Net-Zero, Climate Change and Sustainability

In today’s world, one of the biggest challenges seem to be enlightening our society about core ideals and meaning behind the term ‘sustainability’. We, humans, tend to adopt some concepts in isolation to such a degree that we may miss the bigger picture. This is valid especially for a concept like sustainability which should be better seen holistically, and integrated in each possible sector through a coordinated approach.

Recently, efforts of industries to tackle their carbon emissions without a doubt take attention. Net-zero challenge drives businesses to neutralize their carbon imprint on environment. This is a milestone for environment in the sense of widespread application of renewable energy technologies whose research and development initiatives go back a lengthy way. It took long time to arrive this point, and finally see that these technologies are being actually adopted by many industries and local governments, not a prototype anymore but a means of energy supply in use.

Coming back to the holistic approach mentioned in the beginning: as much as neutralizing our carbon imprint is fundamental, it is not enough; in other words, it won’t tackle the climate change and unsustainable use of natural resources alone.  Net-zero efforts should be incorporated in the master sustainability plans. There are many dimensions of sustainability issues: water consumption and contamination, extraction of ingredients, land cover changes and biodiversity lost, generation of different types of waste streams and their management are just a few of them. Sustainability is the concept through which we try to maintain our resources that we rely on and use today so that next generations can do the same.

Net-zero is one of the many targets that fall within the goals to achieve true sustainability. Our problem is not about ‘not knowing how’ to achieve these goals. In fact, we have very well documented targets and guidelines thanks to the international organizations’ initiatives and principles. Our problem stems from not implementing those goals or being extremely slow and ineffective in our actions towards them. Anyone remembers Millennium Development Goals? Yes, when we entered the new millennia, under the leadership of United Nations eight international development goals were established and the target was to achieve those goals in 15 years. Very sadly, success rate remained very low. And now, we are in the race to achieve new set of goals for sustainable development, aka SDGs. New goals include the previous ones and even go beyond and extend them to new realms of sustainability.

Let’s come back to the problem. Why we are so slow? Are we not genuine enough on our commitment? Do we see them as obligations instead of our real vision for the future? What is needed to be decisive and quick in motion?

Being decisive and effective require us to get out of our comfort zone and change. In order to make a big impact we have to concentrate on producing new and innovative solutions, and leave behind what is old and unsustainable although cheap and easy. Future lies on innovation. New materials, new manufacturing, new patterns. A hundred years ago, a prominent breakthrough was the invention of plastics. Today, we are dealing with the side effects of century-long use of then-innovative material. Have we become too comfortable over time? Insisting on using what is comfortable on daily basis over what would be better for everyone and everything on earth for the longer term. Now, please keep in mind the example of plastics and extend the concept to all other materials we use throughout our lives, including dwellings, infrastructure, all kinds of goods from essential to luxury.

As you may think as well, achieving sustainability will require changing certain habits and patterns that we long got used to both on collective and individual sense. Let’s face it! It’s a two-way street. Responsible production and responsible consumption. 

Front runners of this race are the ones in power, the ones who govern, lead and have the authority to make laws on national and international levels. Innovation is the key to green and circular economies. However, this ideal might take very long time to achieve if not supported by solid and decisive policies. At this point, the greatest responsibility falls to national and international decision makers and policy builders. A vibrant and systematic partnership with private sector is a must and this goal is already included in SDGs. There is a need to create competitive new markets that focus on reuse and recycle, and encourage actors in industry and business to break new grounds, innovate eco-friendly and efficient materials and ingredients that would eventually shape the scope of the new economy. This also would be a win-win situation for all. Genuine sustainability strategies would help businesses hold competitive advantage on their side and increase value of their products, in the same time, it would fasten the process of transitioning to a circular and even more robust economy globally. 

Change is possible, change is calling! Who will respond to it and when?