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Today is World Environment Day. As you read this, it is clear that globally we are at a crossroads and that the inequities we see at home are also reflected across the broader planet. The pandemic has instigated a moment to re-examine our relationship with nature and the planet’s resources. Increasingly, world leaders (even conservatives) see this as a time to push the “reset” button to create societies that put conservation and the natural world as essential to our rebuilding after the pandemic and to mitigate and prepare for climate changes that are ahead. Globally there is a growing alignment around #TheGreatReset, as these major global institutions — the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Fund, the world’s largest banks and investors, and the most prosperous and stable nations — move forward.
Why This Matters: Most of the world is moving ahead on this reset — they see conserving nature and economic development as consistent. Indeed, the annual global Environmental Performance Index published by Yale shows that governments and policies make a big difference. Denmark is #1 again this year because of a bold climate agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030. The U.S. is #24 and falling — already behind most western nations, the authors of the report point out.
The UN and the World Economic Forum Lifting Up
The government of Columbia took the lead in organizing the UN’s events and they have live programming all day. Their goal is to amass a chorus of voices from around the world in a call to action starting now: “This World Environment Day, it’s time for nature” and promoting it under the hashtag #ForNature. The World Economic Forum also held a panel discussion earlier this week in which they rolled out their initiative called #TheGreatReset, which will culminate in a virtual and in-person summit in January connecting key global governmental and business leaders in Davos with a global multistakeholder network in 400 cities around the world for a forward-oriented dialogue driven by the younger generation. These are their principles:
“‘The Great Reset’ is a commitment to jointly and urgently build the foundations of our economic and social system for a more fair, sustainable and resilient future.
It requires a new social contract centred on human dignity, social justice and where societal progress does not fall behind economic development.
The global health crisis has laid bare longstanding ruptures in our economies and societies, and created a social crisis that urgently requires decent, meaningful jobs.”
“First, good policy results are associated with wealth (GDP per capita), meaning that economic prosperity makes it possible for nations to invest in policies and programs that lead to desirable outcomes.”
“Second, the pursuit of economic prosperity – manifested in industrialization and urbanization – often means more pollution and other strains on ecosystem vitality, especially in the developing world, where air and water emissions remain significant. But at the same time, the data suggest countries need not sacrifice sustainability for economic security or vice versa.”
“Third, while top EPI performers pay attention to all areas of sustainability, their lagging peers tend to have uneven performance. Denmark, which ranks #1, has strong results across most issues and with leading-edge commitments and outcomes with regard to climate change mitigation. In general, high scorers exhibit long-standing policies and programs to protect public health, preserve natural resources, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Fourth, laggards must redouble national sustainability efforts along all fronts.
The Senate Democrats’ Environmental Justice Caucus laid out in a letter on Monday their vision for the next round of economic stimulus funding and the benefits in their proposal are intended to address the inequities of the virus’ impacts on the poor and minorities.
Why This Matters: These 16 Democrats are speaking up on behalf of members of low income, rural and communities of color (known as an environmental justice or frontline communities) who are especially vulnerable to the virus and don’t have access to quality health care that could vastly improve their chances of recovery.
Congress and the Trump administration are beginning to outline the Phase 4 Stimulus package, but there seems to be little mention of “clean” much less “green” provisions being included, which means there would need to be a Phase 5 package or these items will be left out completely.
Why This Matters: These items and many other similar ones that have been labeled as “green” were left out of previous bills because they were dubbed as unnecessary to battle the immediate health and economic impacts of the COVID-19.
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