2021: The Year of Positive Change?


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Welcome to the first of our ‘Student Voice’ guest blog series where I will be working with Natasha Jackson on her thoughts and views of the issues surrounding sustainability that matter to her.

Take it away Natasha!

2021 is the year to make a positive change…

We all thought 2020 was a roller coaster of uncertainty but could 2021 be headed in that same direction if things keep going as they are?

Climate change is one of the most up and coming issues.

Since COVID-19 has been the most talked about affair since forever ago… the political agenda has shifted towards climate change. Governments around the global have made this the focal point of their political agendas and they have begun looking into initiatives such as cycling and walking routes alongside sustainable public transport. They are keen to cut carbon emissions within industry and have provided public access to high-quality green spaces to improve upon public health.

With many countries now having declared a ‘climate crises’ we have to ask ourselves, has our planet entered an irreversible pathway to self-destruction? Have we simply been too naïve to understand the grand scheme of things and are we now one of the biggest causes of climate change?

According to research from NASA on ‘climate sensitivity’, which is a crucial measure of how the increasing greenhouse gas emissions will affect our climate, it was revealed that the climate sensitivity level is definitely not something that we should be overlooking it. However, it is also not too high that there is simply no hope left for our planet’s recovery.

The climate sensitivity level ranges from 1.5-4.5 °C indicating that since 1750 the atmosphere has twice as much CO2. This is a primary focus for our governments as we focus on green recovery. (NASA, 2021).

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What was the protocol when the UK were a part of the UN?

A number of years ago in December 2015 when the UK were part of the United Nations, the Paris climate deal was agreed and signed. The primary aim of the deal was ensuring that the rise in global temperatures in this century was below 2C. This figure is pre-industrial level, and they want to continue to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C.

How has the UK kept their promise to reduce their carbon footprint?

The UK government since 2008 put in place a five-year greenhouse gas target. The UKs target for 2020 was to see a 16% reduction on emissions from 2005 which might I add, they achieved with ease. In actual fact the UKs gas emissions have significantly went down by 45% from the 1990 levels (BBC,2020)

What does this mean for sustainability?

This means that those simple things like turning off a light when it is not in use, walking to work (where possible), and using public transport as a means of travel are positively contributing to our reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and the formation of a more sustainable environment.

I’m sure most of us by now are aware that the UK parted ways with the EU (if not you need to watch the news!). Since then, we have been tasked with forming an independent scheme to slash our carbon footprint. Our scheme is fixated on 2030 targets which will light up the passageway to attaining net zero emissions by 2050 (BBC, 2020).

What is net zero emissions?

The question may have occurred to yourself, “net zero… what is she talking about… how is this physically possible?”, well here’s a little insight for you.

Net zero requires that any carbon emissions are balanced by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere. Essentially the emissions that are given out and also put back in achieving a net zero balance.

Did you know that Northern Ireland for years and years have been the only country with a devolved government and has not had its own climate change legislation? It goes without saying that our figures do inevitably contribute to the UK targets, but we should have our own legislation.

With the turn of the new decade Stormont have had a change of heart and have pledged to tackle this major issue. Stormont have now also declared a climate crises and are committed to developing a climate change strategy for Northern Ireland and establishing an independent environmental protection agency. It is very much a work in progress but nonetheless we are moving in the right direction of a more sustainable environment.

The impacts of Covid-19 on the rate of climate change

Despite the never-ending lockdowns and continuously feeling cooped up in the house, the worldwide pandemic has provided immense benefit to the planet in more ways than one.

  • Approximately 2.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide will never be emitted into the atmosphere in turn slowing down the rate of global warming.
  • There were 10 million metric tons less of CO2 emitted from aviation and 16,000 jets were effectively grounded resulting in clear skies and a reduction in pollution levels.
  • In London there was 28% less congestion in comparison to 2019.

The pandemic replaced the world’s noisiest cities sound of car horns and engines with the sweetest sound of birds chirping, clear skies and fresh blue waters. There are so many positive benefits that can be taken from the pandemic that in return have amounted to our planet becoming more self-sufficient and sustainable in the long run. The hope is that our small daily changes can equate to the bigger picture before it is too late (Bloomberg Green, 2020).

And so, the main points that I’d like you to take away from my blog this month are:

  • Climate change is on the horizon
  • It is not too late for us to make a change
  • A small change now will result in a bigger change down the line
  • Northern Ireland’s government are working together for the first time in years to produce our own climate change legislation
  • Covid-19 does not have to be seen negatively it has undeniable positive clauses
  • Making a change starts from your fingertips

Natasha Jackson Headshot (1) Natasha Jackson Signature


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