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.

To the women and the men,

To the women and the men,

Back in 2019 I was fortunate to attend an International Women’s Day event held at a men’s club, which opened its doors to a women’s event for the first time. I was pleased to witness this change, as a woman who spent over 4 years in a team of 9 men and myself! The venue premises were indeed remarkable and so was the guest speakers’ panel. In the quest for inspiration and networking to make my way back to the Londoner professional circle, I listened to their stories, navigating with them through their journey as they spoke. I thought there could be a space for me once again, in spite of the recent geopolitics change. At the end of the day, we were a bunch of professional women who had been facing the hardship of being a woman breaking boundaries, independently of their socio-economic and professional background. With this bit of fresh air, I felt inspired to carry on my journey. Moved with this positive feeling and having landed in a new place new to us all, I tried to create a space where women with apparent similar interests could also find inspiration to their journey. Yet, geopolitics were thrown in my face.

It also came to my mind the sculpture I came across in the autumn of 2013 in Ottawa, Canada. It represents the inclusion of women as people in Canada’s constitution in 1929, paving the way to a more inclusive workforce and a more equal society. About a century later, progress has been slow along the equality journey. Indeed, some women make other women move forward yet, others make them retreat, especially those who firmly stand for their right of being equally treated in a sexist and classist world disguised as progressive. Multiple researches on this topic show that women typically work harder than men, not because women are less capable but due to the peers’ bias working women need to overcome. On top of that, women earn less. We need to break the bias!

The more women in all professional fields more just and developed will a society be. Let's break the bias and allow more women to work at higher levels of the decision-making.
Ottawa, Autumn 2013

As we celebrate this International Women’s Day, we celebrate the announcement made in January by the European Commission’s President, Ursula von der Leyen, that a minimum of 40% representation of both genders at a corporation’s Board becomes law in the EU. A very welcome step from a strong leader!

To the women and the men, who really practice equality and make the world progress and diminishing the gap. Those with high and low visibility, who take action, speak up and reduce discrimination starting in their direct circle of influence, sometimes risking of losing the “support” they had.

We cannot forget the recently expanded war in Ukraine, continues. The autocratic leadership that has triggered so at a country’s level, have been also seen in corporations for quite some time, paving the way to the populism of the far right and far left, as the subordinates either agree with the leader or are made let go, unjustifiably. Corporate weak leaders, who have dictators as role models and see no boundaries to the means used to get their end, the absolute control and disrespect over others. Hopefully this horrible war can open the world’s eyes and triggers action to also stop the corporate totalitarians who have been making the world a more unequal and less human place. As Gary Hamel says, overcontrolled professionals get suffocated becoming unable to create greater value. Getting people contributing to their growth and then suffocate their work is very far from sustainable! Villarejos, tomatinas, bullfights, fandangos don’t allow progress. If scientists who have been working to find Covid-19 vaccines had been suffocated, today the world would have been in a far worse place.

Cheers to the women and men who grow sustainably, letting also others grow sustainably! A vehicle can only go as far as its infrastructures allow it to move.

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

Making Peace with Nature

A high-bridge at the Eco-Park in Kuala Lumpur city centre, allows visitors to observe monkeys and its cubs in its habitat.
Eco-Park in Kuala Lumpur by Filipa Ferreira

Who doesn’t love a walk in a nice well-maintained park or forest? Or a walk in a clean beach? Or at the nearest park? Who doesn’t love the fresh air from clean environments? I’m sure the vast majority of human beings love that. So, why has Nature been so damaged by Humanity? Isn’t time to take bolder actions, preserve the environment and restore what has been damaged but still on time to be recovered? Why waiting for an irreversible loss to hypocritically talk about it?

In her opening speech at the 5th UNEP meeting, its executive director Ms Inger Andersen called for a united action of the whole society, driven by UNEP, as its duty to also care for the Planet so harm is contained: “We have to acknowledge that we need an all of society effort to radically change our ways if we are to make peace with the planet and therefore create the environmental conditions so that all of humanity can thrive, now and for generations to come.”

The UNEP report, Peace with Nature, launched last week calls for the urgent need to act on the global and interlinked emergencies of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, so well-being for current and future generations is maintained, justice delivered and poverty eradicated.

“…our war on nature has left the planet broken”.

Mr Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, on the forward for the Peace with Nature report

Climate change consequences on increased extreme weather events leads to sea level rise, biodiversity loss as reduction of coastal wetlands (which can be reduced [20%; 90%] depending on sea level rise), land degradation, pollinators loss, agricultural underproduction, or zoonotic diseases amongst other consequences that affect Health, the food system and well-being in general. For example, the loss of pollinators is expected to cause an annual drop on food production valued between [$234; $577] billion. So, why do we keep killing bees?

If we do not get on top of the three planetary crises, and quickly, the planet will warm and nature wither. Many more will suffer.

Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive director
on the probability of further zoonotic diseases, as Covid-19
Continue reading “Making Peace with Nature”