2021, A Coronavirus Odyssey (II)

June 5th, 2021—World Environment Day

2021, A Coronavirus Odyssey (II)
Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 20/04/2020 15:58 Mexico City Omar Vidal Actualizada 16:07
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For the first time, nations have decided to make science the central pillar on which to build key economic, social, and political decisions around the world.  

June 5th, 2021—World Environment Day.
Indeed, the world´s battle against SARS-CoV-2 has given us back hope: UN member countries have renewed their commitment to accelerate actions and augment investments to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  At last they have acknowledged that advancing the implementation of those objectives squarely depends on how humanity addresses our major planetary challenge: Objective 13—Climate Action.  And they have therefore decided to concentrate efforts and investments in reducing greenhouse gasses and mitigating the impacts of global warming.
For the first time, and in unanimity, nations plan to make science the central pillar on which to build key economic, social and political decisions around the world.  Toward that aim, governments have decided to establish—without delay—a permanent, multi-disciplinary, international and independent scientific advisory council.  Music to my ears.
All governments warmly welcomed the invitation from the new President of the United States to host the COP27 climate summit in New York at the end of 2022.  As it happens, the COP26, that should have been hosted by the United Kingdom in 2020, was postponed until 2021 because of Covid-19.  The U.S. climate summit has the overwhelming support of the 10 main emitters of greenhouse gasses, which are together responsible for two thirds of all global emissions: China, the U.S., the European Union, India, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia, Iran and South Korea.  All have committed to deliver, without delay and unconditionally, on their pledges from the 2015 Paris Agreement.  In preparation for COP27 and as a sign of good faith, nations have assured the international community that they will significantly reduce emissions from energy consumption, by far the biggest source of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and responsible for a whopping 73% worldwide
The private sector in every country, including all major international corporations, have acknowledged that the success of their investments depends upon a healthy environment—protecting nature is therefore a must for them.  In a groundbreaking declaration, all UN members and the 90 private and state-owned companies responsible for the largest portion of CO2 emissions, pledged to entirely stop the exploitation of fossil fuels by 2027 and to invest an additional $1 trillion annually in clean energy, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, and an additional $5 to $7 trillion a year to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.  Notable leadership has come from Chevron, ExxonMobil, British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, Peabody Energy, Total, Saudi Aramco, Gazprom, National Iranian Oil Company, Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), Coal India and Kuwait Petroleum.  As if this were not enough, the World Economic Forum is changing into a platform for innovation and corporate responsibility in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.  No one wants to be left behind.
Responding to the call from Greta Thunberg, the 18 year-old climate activist, and many other youth leaders around the world, hundreds of millions of young people took to the streets to celebrate and praise the leadership and commitment shown by business and governments towards this and future generations.  At last, I say to myself, our planet is undertaking a transformation based on the evolution of knowledge.
But the transformations to which the Covid-19 and global warming are taking us cannot just be limited to changing our global governance structures.  We are at the doorstep of unimaginable changes that force us to ask ourselves: What is our place on the planet?  The pandemic has compelled us to internalize the fact that nature is essential to our survival and that a healthy environment must be a crucial component of our new world view.  We should ask ourselves: What is the role of technology for achieving our ultimate goals?  And what changes need we make in the education of our children and grandchildren to assure our goals and work are sustained?  
It would be good to hear from readers on these questions.  While I continue deliberating my own responses, I finish this op-ed with some more good news.  The global youth movements have been invited to take part in the design of public policies and to recommend changes in the ways we tackle global warming.  Their recommendations will be submitted to the UN General Assembly in summer of 2022 in New York, as a contribution to COP27.  The leaders of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism don’t want to be left behind and have chosen to preach to their billions of followers on the importance of loving and caring for our planet.  
And, finally, the world has realized that one of the most effective ways to protect nature is to simultaneously protect indigenous peoples, their cultures, and their traditional knowledge.  About time!
Dear reader: is this utopia?  Perhaps.  But dreaming hasn’t yet been outlawed.  In the end, the great opportunity that Covid-19 gave us will be to look ourselves in the mirror, without masks or makeup.  This is the moment for us to turn the tide.  It will depend on us all, not just the politicians, to take advantage of our confinement to think and dream about a new world order.  And to make our dreams a reality so that, together, we will be able to leave home willing not only to come back, but to turn the page.
See you in 2021.

Scientist and environmentalist Omar Vidal
Twitter: @ovidalp
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