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With 7 Years Left, There Can Be No Delay in Protecting the Future

By Alicia Silva - Sustentabilidad para México SUMe


By Alicia Silva | President - Thu, 06/08/2023 - 16:00

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Nobody wants to bring bad news, but every time we talk about climate change most of us experience climate anxiety. I believe individuals with knowledge, inspiration, and practical guidance can make a meaningful impact on the environment. Action reduces our eco-anxiety. We have several challenges within these coming seven years. Business continuity is at risk; we need to reduce our  emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid catastrophic consequences. However, a lot of companies are finding it hard to navigate all these issues with a clear plan for resilience and are acting on basic information. Climate change is a multifactorial problem that requires addressing multiple interconnected issues. While energy production and consumption play a significant role in greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, there are several other factors contributing to climate change: In Mexico, the risks are considerably higher from water scarcity, heat stress, biodiversity loss and the impact on agriculture and food security. Most companies and individuals are postponing these issues thinking that non-action is a real option.  

The primary challenge we face is not a lack of information but rather a lack of action due to a misunderstanding or a lack or consciousness of what is really at stake. We keep downplaying the severity of the climate crisis, putting aside the future for financial gain today. For businesses to have continuity, we need to consider transition risks and the impact climate change will have on our operations. Monterrey Mexico had a water crisis in 2022,  stopping the activities of many businesses, and that is just the beginning of the risks of climate change.  The energy requirements to deal with increased temperatures and the 90% biodiversity loss in Latin America need to be considered huge material issues for business continuity. Preparation is needed to increase resilience. 

The tendency among humans is to prioritize short-term concerns over long-term consequences. Climate change is a complex and global issue that requires us to think beyond immediate needs and consider the well-being of future generations and the planet as a whole. One common mistake is to think it is only about energy efficiency and photovoltaics or clean energy. We really need systems thinking to address climate change. 

What Can We Do?

According to Paul Hawken, more than 100 actions are needed to tackle our strategy to address climate change, all delineated in the Project Drawdown website. Local consultants can understand specific industries and countries. 

For the next seven years,  I want to address industries related to the built environment, such as hospitality, infrastructure, and real estate as a whole. The building industry represents 46% of the world’s emissions and is a strong sector in most countries. Because this industry has been very profitable in the past, with high ROIs, it does not mean climate change is not going to impact it. While there is a boom because of nearshoring, house shortages for workers and the expansion of hospitality regions, to not  consider climate change is no longer an option. Money is also part of the green agenda and banks are ready to provide loans to those who are also addressing sustainability; if not, no credit will be issued. Clear plans are important not only to make money but to create resilience. We have seven years to act on ambitious goals and also with an approach that addresses business continuity and a double materiality (how the impact of climate change will affect our  business and how our business is affecting climate change). We need to act together and every action counts. Here are four  actions that can be implemented  by every business to create a future for all: 

  1. Promoting future thinking, education and raising awareness are  the first steps to encourage a shift in societal values toward sustainability and intergenerational equity. We all need to understand the stakes are high and our future depends on the actions we take today. 

  2. Stop the greenwashing. Promote transparency, accountability, and robust sustainability standards. Do not go for the minimum as just focusing on energy will not be enough, especially  when our main challenges,  at least in Mexico, are water scarcity and biodiversity loss. We don’t have time.  It is important to meet ambitious standards and not just the bare minimum. Don’t just go for energy, address air quality and biodiversity and remember, carbon capture is always related to regeneration and not exploitation of ecosystems. Even if we are net-zero energy, we will not have carbon sinks if we destroy our ecosystems. 

  3. Address social equity. This goes hand in hand with environmental degradation. Community engagement, fair labor practices, access to basic services and involvement with the conservation and restoration of the ecosystems where businesses are located are major commitments and should not be avoided. Most ESG strategies are loose in relation to  the “S,” so encourage entities to care for people. 

  4. Carbon capture, supporting biodiversity and the restoration of ecosystems. Biodiversity and ecosystem regeneration play a vital role in carbon capture. By creating diverse and healthy ecosystems, we can create  effective carbon sinks. It does not matter how many photovoltaic projects we have if our ecosystems are in jeopardy. By conserving biodiversity and promoting ecosystem resilience, we ensure the long-term sustainability of these ecosystems, enabling them to continue sequestering carbon and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Companies that understand their time frame to act are a strong force for building a future for all. Our lives are intertwined and the link between prosperity and ecosystem health is clear to create a future where we can thrive. It is good business to act in this seven years and make the transition to an economy that takes into consideration “people, planet, profit” as a baseline.

Photo by:   Alicia Silva

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