Skip to main content

Climate Week: We’re still failing – sorry, Greta

By Sophie Morello
23 September 2020
Green & Good (ESG and Impact)

By Sophie Morello

Today marks one year since Greta Thunberg addressed the UN on climate change with an impassioned speech chastising world leaders for failing to act. She said, “You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal…The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line.”

Reading it again, I can’t help but feel great disappointment that more has not been done since. Back then, in the old ‘normal’ world that seems a distant memory, momentum behind action on climate change was building and there was great hope that 2020 was going to be the year we took meaningful steps towards tackling it, particularly with the much anticipated COP26. But of course, this year has taken many twists and turns we never could have anticipated, and Covid-19 has distracted the world.

When global lockdowns resulted in ONLY a 17% reduction in daily emissions, despite dramatically reduced economic activity and limited air travel, it brought into focus the transformative change we need to embrace in order to meet net zero by 2050. We have a long, long way to go and we’re not going fast enough.

Of course, there has been much talk about how we can #buildbackbetter, with greener, more resilient economies, but it is just that – all talk. According to the Institute of International Finance (IIF) less than 1% of the total $11trn in approved global fiscal stimulus is being channelled into green initiatives. There are more positive signs from the EU, with suggestions that 37% of the recovery budget will be invested in climate projects, but will that go far enough to achieve the emissions targets? Either way, the global picture for the green recovery is not green enough.

But after the initial shock of Covid-19, we are now learning to live with it and tackling the climate crisis is firmly back on the agenda. And in addition to reducing emissions, the message is getting across that we have to preserve our natural habitats and protect biodiversity or we risk more diseases leaping across from animals to humans (a point David Attenborough recently made in his shocking documentary, Extinction: The Facts) - and next time it may be a disease that has a far higher mortality rate than Covid.

Covid-19 will be disrupting our lives for some time to come and hampering economic growth in the process, but the reality is that surviving at any cost (both social and environmental) won’t cut it. Businesses will have to find a way to limit their environmental impact and find purpose beyond profits. The breaks may have been put on climate action for a time, but I’m sure if Greta has anything to do with it, the pressure is mounting again.