The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is “time for nature – with a focus on its role in providing the essential infrastructure that supports life on Earth and human development.” In planning this focus, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) could never have anticipated how significant such a focus would be, come June 5, 2020. With half of the world having been in lockdown since at least March, World Environment Day arrives at a pivotal point of reflection.
One of the impacts of the global lockdown is that there has been ‘time for nature.’ Individuals and families isolating at home have taken joy in the wildlife beyond the window, while in cities – such as Venice and New Delhi – nature flourishes as pollution has vanished. There has been a tangible sense throughout the COVID-19 crisis that the world is in this together. Yet, coronavirus is not the only global crisis we currently face.
A positive outcome of our current adversity could be that we ensure togetherness infiltrates all other global issues. The climate crisis is one such problem that would greatly benefit from an even, more cohesive global response. By its very nature, it affects all of us, regardless the country. It is also deeply impacted by other factors, such as economic and population growth. The world is agreed that a balance must be struck and that a better, more resilient environment would greatly benefit human existence and activity in the longer term. But despite this, we are still clearly stumbling over how to kickstart a fully global response.
The Paris Agreement remains the world’s greatest to date. If you compare the Paris Agreement to Agenda 21, for example which was the outcome of one of the world’s first global environmental discussions at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the progress is clear. Unlike previous agreements, the Paris Agreement involves everyone. It brought all nations into “a common cause” . While some countries may stray from this agreement in the short-term, we cannot underestimate the progress that was made to bring the world together in the first place. Paris proved a global commitment was possible.
Regional, national and individual responses to the climate crisis are of course needed. But what will drive change is if we can reignite the fire of global togetherness, and sense that we are fighting the crisis as one.
The Paris Agreement continues to drive both the private and public sector to understand the importance of setting targets to achieve decarbonisation and energy transformation. This is an achievement. But in terms of the results of these targets, progress has arguably been disjointed. While one size does not, and should not fit all, this approach has led to some pulling away while others have failed to translate commitment into action.
The World Benchmarking Alliance’s (WBA) upcoming Electric Utilities Benchmark, to be published in July, is set to reveal the need for greater global collaboration on decarbonisation and energy transformation. By ranking the world’s most impactful electric utilities companies against the climate and energy transition required to meet the Paris Agreement, the benchmark will show more than simply who is making progress. It will reveal the uneven spread of transition. As such, those doing well will need to pull away even further to make up for those falling short.
While our data reveals this uneven distribution, we also hope that it will open dialogue and unlock a means by which the playing field can even. We hope it can inspire collaboration, transparency and global accountability. This is because, the private sector has a significant role to play in kickstarting transformation. While significant progress is being made, we are still falling short. This is likely to continue being the case until we can find a global consensus with which we can respond. We must realise the power of working together.