earth day

Restore Our Earth – 2021’s Earth Day Theme

Earth Day, it’s a bit of a misnomer, isn’t it? We don’t live on this planet for just a single day of a year. And like the proverbial Christmas puppy, the Earth isn’t just for a day, it’s for life. It’s also going to take more of a day of action to achieve the 2021 Earth Day theme: to restore our Earth. 

Yes, Earth Day has never really been about limiting environmental action to a day, but using the said day to focus awareness on the actionable changes that individuals and businesses can make. That said, it’s important to work with Earth Day in the right way. Businesses who bandwagon on the day for clout are completely missing the point. Although it’s important to drum up publicity around Earth Day, and how the event creates a platform for important discussion, the event naturally attracts greenwashers, businesses that fail to actually implement any changes they’re so vocal about.

Earth Day – Understanding 2021’s Theme

Earth Day has been around for decades – long before climate change was a topic for public discussion in the way it is now. Established in 1970 in the US, the annual event creates a platform for discussion, education and problem solving for millions of people across the globe. 

This year, the event spotlights topics such as climate restoration technology, reforestation and regenerative agriculture and is themed around restoring the planet. That’s not to say that we now have a fix for climate change. Unfortunately, in 2021, there’s even less reason to take our eye off the target that is environmental action.

Figures now show that global CO2 emissions are now back at above pre-pandemic levels, despite all the talk of  the ‘nature healing’ that was meant to be happening during lockdown. Considering that we need to dramatically cut emissions by an estimated 45 per cent by 2030 to keep global warming to 1.5°C, the necessity for Earth Day is all the more apparent.

And if we fail to meet these targets, we can welcome a hellstorm of environmental disaster: tens of millions of people living in coastal regions would be submerged by rising seas in the coming decades. 

Many regions would suffer heat waves, with about 14% of people worldwide being exposed to periods of severe heat at least once every five years. 

Regions across the world would be more susceptible to droughts and floods, making farming more difficult, lowering crop yields, and causing food shortages. 

Up to 90% of coral reefs would be wiped out, and oceans would become more acidic. At least once a century, the Arctic would experience a summer with no sea ice, which has not happened in at least two thousand years. 

Perhaps most brutally, there would be mass species extinction. Insects, plants and vertebrates will be at a high risk of extinction. 

According to NASA, if warming reaches 2 degrees Celsius, more than 70% of Earth’s coastlines will face sea-level rise greater than 0.66 feet (0.2 meters), resulting in increased coastal flooding, beach erosion, salinization of water supplies and other impacts on humans and ecological systems.

The Truth Behind the Paris Agreement Climate Pledges warns that by 2030, the failure to reduce emissions would cost the world a minimum of $2 billion per day in economic losses from weather events worsened by human-induced climate change

So what is being done? How are international governments going to stop this bleak future from happening?

Green New Deal-Breaker

Well the above is a loaded question. You may be familiar with The Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change. Since 2015, 197 countries – nearly every nation on earth, have endorsed the Paris Agreement.

However, according to an article published in 2019, the majority of the carbon emission reduction pledges for 2030, made under the Paris Agreement aren’t enough to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius. 

Some countries won’t achieve their pledges, and some of the world’s largest carbon emitters will continue to increase their emissions (like the US), according to a panel of world-class climate scientists.

“Countries need to double and triple their 2030 reduction commitments to be aligned with the Paris target,” says Sir Robert Watson, former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and co-author of the report that closely examined the 184 voluntary pledges under the Paris Agreement.

Famously, the Trump Administration pulled out of the 2015 Paris Agreement. And although Biden rejoined the agreement within hours of becoming president, there are many who believe his efforts to formalise climate action with legislative reform are weak.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one such person, responding to the prospect of a new, climate-focused $2 trillion infrastructure package as ‘not enough.’

Notably, Biden’s policy changes are distinct from a ‘Green New Deal,’ instead belonging to his own climate crisis plan, and drawing criticism from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party who say the proposals don’t go far enough. 

It’s worth noting that ‘Green New Deal,’ references former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s domestic programs were focused on rescuing the US economy from the Great Depression. 

Since then, the Green New Deal has been used to describe various sets of policies that aim to make systemic environmental change. The United Nations announced a Global Green New Deal in 2008. Former President Barack Obama added one to his platform when he ran for election in 2008. 

In the UK, these policies are referred to by another name – the Green Industrial Revolution.

Boris Johnson’s £12bn plan for a “green industrial revolution” spans renewable energy, nuclear power and countryside restoration. However, some of the objectives are going to be difficult to reach, and the plan has been criticised for a lack of ambition in key areas. 

The takeaway is pretty simple – governments cannot be trusted to restore the planet alone. And through concepts like circular economy, it’s down to creative business leaders to pick up the slack. It falls on the members of the public to make the 2021 Earth Day theme manifest.

How Can You Take Part in Earth Day?

There are thousands of Earth Day events taking place, both online and in person. You can find out what’s happening near you using the Earth Day map. Organisers have also produced a toolkit to help both businesses and individuals get involved. This can be done through activities like teach-ins, educating people on the climate challenges we’re facing, or local clean-ups.

Businesses should also tune into Earth Day Live 2021, a live-streamed event that will include workshops, panel discussions and a series of guest appearances. You can also use this as an opportunity to springboard organisational change, committing to more sustainable business practices in aid of restoring the Earth.

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