A year of positive climate action in the making
When the world opened its eyes on 1 January 2020 it was to a new year and a new decade. Every year, this turning of time milestone brings hope and enthusiasm for new beginnings and 2020 was no different. We formed plans, made resolutions and reset intentions. Little did we know that for most of us, our personal and professional ambitions were set to be challenged in a way we could never have envisaged.
Society was full of optimism at the start of the year. 2020 was going to be the UN’s Year of Climate Action. We were starting to make excellent progress in our quest to build a cleaner, greener and brighter future. Climate strikes, the Blue Planet effect and the Extinction Rebellion movement had built great momentum in 2019 and in 2020, we were going to inspire greater positive effort and engagement.
At Wates, we too were taking action. The construction sector is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions and waste, so in January, we announced a commitment to reduce them to zero by 2025. This five-year strategy is underpinned by a series of meaningful steps such as abolishing the use of single use plastic and planting more than 5,000 trees annually. 2020 was to be the start of our environmental zero harm journey and we set about finding better ways to innovate and raise awareness.
Survival for people and planet
Of course, come March and the world’s collective intentions for the year began to look very different. It seemed this wasn’t going to be a year about making a difference after all, this was going to be a year about survival. With the changing of the seasons, businesses, communities and families have found themselves under immense pressure to withstand the wide-ranging impacts of coronavirus and simply endure.
But this question of our survival is ubiquitous, even in a world free from coronavirus. The diminution of our destructive impact on the planet is crucial irrespective of the pandemic. Mother nature cares not for epidemics nor loss of human life – it’s us that needs mother nature, not the other way around.
Interestingly, our response to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown of community and country saw mother nature begin to reclaim what’s hers. We marveled at clearer canals in Venice, the renewed visibility of the Himalayas and mountain goats running riot in Llandudno town centre. At the peak of confinement in April, global carbon emissions had reduced by 17%. Such a steep drop had never been seen before. But here’s the really sobering thing – this drop will do absolutely nothing to slow climate change. Accordingly to research undertaken by Prof. Corinne Le Quere from UEA’s Faculty of Science, it only takes us back to the start of the last financial crisis in 2006.
Changing our habits to protect the planet
So what’s clear is that as an entire planet, we need to become creatures of better habits to protect the planet as our video explains. The COVID-19 lockdowns may have brought about behavioural adjustments, but they were forced upon us and we simply don’t have the infrastructure in place to maintain them long-term. But there are things we can all do on a daily basis to benefit the environment – whether that’s turning off lights, turning down the heating, walking more, driving less and generally thinking about what we put in the bin. Small, simple, positive actions that collectively will lead to big benefits.
At Wates, we will continue to work hard to meet our bold targets, to promote systematic change across the construction industry and unite us as a sector to protect and restore the natural world. But even the smallest changes can make a difference and that starts with each and every one of us and it starts now.