deliver parcels within a few hours of ordering and added some extra paper layers inside those parcels, minimising the operational risk. The previous emerging trend of selling from bulk where consumers showed up in the store to fill their own container, may become a short-lived marketing and sustainable initiative, hindered by that global shock. When looking for the optimal solution between number of items packed, lead times and warehouse storage space, it seems the environmental footprint hasn’t been fully considered. Some online purchased items get home even with three layers of packaging, some of which cannot be reused, only recycled.

Given that more packaging ends in households along with their lower recycling rates when compared with stores’, possibly due to either lack of recycling culture, incentives or appropriated infrastructure, it is paramount to change so. The EU has been leading on the packaging recycling. Yet, there’s room for improvement. Currently only 66% of that waste is recycled, as can be observed in the Eurostat graphic below.

What can you start doing? Stimulate your circle of influence so other households can increase recycling volume and recyclable inputs in packaging can grow again. I know isn’t easy. But with creativity, we can achieve so. Play around, go for a walk, watch a film, exercise, talk, dream. One day an idea will come. It may not be by serendipity but through the process you have previously kicked off.

A 2020 Pew research study, Breaking the Plastic Wave, alerted for the current 11 million tonnes of plastic leakage into the ocean annually, 37.5% more than previous forecast. Have you considered in your next holiday to:

  1. Throw in the recycling bin the plastic used and no longer possible to be reused;
  2. If a plastic falls from your belongings carefully pick it and recycle it;
  3. Raise awareness of those around you for the volume of annual plastic leakage, that softly kills the biosphere;
  4. volunteering to help maintain clean the space you’ve travelled to, if local community isn’t sufficiently aware?
Photo by Catherine Sheila on Pexels.com

Isn’t that awful when you’re sold a trip to a paradisiac beach but when you get there, as the weather has dramatically changed, plastics and other type of litter were brought onshore? What about the micro-plastic that we ingest when we eat fish?

The above-mentioned Pew research study, illustrated in the graphic below, Plastic Leakage into the Ocean, calls the attention on the significance of tackling plastic leakage into the ocean. From the current 11 million tonnes per year, only bold actions will ensure a substantial reduction by 2040 of 54.5%. If we keep behaving unchangeably the plastic leakage into the ocean will raise by 172,7%. Hence, a systemic change is needed or we risk depleting the ocean along with increasing its acidification, which will affect the dependent ecosystems.

Plastic leakage into ocean scenarios by Pew Research study, 2020.

Energy Access

Have you realised that without energy we would be living in Wilma Flintstones’ world? From the mattress where you sleep, the pillow you rest your head, the sofa possibly overused in the past 14 months to the shoes you ware or the vaccination booking, all goods and services need energy to be used.

Energy is a basic good and its distribution, a basic need. Although great progress has been made since energy access data started to be collected in 1990 by the World Bank, as shown in the graphic below, not all have access to it yet. The last decade of the XX century experienced a rampant improvement in the energy access. Overall, energy access improved over 35 p.p. between 1990 and 2000. It occurred mainly in Latin America, Caribe, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. World leaders ensured the World started the XXI century with more comfort than it began. But unfortunately, that comfort has been accompanied by extra GHG emissions as the chosen energy systems were not the most environmentally friendly. Progress came at a cost.

As we progress in the XXI century a new system is emerging. The dialog amongst civil society, businesses and governments is becoming more inclusive in solving global problems such as mitigating climate change negative impact. The transformation many sectors need to pursue is being pulled by the strength of those three actors and the urgency to act deeply to decarbonize and limit global warming to 1.5ºC or 2ºC. Although The Economist informed this week that an yearly volume of 5.5GtCO2 emissions haven’t been taken into consideration by countries, just same volume as the second most pollutant country, due to the varied reporting standards adopted by different countries. With this new data, our Carbon Budget for our Planet’s average temperature not to be risen above the limits agreed with the Paris Agreement, is most certainly smaller than has been announced.

In the previous century, a country’s typical energy mix was comprised of natural gas, oil, coal, hydro, nuclear and a insignificant presence of renewables. As technologies developed, global warming became more evident, pollution levels rose along with respiratory diseases, action to tackle this societal problem emerged stronger. Consequently, renewable investments have been increasing as shown in my post Energy Transition investments.

It’s great to see this increasing portion of renewable energy being generated and consumed. Yet, this increasing rate causes extra pressure in the national energy system operators. The uncertain nature of the renewable energy generation, that not always generates what is expected due to weather changes and the need to meet the electricity demand makes the grid balance to ensure the system’s reliability, more challenging. For each one of us to switch on the power anywhere and anytime, without disruption, system operators need to ensure electricity is generated, transmitted and distributed in the correct amount and at the right tension.

Integrating the new distributed systems in the traditional model is a challenge that will be overcome, in many parts of the world, with a collaborative action from civil society, businesses and governments.  

P.S. The previous graphic wasn’t showing the % of population with energy access. The current one is the correct. Yet, this does not change the fact that population has had a more comfortable life with an increase of energy access. The number of countries with energy access has been growing for the past 3 decades, and although the last quinquennium of XX century more population were deprived of energy access, that trend started to revert as the new century and millennium began.

Earth Day – #RestoreOurEarth

Both Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries define restore as a way to return something to a previous good condition or position; or “to bring back into use something that has been absent for a period of time”.

But we can only restore something if we acknowledge it has been deteriorated. As mentioned in my first post, Beginning, recent global warming has been caused by Anthropocene’s activity. Although these past 14 months economic activity has dropped deeply, emissions have only dropped slightly as a large amount of activity became digital, accelerating the digital transformation that many organisations were reluctant to join more significantly. As brick-and-mortar shops closed to contain contagium, the transport induced emissions increased due to a higher adoption of Covid-19 safer home deliveries. In some places electric delivery vehicles surged. A good time to show remote workers some of their products were sustainably delivered, but it hasn’t been enough.

EarthDay.org

As the Earth day approaches and lockdowns started to ease, which action are you taking from Earth’s day onwards to also contribute to #RestoreourEarth? Well, in case you haven’t thought of one, and haven’t become aware of your carbon footprint, I recommend you to use the carbon FOOTPRINT CALCULATOR (henkel.com) from Henkel, analyse your results. At the end you’ll find your footprint in comparison to the European Average, the Global average and the target carbon footprint, giving you an opportunity to think how much you need to change the unsustainable actions by sustainable ones and influence the people around you. This carbon footprint calculator contributes to a research #Henkel is doing with the aim of providing more sustainable goods in the near future. According to Henkel, the collected information remains anonymous.

Once your awareness has increased, you should consider some new sustainable habits to improve your Carbon footprint. (You may want to watch this 2015’s Nasa video showing a year of Carbon dioxide and monoxide emissions across the globe: NASA | A Year in the Life of Earth’s CO2 – YouTube).

Remember that to be sustainable means that resources are used efficiently, with reduced extraction and longer usage, allowing future generations to also access and use it. You can do so by:

  • Reusing – stop the single use of all items which don’t convey a health risk.
  • Repairing so it can be used for longer (a good example can be an electric equipment that only needs its engine to be repaired, allowing a longer usage and less plastic or steel to be produced and consequently less GHG emissions released);
  • enable its Reincorporation in other manufacturing processes;
  • Recycling and contributing to a longer lifecycle.

Reduce the resources to be consumed and contribute to restore our planet! Remember that not all food locally produced suggests an adoption of a sustainable production method. Also, bear in mind, that less usage means less extraction, which consequently means less disturbance to ecosystems and higher biodiversity. The latter is at risk of huge loss with subsequent great impact in our wellbeing, if we don’t limit global warming to 1.5º C.

Earthday.org