The annual Earth Day is celebrated on 22 April to show support for the environment.First championed by Senator Gaylord Wilson and Congressman Pete McCloskey, the nationwide event immediately provided a voice to the then-fledgling environmental movement. It has gone global and includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by an organization ‘’EarthDay.org (formerly Earth Day Network)’’.
Why is Earth Day important?
It is a reminder to every individual about climate change. The latest report that was released on 4 April 2022 by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, states – that without further immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions – the world is on course for temperatures 3.2°C above pre-industrial levels. This level of warming would be catastrophic for the planet and all life on it, including humans.
A degree doesn’t sound much, but the reality is that this incremental warming has negative impacts. What’s more, if recent trends continue, or worsen, global temperature is predicted to increase additional 3-5℃ by 2100.
With every tiny 1°C increase in global temperatures, we are feeling the effects of climate change, including: heatwaves, floods and severe storms; the disappearance of polar ice; and, rising sea levels.
How can we stop climate change?
Scientists and governments had acknowledged that climate change is triggered by higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The Greenhouse effect is caused by gases that trap energy from the sun. The most common greenhouse gases are water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane. Carbon dioxide is the most dangerous and abundant of the greenhouse gases, which is why cutting carbon emissions, carbon footprints or seeking low-carbon alternatives are suggested as ways to address climate change.
The excess of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is triggering harmful global warming, so reducing the amount of these gases should help to solve climate change. This can be done in two ways:
- Lower the emissions release into the atmosphere by reducing polluting activities such as industrial processes, power generation, transport and intensive agriculture
- Remove greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere by capturing carbon created during industrial processes before it’s released or planting more trees.
What is Net Zero?
Net Zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. Reaching net-zero requiring us to balance the number of greenhouse gases we emit with the amount we remove. When what we add is no more than what we take away we reach net zero. This state is also referred to as carbon neutral; although zero emissions and zero carbon are slightly different, as they usually mean that no emissions were produced in the first place.
Net zero is important as it’s the best way we can tackle climate change by reducing global warming. What we do in the next decade to limit emissions will be critical to the future, which is why every country, sector, industry and each one of us must work together to find ways to cut the carbon we produce.
Supporting the Race to Net Zero
No matter how small your business or what industry you are in, your commitment can make a real difference – to the planet, to your customers and to your running costs. Small businesses will need to play a huge role in achieving this, by approach to net-zero policymaking must be underpinned by five fair values – or principles – that will enable and inspire us to carry out actions, together for our planet.
Singapore government view on Net Zero
A growing partnership of countries, cities, businesses and other institutions are pledging to get to net-zero emissions, this includes Singapore. As announced by Minister for Finance Mr Lawrence Wong in Budget 2022, Singapore will raise our climate ambition to achieve net zero emissions by or around mid-century. To enable the transition to a low-carbon future, we will raise the carbon tax levels progressively from 2024. This will support our climate ambition and an insecure a greener and more sustainable living environment for future generations, while being economically competitive in a low-carbon future.
How SME industries contribute?
Studies show a direct correlation between sustainable business practices, share prices, and business performance. Companies that develop strong Environment Social Governance (ESG) standards have better profitability, stronger financials, happier employees, and more resilient stock performance.
Smart companies are discovering that it is no longer a choice between going green and growing long-term profits — sustainability is the path to prosperity. So for both humanitarian and business reason companies of all sizes must takeback action and embrace the benefits of a green economy.
“Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world.” – Dolores Huerta
Execution of ISO 14001 (International Standard for Environmental Management) is beneficial for all industries not only because it will improve your environmental performance, but it will also give an organization a competitive advantage, by opening the doors for new markets where environmental responsibility is a key requirement. It will help to achieve an essential balance between the environment, society, and the economy.
Although ISO 14001 does not require a detailed carbon emission calculation to take place, it sets a solid framework for an organization to understand its direct, indirect and other indirect emission sources. Depending on the maturity of the system, some organizations will have the majority of the data required to undertake a carbon emission calculation.
Furthermore, the ISO 14001 standard helps a business to consider the lifecycle and supply chain environmental impact of its products and services. This is useful when considering other indirect emission sources. ISO has a number of standards that play an essential role in the climate agenda, helping to monitor climate change, quantify greenhouse gas emissions and promote good practice in environmental management.
One notable example is the ISO 14000 family of standards for environmental man stems, which details practical tools for organizations to manage the impact of their activities on the environment. This suite of standards, which includes one of ISO’s most inspiring – ISO 14001, Environmental management systems – Requirements with guidance for use, covers overall frameworks, audits, communications, labelling, life-cycle analysis and methods to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
A version of this article appeared in the May–June 2019 issue (pp.106–116) of Harvard Business Review. – Robert G. Eccles
GOAL 13: CLIMATE ACTION – TAKE URGENT ACTION TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS IMPACTS. https://www.iso.org/sdg/SDG13.html
The race to zero emissions, and why the world depends on it. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/12/1078612. December 2, 2020.
A version of this article appeared in the May–June 2019 issue (pp.106–116) of Harvard Business Review.
“EARTH DAY 2020: WHAT IS IT AND HOW DO PEOPLE MARK IT AROUND THE WORLD?”. independent.co.uk. April 21, 2020.
“EARTH DAY 2022 INVEST IN OUR PLANET”. EARTHDAY.ORG. March 24, 2022.
Singapore Will Raise Climate Ambition to Achieve Net Zero Emissions By or Around Mid Century, and Revises Carbon Tax Levels from 2024. https://www.nccs.gov.sg/media/press-release/singapore-will-raise-climate-ambition. February 18, 2022
SPECIAL REPORT Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, Global Warming of 1.5 ºC — (ipcc.ch)
WORKING GROUP III CONTRIBUTION TO THE IPCC SIXTH ASSESSMENT REPORT (AR6), IPCC_AR6_WGIII_FinalDraft_FullReport.pdf