Tuesday, October 19

Principle of urgency

Greece burns. It rains in Greenland. Thousands of dead fish float in the Mar Menor. New York is flooded. There is a food shortage in England. Raw materials are scarce all over the world. And all this together with a pandemic that has lasted for more than a year and a half. It may seem like the beginning of an apocalyptic movie, although in reality it is the news that we have been hearing since this summer. We know that no, that it is not a movie but either it seems that we do not want to realize it or the situation surpasses us in such a way that we prefer to look the other way. But where to? We are running out of options. Especially if we take into account that all these extreme situations are caused by ourselves with our way of living and living together.

Let’s take an example to try and connect some of the dots. We know that the increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes an increase in the earth’s temperature. This global warming generates, in turn, changes in the local climate. Changes that are increasingly extreme and frequent, where droughts, hurricanes or thaws cause fires, floods and rising sea levels. But hey, we tell ourselves, man has learned to control nature, so we will solve the problems as they arrive. And this is where this principle of Western culture that we have engraved on fire is dismantled for us. Because, although in principle the fauna and flora adapt to survive when the climate changes, some species do not. In fact, according to the intergovernmental platform on biodiversity IPBES one million species are in danger of extinction. A loss of biodiversity that directly affects humans, since it is one of the causes of the appearance of new infectious diseases by facilitating the transmission of viruses of animal origin to people.

So far a part of the dotted line. Let us now turn to the causes. Are we all responsible for the increase in greenhouse gases? Well, in a certain way, yes, although, without a doubt, some are much more than others. It is important to bear in mind that barely a hundred companies in the energy sector, specifically those that produce fossil fuels, are responsible for more than 70% of global emissions of these gases since 1988. A hundred companies that produce oil and the gas we need to continue with our current model of living and living together. Are we still looking the other way?

Scientists have been telling us that living beings and the planet are interdependent for decades, although they have not always been heard enough. However, the dynamics seemed set to change in 2015 when the United Nations General Assembly approves the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A global political agenda assumed by all the countries that are part of the UN with the aim of solving, before 2030, the great global challenges that we face: social and economic inequalities closely linked to environmental damage, all caused by human action. An ambitious global political agenda that, despite some of its inconsistencies and misunderstandings, provides the hope of knowing what we should solve. Because if we are clear about our objectives, we can draw up a plan to achieve them.

In Spain we have the action plan for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for 3 years, a Sustainable Development Strategy for a few months and a Ministry charged with executing both. The Autonomous Communities and numerous city councils have also turned to incorporate the 2030 Agenda into their public policies. All these plans and proposals are being worked on in collaboration with public and private entities as well as with civil society, as it could not be otherwise. If global challenges belong to everyone, we must tackle them together. But as claimed in an event organized a few days ago by the platform Future in Common, a collective that groups some 50 organizations between NGOs, unions, universities and other entities, our plans lack ambition and acceleration.

And it is that indeed it seems that sometimes we continue in 2015, with a hopeful speech, full of possibilities for a promising future. As if a pandemic that has lasted for more than a year and a half had not been enough to make us connect the dots. As if we weren’t paying attention to the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and so many other voices in academia when they remind us that our socioeconomic model of coexistence is unsustainable and that we are running out of time to do something about it. Perhaps we should listen more to our young people, who are mobilizing in movements like the Fridays for Future and they call our attention with a global strike for the climate called for this September 24. Precisely they always claim that our governments and administrations listen more to science.

Let us think about the present and act as soon as possible with public policies based on evidence and with courageous actions that make us stop, mitigate and redirect the social, economic and environmental damages that we are causing. Next Generation funds and recovery plans are an opportunity to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. We also need a framework for action with instruments and incentives that allow us to execute those plans and those resources. Furthermore, Spanish society is prepared, as shown by a recent study of the Pew Research Center where it is estimated that 91% of citizens are willing to modify their lifestyle to reduce the effects of climate change. A change in the coexistence model is never easy, but the alternative of continuing with the current one is much more bleak. The principle of urgency should be the guiding principle of the policies that we put in place from now on. The present is in it.


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