Design Team Member, Our Sustainable Future Series
On December 2nd, Antonio Guterres, the engaging UN Secretary General delivered the State of the Planet address as part of Countdown – a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis, turning ideas into action.
It was one of those unique moments where such a speech provides you an opportunity to draw inspiration, solace, and hope when things seem so dire and unmanageable. Guterres stated that now, as we come out of the pandemic, is the time to flip the green switch. It is our chance to not just reset, but rather transform ourselves for a sustainable, inclusive, and equitable world. COVID-19 recovery and planet repair must go hand in hand as they are inextricably linked.
He outlined three core imperatives we must achieve to overcome the climate crisis:
1. Achieve global carbon neutrality within the next 3 decades – reaching 45% reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050.
2. Align global finance systems and the Paris agreement, the world’s blueprint for climate action; without alignment, we will struggle to break free of the carbon markets.
3. Deliver a breakthrough on adaptation and resilience. Up until now, our focus has been very limited on adaptation (less than 20% of spend), and we must ensure we bring everyone along through the transition.
His speech was filled with facts, issues, and solutions already underway. His tone was urgent. And his answers to questions posed to him by youth were direct, thoughtful, and motivating. If you can find time to listen and consider what he has shared, it will be time well spent.
Guterres spoke about the strong need for hope and the glimmers he is experiencing. He can see movement that is creating momentum and an opportunity to urgently accelerate that momentum. And he challenged us to take a quantum leap forward to make 2021 a pivotal year.
He also spoke with pride of the impact that youth have had on the positive shifts taking place. He stated that, as a civil society, we have a duty to ourselves, our community and everyone else to participate in making change happen – no matter how big or small. We are tightly interconnected – there is no way around, over or under – so we must go through, and we must go now.
“The door is open; the solutions are there. Now is the time to transform humankind’s relationship with the natural world and with each other. And we must do so together,” stated Guterres, as he ended his speech.
With that summary, it is useful to relate his statements and calls to action to four key initiatives underway in our own backyard.
1. In June 2020, the Town of Collingwood hosted a Habitat in Towns 2020 world summit conference focused on UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities. This was an opportunity to meet with leaders and other towns internationally and to create key resolutions. This also positioned Collingwood as a leader in implementing key SDG 11 projects with a commitment by Collingwood to report back by 2022 on progress. In Guterres’ speech, he also noted the launch of the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance, which will be a source of funding and long-term investment advice to achieving the 17 SDGs worldwide.
2. The Collingwood Climate Action Team, launched in September 2019, has built a groundswell of support and six working teams on specific areas including energy, transportation, food, waste, carbon conversations and community engagement. They have built an open relationship with the Town of Collingwood, presenting several times to council and hosting general meetings where town staff have shared plans, received input from members and taken questions. Most recently, an article in Collingwood Today outlined key reasons why there is a need for a new staff position focused on actions to address the climate emergency. Related to Guterres’ speech the cost of this position and related town initiatives is the chance to reduce future costs by as much as six dollars for every dollar we spend now. It is heartening to know this position will be included in the 2021 Town budget. It can be an opportunity to band together with other towns and municipalities in the region for greater impact.
3. Grey Bruce Health Community Partnership hosted a sold-out climate conference in October with key presentations and mini workshops. One of the highlights was a presentation by Blair Feltmate from the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, where their focus is on adaptation. Presentations included several climate action topics. The full suite of recordings are available just click here
4. Looking forward, The Institute of Southern Georgian Bay is taking a proactive step coming out of the Habitat in Towns: Collingwood World Summit and Mapping our Road to Recovery series by creating the ‘Our Sustainable Future’ discussion series. This is a significant opportunity to accelerate knowledge mobilization and action on the issues and opportunities. It will launch in early 2021 – stay tuned.
And finally, I would like to end on a note of hope, too. I suggest we all need to view hope in a different way than we often do. We usually hope for something to happen. This time, let us all hope to make something happen – to act, to be part of the solution, to move this large global effort forward together. Movement is afoot globally, nationally, and even here at our own local level. Let us take this energy and make 2021 the pivotal year of change.