Battling Climate Change in Rio and Beyond
This is the second post I wrote in my capacity as UNEP’s blogger for World Environment Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I’ll be posting all 5 leading up to and throughout Rio+20.
How many ways are there to skin a climate crisis?
As Rio+20 draws nearer, and I’m exposed to more and more innovative ideas, I’m beginning to think there are as many ways as there are people.
The connection between climate change and the economy is clear. Companies that develop climate action plans have been shown to reap double the returns of their competitors.
There is also the more obvious fact that in order to do business, you need a livable climate in which to operate.
In 2011, 32 extreme weather disasters each did over $1 billion worth of damage. And if significant steps aren’t taken to defeat climate change, damage to the Earth’s oceans could cost the world economy $2 trillion by 2100.
That’s what I’d call an economic incentive!
Innovators in Rio see the climate challenge as an opportunity. Yesterday, they launched the Global Institute for Green Technology and Employment, an initiative that will focus on bolstering Brazil’s green economy by developing sustainable technologies and generating green job opportunities. The Institute is a new addition to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and is inspired by the Green Growth Institute, which launched in Seoul, South Korea last year.
During a PowerPoint presentation delivered by Luiz Pinguelli Rosa (A Brazilian nuclear physicist, researcher and professor at the University) at the inauguration, I learned that wind power in Brazil is projected to have increased by 529% between 2010 and 2015. A new type of concrete with significantly lower CO2 emissions has also been developed here, and they’re planning to soon build the first ocean wave power plant in South America.
Since arriving in Rio, I keep hearing: “Brazil recognizes it is part of the solution.”
I like that, a lot. It goes well with how I approach environmental issues. Note the use of the word “solution” instead of “problem”. It isn’t productive to browbeat ourselves and others for our past environmental missteps. We must all stride into the future with determination—focusing on how we are all a part of the solution.
Brazil has developed a comprehensive approach to climate change. And given the widespread enthusiasm I’ve encountered here, they clearly have the vision and passion to implement it.
Exciting things are happening elsewhere, too. Three weeks before coming to Rio I interviewed Jenna Gall, who is the Communications Director for the Students on Ice Rio+20 Delegation. Students on Ice is an organization based in my country, Canada, with participants from 35 countries. Participating students travel to the polar regions, which, as you can imagine, gives them a unique perspective from which to discuss climate change. Their delegation will travel to Rio+20 to present a recommendation paper they’ve been working on for the past year. You can view it here.
Also, the Earth Day Network has collected almost 1 million signatures for its petition to end the $500 billion in worldwide fossil fuel subsidies given annually. They’ll present the petition to world leaders at Rio+20 to show them how much public interest there is in redirecting that money—to the global green economy, perhaps?
There are multiple ways to grapple with the climate crisis—from supporting green innovation, to signing a petition, to simply discussing the issues being addressed in Rio with your family and friends.
I urge everyone reading this to choose one.