It’s time #ForNature: World Environment Day 2020

05 June 2020

Since 1972, the world celebrates United Nations (UN) World Environment Day on 5 June - engaging governments, businesses, celebrities and citizens to focus their efforts on a pressing environmental issues.

In 2011, the UN General Assembly declared the period 2011-2020 as the International Decade on Biodiversity to promote the implementation of a strategic plan on biodiversity and its overall vision of living in harmony with nature.

This year marks the conclusion of the Decade on Biodiversity, that’s why this year’s theme was fittingly selected to be “biodiversity” – involving 8 million plant and animal species, the ecosystems that house them, and the genetic diversity among them.

Nature is on the verge of a breakdown; one million animal and plant species are likely to disappear if we don’t act soon. Human actions, including deforestation, encroachment on wildlife habitats, intensified agriculture, and acceleration of climate change, have pushed nature beyond its limit.

Also known as Earth Overshoot Day, humans consume approximately 1.6 earths every year thus making it difficult for our planet to recover. If we continue on this path, biodiversity loss will have severe implications for humanity, including the collapse of food and health systems.

The UN has invited everyone around the globe to join them in the call #ForNature and share why they believe it’s time for nature.

Biodiversity raises a concern that is both urgent and existential. Recent events, from bushfires in Brazil, the United States, and Australia to locust infestations across East Africa – and now, a global coronavirus pandemic – demonstrate the interdependence of humans and the webs of life, in which they exist.

Perhaps, amongst the devastation caused by COVID-19, we will find the time and energy to consider our impact on this planet and its biodiversity. The emergence of COVID-19 has underscored the fact that, when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life.

Scientists agree that several major epidemics may be related to the climate and biodiversity crises we are experiencing. This was the case for SARS and may have been the case for Covid-19. In 2012, veteran New York Times journalist Jim Robbins wrote a prophetic piece wherein he observed that “disease is largely an environmental issue. Sixty percent of emerging infectious diseases that affect humans are zoonotic – they originate in animals. And more than two-thirds of those originate in wildlife.”

Nature is sending us a message, and the world that we will leave to our children and grandchildren will certainly experience other new and deadly pandemics. How many pandemics there will be, greatly depends on our efforts to preserve biodiversity and natural balances on the planet.

Beyond the current human tragedies, one can only hope that Covid-19 has had the positive effect of raising this awareness.

What we are doing as a business #ForNature

As an African bank, Absa recognises the continent’s vulnerability to climate change and biodiversity loss, and we acknowledge our ability to responsibly influence all aspects of sustainability: economic, social, as well as environmental.

We signed up and became a founding signatory to the UNEP FI Principles for Responsible Banking (PRB) in September 2019. The Principles outline the banking industry’s role and responsibility in shaping a sustainable future and in aligning the banking sector with the objectives of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

Our declaration allows us to review our impact on people, planet and prosperity across business sectors and operating footprint.

As our new COVID-19 world order grows more interconnected and even more complex, we embrace a way of thinking about business in a way that better reflects where we are in the human journey, and the inherent potential of business to make a positive impact on people and planet. 

Disclaimer: The advice contained on this blog is for general purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances, objectives or financial needs. Accordingly, readers are advised to seek appropriate advice from licensed professionals prior to making any investment, or taking up a financial product or service.