Earth Day: a much needed investment in our planet

On Earth Day 2022 under the theme “Invest in Our Planet”, the United Nations called for cooperation to revitalise nature for a healthy planet for future generations. This is the moment to change it all, from the business climate and the political climate to how humans take action on climate.

Severe drought in Brazil (Photo: Reuters)
Severe drought in Brazil (Photo: Reuters)

In recent years, the world has undergone abnormal weather events with strong heatwaves in some places and freezing cold spells in others. According to the World Meteorological Organisation, the global average temperature in 2021 rose by 1.11C compared to the pre-industrial era, which is nearing the 1.5C limit under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

Extreme weather is becoming more frequent with increasing severity, such as the record near 50C temperatures in Canada and the US, serious flooding in Asia and Europe, drought in Africa and South America, and forest fires throughout the world, from Australia to Siberia. Statistics from Christian Aid show that at least 1,075 people were killed while 1.3 million had to evacuate in the ten largest natural disasters in 2021.

Climate change made the hurricane season in the North Atlantic in 2020 more severe than ever with extremely heavy rainfall up by 10%. Scientists state that global warming is increasing the intensity and frequency of major tropical storms.

One of the causes of severe natural calamities is climate change, which has negatively affected the lives of many people around the world, especially in areas prone to disasters.

In her 40 years living at the water's edge by Lake Tanganyika - the second largest freshwater lake in Africa - Amissa Irakoze, a Burundi woman, has never feared rising water because floods always receded eventually.

But she could never have foreseen what happened in April 2020. After returning from the fields, Irakoze found her home was underwater and her 10 children were missing. Fortunately, she later found the children and all of them were alive.

Two years later, the floodwaters have not yet receded, and lake’s water level remains at highs not seen in decades, due to abnormally high rainfall linked to a warming planet.

Irakoze and her family had to live in a makeshift camp behind the lakeside city of Gatumba. The relocation to avoid flooding means the children cannot go to school and the people who have always relied on farming have now lost their livelihoods.

According to Geoffrey Kirenga, Director of Save the Children in Burundi, floods destroyed everything from houses to school, fields and crops, turning a large town into a ghost town. Among those displaced due to rising water on Lake Tanganyika, up to 65% are children. According to the International Organisation for Migration, 85% of Burundi’s 113,000 internally displaced people are due to natural disasters.

In the face of worrying climate change, the United Nations has called on all governments, enterprises and citizens in the world to be accountable and to act boldly, innovate broadly and implement equitably solutions on climate change. In order to realise this goal, the world needs to change to a more sustainable economy that is beneficial to both humans and the planet.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the International Monetary Fund’s establishment of the Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST) as a new instrument to support low and middle-income countries in coping with long-term challenges, including climate change.

In the US, the Department of Transport said it will spend 6.4 billion USD in the next five years for states to sponsor projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The funding will be earmarked for infrastructure projects for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as projects involving vehicles using alternative fuels.

Transport is the sector with highest emissions in the US economy, therefore transport must be a main factor in the solutions to reduce emissions.

Investment in the planet is the wisest investment and is more necessary than ever because tackling climate change is a matter of urgency for all humankind. Governments, enterprises and the people joining hands in this battle is expected to have a major effect on protecting the green planet.