NET ZERO – A new Goal
By Fr Bolmax Pereira
World Environment Day: It's here once again – 5th June 2021.
The Background :
The celebration started in 1974 after Stockholm Conference on Human Environment (1972) by UN General Assembly to raise the importance of the healthy and green environment in human lives, to solve these issues of the environment (pollution and deforestation) by implementing some positive environmental actions by government, organisations and individuals. Every year it is celebrated with a new theme. Last year WED was hosted by Columbia supported by Germany, with a theme "Time for Nature" encouraging exploration of Nature around us. Unfortunately, the Nature around us was explored by the deadly Corona virus locking us in the confines of our homes.
This year its being held in Pakistan with a central theme" Generation Restoration or Ecosystem Restoration." The attempt is to restore the degraded ecosystem by decreasing destructive pressures, reducing the increasing levels of pollution and conserve the still intact ecosystems of the world. The event will also mark the Launch of UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration: growing trees, greening cities, rewilding gardens, changing diets, cleaning up rivers and saving coasts.
The Challenge :
We are in the era of fast paced Development where every Nation tries to be better than the other. In this era, we have also realised that today's environmental degradation is the consequence of haphazard development that we humans have adopted in our attempt to be self-sufficient and have an easy life. As we chased the development, engaging the latest technology and inventing ever new developmental models, our humanity got trapped in the fallacies of this world. Instead of eradicating poverty, the policies made by successive governments led to eradication of the poor itself in some way. Instead of easing life here on earth, the decisions taken by our leaders led to more mess in Earth, our common home, as called by Pope Francis. We have damaged and wounded our Planet.
The Solution :
Time and again the nations of the world have attempted to come together signing treaties (more than 450), adopting protocols (Montreal protocol, Kyoto protocol, Cartagena protocol, Nagoya protocol) and collaborating on a global conventions (Ramsar convention, Stockholm convention, Bonn convention, CITES, CBD). The Environmental Protection laws in most of the countries are sufficient enough to safeguard the environment in which we live. However, the implementation of the solutions provided by them have fallen flat more often than not.
The Action :
More than ever before the world today stands in need of implementation of these solutions leading to restoration of the lost and conservation of what we have. After the recent Paris Agreement to combat global warming and climate change, the world seems to be turning to accepting a new goal or achieving Net-Zero carbon emissions, which is also referred to as carbon-neutrality. It does not mean that a country would bring down its emissions to zero. Rather, Net-Zero is a state in which a country's emissions are compensated by absorption and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Absorption of the emissions can be increased by creating more carbon sinks such as forests, while removal of gases from the atmosphere requires futuristic technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
Although some climate scientists opine that net zero is a dangerous trap, it is even possible for a country to have negative emissions, if the absorption and removal exceed the actual emissions. A carbon-negative nation of Bhutan being a good example because it absorbs more than it emits.
The global economic slowdown engineered by the deadly Covid-19 pandemic is said to have reduced global Carbon dioxide emissions by about 7% this year. But this temporary dip might not remain the same in post pandemic era as nations restart the race. Hence, the 5th anniversary report of Paris Agreement notes that nations need to prioritize a Green Recovery. Owning up the responsibility the nations have agreed 'to balance'the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. Some countries have bounded themselves by law, or some have proposed legislation while some countries have it in their policy document to achieve net zero by 2050.
WED Goal- Ecosystem Restoration:
The National commitment to climate change mitigation by restoration of ecosystem has to be shared by all. So we have Net zero companies, net zero homes, net zero individuals, and to achieve it, the simple new goal would mean to 'maintain the balance'. Without elaborating further, I would say the need of the hour is Attitude change in order to achieve this. A change in our lifestyle to keep it down to earth as opposed to hi-fi life; A change to learn from the events and natural disasters as opposed to be stubborn in all circumstances; a change to be satisfied with the sufficient as opposed to be greedy for more; a change to maintain sincerity and honesty in sharing the resources as opposed to being manipulative and dishonest.
For a bottom-up approach, if we change at the individual level there will be at least some societal change eventually, for which education gives us tools to think and we are spiritually formed by love and truth. This World Environment Day we pledge to individually attempt restoration and conservation around us by taking care of our land, our rivers, our sea, our mountains, our forests plants and animals during the upcoming UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
For a top-down approach, a good and efficient policy drawn after proper participatory consultations and informed choices will go a long way in environmental conservation. Restorative and conservational policies need to be adopted in our Transport sector, Construction sector, Industrial sector and Agricultural sector leading a way of Sustainable Development by promoting non-conventional models in each sector.
To conclude, as Pope Francis recommends in Laudato Si 22, learning from the cyclic or circular processes in nature the world needs to adopt circular models of production and circular economy towards the goal of sustainable development. Finally, remembering Pope Pius X who said the motto of his papacy was to undertake Instaurare Omnia in Christo we move ahead to Restore all things in Christ (cnf. Eph 1:10)
This article orginally appeared in Renovacao Vol. LIX No.11 June 01-June 15 2021