Climate Action During COVID-19

Written by Emma Askew founder of Earth Minutes.

Earth Minutes is an environmental communication and education service that uses creative mediums, such as film production, to spread crucial environmental research across a diverse range of audiences. Our mission is to engage and empower as many people as possible to drive positive, environmental action.

Importantly, over the last few years, digital platforms (ie. ranging from Instagram to Youtube) have become increasingly more important in regards to audience reach and influence, even over television. Moreover, since the Coronavirus pandemic, the usage of digital platforms has greatly increased (Forbes, 2020) and online environmental activism has boomed, such as the #ClimateStrikeOnline and #EnvironmentalistsForBlackLivesMatter social media campaigns.  This undoubtably presents an opportunity to engage the wider public in environmental subjects through digital learning.

However, during COVID-19, what can we do at home to drive Climate Action?

Find the Motivation

It is important to keep researching to ensure your action is driven as effectively as possible. However, it is important to keep your research methods interesting and inspiring, for example get involved in digital events:

Digital events:

Mindset

Another important, yet often neglected, part of Climate Action is addressing your mindset. Research is proving that having a pessimistic approach to environmental research can result in a downward spiral of defeatism (Hausfather and Peters, 2020), which inevitably results in people feeling overwhelmed and giving up.

However, through using frameworks of ‘Stubborn Optimism’ (Figueres and Rivett-Carnac, 2020) we can empower others to commit to lifestyle changes in the long term, through envisioning a more optimistic, sustainable future. Neurological research and history itself proves that optimistic decision-making works, as shown through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement (2015). Rather than suffering paralysis from fear and disassociation, the future is still our choice and we can keep climate change in manageable limits below 1.5 degrees and we can reduce emissions by 50% in this decade (Global Optimism, 2020).  

So, we can do this. We need to challenge the masses of uncertainty and devastation towards immense courage rather than giving into negative instincts of defeatism. A stubbornly optimistic mindset is vital to keep up the pressure for change.

Build or Support A Digital Campaign

Use your social media platform, brand, or blog with purpose to raise awareness on the importance ofClimate Action. Use your skill, from writing, photography, making, cinematography, speeches, painting, and find your role in environmental campaigning. Get creative. Start now.

Some example of this include, Tolmeia Gregory (@TollyDollyPosh) using hand-made GIFs and social media graphics, Tori Tsui (@toritsui_) using painted statement signs, The Trash Traveller (@thetrashtraveler) producing campaign music videos. However, if you do not know where to start, it is just as important to share and support other campaigns. If you find a particular campaign that strongly resonates with you, you can respond and share it using your own original creativity.  

Petition and Fundraise

Researching and raising awareness plays a fundamental role in driving environmental action, but we cannot stop there. We can act now.

To act now, we can drive political change through petitions and we can support Climate charities/organisations by fundraising/donating to projects/schemes. Although this will not immediately change the world, these steps will encourage societal collaboration that will ultimately drive large-scale change.

People also are more inclined to take action if it is made easy, so directly link environmental petitions/fundraising to give people the direct option to act now. Some examples include:

Petitions:

Climate Action Charities/Organisations to donate to, if you can:

Aspire to Engage the Unengaged

One of most important challenges of 2020 is to engage the unengaged in environmental issues. A recent global study by IPSOS (2020) showed the public are no more willing to change their climate behaviours than they were in 2014. However, with the digital boom of COVID-19, we all have the opportunity to reach global audiences to inspire long-term, environmental change.

Use innovation. Set a goal to empower people who do not want to change, to change.

To embrace this, Earth Minutes is producing a social media series, the ‘Now Series’, which is made up of five micro-documentaries addressing current environmental topics of 2020. These micro-docs will explore cutting-edge research and innovative solutions using fast-paced, impactful and action-driven techniques, led by the Generation of Now (the people who are driving environmental change). Crucially, this micro-doc style ensures that the environmental research is concise enough to be addressed in approximately 10 minutes; suitable for any busy social media user, increasing the likelihood of people engaging in the issues. To follow and support the release of the ‘Now Series’ micro-docs, please go to: (https://www.earthminutes.co.uk/nowseries).

In summary, there is still a lot of Climate Action to be done, yet more importantly, there is a lot we can do now. Project Drawdown’s latest report proves that we have enough climate solutions to reach carbon neutral by 2040 (Project Drawdown, 2020), so let’s use the digitalised opportunities from COVID-19 to drive Climate Action now.

Earth Minutes is working to achieve:

To learn more about Climate Action see our latest goal profile on the thirteenth global goal.

Goal 13: Climate Action

icon for the thirteenth sustainable global goal, climate action

What is this goal trying to achieve?

The thirteenth goal aims to combat the causes and impacts of climate change. Targets within this goal aim to instigate action and change through education, innovation and the promotion of adherence to climate commitments on an international level. This goal also aims to demonstrate the economic opportunities, such as job creation, that will come as we modernise our infrastructure to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. 

Why care about climate change? Fact Check:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions are more than 50 per cent higher than they were in 1990
  • Since 1880, sea levels have risen about 20cm and are projected to rise another 30-122cm by 2100. 
  • The Paris Agreement is a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that aims to keep the average global temperature below 2 degrees centigrade and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees . The Paris agreement only accounts for one third of the emission reductions required to keep the global temperatures below 2 degrees. This means that action to reduce climate change still needs to be addressed outside of international and government level policy. 
  • To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, global carbon emissions must drop by 45% between 2010 and 2030 and reach net zero around 2050. 
  • Aside from benefits that climate action has for the environment itself, efforts to reduce carbon emissions will create approximately 18 million jobs by 2030 within the sustainable energy sector. 

How can the Sustainable Development Goals make a difference to climate change?

Every country is experiencing and will experience the effects of climate change; it is a global issue. As the Sustainable Development Goals are a framework for global change, their success reliant on the actions of policy makers and individuals alike, they can be used as an effective methodology for tackling a global issue. 

Just like progress towards reducing climate change, progress within each Sustainable Development Goal is dependent on many different factors and social practices. This is why all 17 Goals are interdependent because progress or deterioration within each goal affects every one of the others. To use Climate Action as an example, the targets within the eleventh goal, Sustainable Cities and Communities, aim to reduce the environmental impact of our towns and cities.  Progress within the Climate Action goal cannot be achieved without efforts to make our infrastructure sustainable. 

Similarly, progress has to be made within the tenth goal, Reducing Inequalities. Without achieving the target of universal social, economic and political inclusion, all people and all countries will not be equipped to be a part of the global conversation and contribute to efforts to combat climate change. In addition, actions to reduce carbon emissions cannot be made without the fourth goal, Quality Education. Education will provide individuals with an understanding of environmental science and the severity of the climate crisis. 

Most importantly, the progress towards the final goal, Partnership for the Goals, is a vital factor for the success of emission reduction. No one is exempt from the effects of climate change, therefore no one should be exempt from participating in the solution. This is relevant both to individuals in local communities and to policy makers in the international community. Accountability is a significant part of the seventeenth goal. Sustainable and long term change cannot be relied upon and hoped for in the future unless climate commitments  are adhered to. A global problem requires a global solution. 

How has Coronavirus Impacted Climate Action?

  • Lockdown policies have reduced travel and led to a reduction in air pollution. 
  • Water quality has improved due to the reduction in air pollution. This has also been caused by the less frequent boat travel which has allowed sediment in bodies of water to settle. 
  • However, the disruption that has been caused by the pandemic has acted as cover for illegal deforestation. According to NBC news deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has increased by 55 percent in the first four months of 2020 compared to the first four months of 2019. 
  • Littering has been on the rise as disposable face masks and gloves have been discarded in the environment 

What you can do to help? 

  • Use your platform to participate in the conversation about the ‘new normal’ to make sure it has the best interests of our planet in mind.
  • Check to see if your country has signed and ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. If policy has not been implemented to meet the aims of the Convention, start a petition or write to your MP. For more information about international human rights conventions and how they are implemented see How Your Human Rights are Protected. 
  • Spend your free time learning about your environment and climate change. There are so many online resources and webinars you can access at home to learn about climate action. In her article Climate Action During Covid-19, Emma Askew from Earth Minutes has provided so many different resources to help you out. 
  • Raise awareness to environmental issues you are passionate about. The most effective way to make a change is to engage others and share what you have learnt. 
  • Recycle your paper, glass, plastics, metal and old electronics. 
  • Purchase sustainably choosing to buy products that are reusable
  • Buy eco-friendly products
  • Bike, walk or use public transport as much as possible
  • Consume less meat even if you go veggie for one day a week.

For more information and to see where I sourced my facts, take a look at some of these resources: 

https://www.globalgoals.org/13-climate-action

https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-13-climate-action.html

https://unctad.org/en/pages/newsdetails.aspx?OriginalVersionID=2333