Time to put climate & nature on top of our to-do lists. Everyday.
2023 is a year like no other. Global temperatures above all records. Oceans “boiling”. Wildfires, heatwaves, and floods all over the world. Shrinking economies. Let’s face it, we’ve been putting climate action on hold. Now we need to scale it up, every single day.
As of July 22nd, we are at 20 consecutive days of global temperatures above any previous records. 2023 is well on track to be the hottest year ever. Yet scientists are saying, this is just the beginning.
Oceans are warming up too, like never before. According to some estimations, in one year, the North Atlantic has warmed up as much as in previous 15 years altogether. The pace of change is accelerating and seems to be getting out of control.
Maybe you have seen this news already. I keep reading them every day. And I cannot wrap my head around them. 1 "hottest day", 7 "hottest days", 17, 18, 20… where does it stop?
What this means is we are in “unchartered territory”. We know this will lead to more wildfires, heatwaves, droughts, floods all around the world. They are already happening now, at magnitude we haven’t seen before. And if it’s just the beginning, are we going to survive it?
As much as I find such news frustrating and terrifying, what I find even more terrifying, is the lack of action we witness. Governments are scaling back on climate and nature commitments. Companies are walking away from their pledges on hottest days in history. Right at the time where we need them most. Don’t we elect our politicians to take care of us and our future? Don’t we look up to our companies to make our lives better? Step up. Be the change we need you to be. Don’t let us all down!
I understand this may be the chicken and egg situation. Companies might say they are not responsible for solving anything. Politicians might say they do what individuals want them to do. Individuals might say they cannot make impact significant enough. Let’s stop it right here. This approach won’t get us anywhere. Or it will. To a future we cannot survive.
What we need right now is collective responsibility and collective action. Putting all the differences aside. And taking on more commitments than just making money. Money can’t buy us food, oxygen, and water when there isn’t any left.
Understanding this connection between climate, nature and business is key. Businesses cannot thrive on a dying planet. And being a sustainable business is nothing more than making sure your business can function in the long-term. Companies are starting to get that. IKEA, H&M, Nestle, Unilever and others are signing letters in support of Nature Restoration Law in Europe. AXA is committing to rainforest restoration in the Amazon. Patagonia is putting nature above profits. This is the kind of leadership we need right now. But a lot bigger and a lot more ambitious.
If you are reading this, here is what you can do:
- As a business, talk about climate and nature. Share the news internally. Get executives to really understand them. And by that, I mean full scale impact of rising temperatures and climate spiralling out of control. Can your factories withstand extreme weather events? The Pfizer one certainly didn’t. Can your crops survive extreme heat? Fruits in Italy are cooking on the trees and olive harvests are failing again.
And don’t just look at a static picture. If there is a heatwave somewhere else, not where you are, it doesn’t mean it’s not coming.
- Then look at your sustainability plans. And make them even more ambitious. 5 times more ambitious! Prioritise climate action and nature restoration as never before. Make it your main business goal. I know it’s hard. But climate change is scaling out of proportion. You saw it, North Atlantic has warmed up in 1 year as much as it did in 15 previous crazy warm years. Climate change is not waiting for us to come along. Our response needs to be proportionate.
- Did that? Fantastic! Now call all your politicians, main partners, customers, and suppliers, and propose what you can do together. The concept of net zero is not there for us to be net zero as entities. It is there for us to be net zero as a society. That means collaboration and partnership. Because together we are stronger.
Waste from one business can be resource for the other. Extra energy from one factory can provide for the other. 1 business planting 1M trees can turn into 1,000 businesses planting 1T trees together. And we need a gazillion of them. (Pro tip: in the West you need around 10,000 trees to offset life-time emissions of 1 person. That is 100 people per 1M trees. Then look at trees survival rate in the project you support. It can be anywhere between 5% and 85%. Please, take this into account when you consider a few millions of trees an ambitious target. It’s really not.)
We are at a stage where extreme weather events caused by climate change are chipping off our economy. I find it ironic. Because we always prioritized economic growth over climate and nature. Hey, look, we cannot do that any longer. Our economies are shrinking because of it now. We always thrived in challenging times. Not when things were easy, but when things were hard. It’s time we start acting to prove this. So we can thrive for generations to come.
We only have 2 priorities now: climate action and nature restoration. Your heard Professors Johan Rockström and Sir David King talk about it at Innovation Zero 2023. We need to cut emissions rapidly. And restore nature because nature can help balance our ecosystem while we are cutting these emissions. You also heard them say we need to scale our action 5 times. Click here for a replay of that session.
Without climate and nature, we won’t have peace, prosperity, well-being and justice. Please, put them on top of your to-do list. Every single day. We need you. And thank you for everything you are already doing. Keep pushing! Together we can restore our beautiful planet!
Elena participated in Innovation Zero 2023's "Communicating the Urgency" panel discussion, joining Solitaire Townsend, Arlo Brady, and Catalyst Host, David Shukman.
Elena caught up with David after the panel for a one-on-one interview, check out both recordings below: