American cellular biologist, college professor and politician Barry Commoner claimed that the first law of ecology is that everything is connected to everything else. It took decades for the environmental concerns to be embedded in public life and even more decades for the first actions in favor of the environment to occur.
We start to understand only today what Commoner meant in the early 1970’s, suggesting that the global economy should be restructured to conform to the unbending laws of ecology. For example, he argued that polluting products, such as detergents or synthetic textiles, should be replaced with natural products, like soap or cotton and wool. His bestselling book, The Closing Circle, was one of the first to bring the idea of sustainability to a mass audience.
The earlier the production technologies are sustainable, the better.
Sustainable development aims to meet the needs of present generations without jeopardising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It provides a comprehensive approach bringing together economic, social and environmental considerations in ways that mutually reinforce each other. While numerous studies denounce today the catastrophic nature of the planet condition caused by human activities, the private sector industries are slow to adapt its means of production to environmental constraints.
Antagonism between environmental quality and economic growth led to postpone the transformation of the major systems of production for way too long. The environmental crisis is a global problem and only global action will resolve it. For Steven Cohen, the Executive Director at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, we must develop and deploy the technology to create a renewable resource-based economy. We cannot keep using materials and dumping the waste in a hole in the ground.
This is a non-sense that ultimately lead to a dead end with critical consequences. And that’s precisely where the private sector in Europe need regulations so much, because it cannot make the transition from a waste-based economy to a renewable one by itself. This transition can only happen if the EU create a public-private partnership. In a complex economy on a crowded planet, the Union is compelled to set the rules that respond to the complexity and planetary stress that our global economy has created.
Just as the regulation of Wall Street builds confidence in the public marketplace for capital, we need rules to ensure that economic life does not destroy the planet that provides us with food, air and water. It’s common sense that the European Parliament, the EU Council and Commission unpurposedly – or purposedly – took time to apply.
The latest edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report showed that in just over 40 years, the world has witnessed a nearly 60% decline in wildlife across land, sea and freshwater and is heading towards a shocking decline of two-thirds by 2020. This has happened in less than a generation. Failing to take up on the challenge of Climate Change for a sustainable Europe is not an option.
Do the European Union have the shoulders to succeed the challenge of environmental sustainability?
The election of Donald Trump, his general policy and the US withdrawal from international institutions forced the European Union to play a leading role for a sustainable future. As we begin the conversion from a fossil fuel-based economy to one based on renewable energy and other reusable resources, the EU must play its part.
Beyond playing the referee between industries and NGOs, the Union ought to confront the corporate domain at its most powerful and guarded point in order to speed up the transition process and become a world leader. Even though 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets for 2030 have been set, we might wonder about its chance of success and whether it is not already too late to improve Earth’s environmental conditions.
Indeed, the reactions to the refugee crisis suggest that solidarity among the Union ‘s member states is weak. Furthermore, euroscepticism added to populism is on the rise. The EU capacity to implement domestic reforms and its position as a global power are being severely undermined by centrifugal forces within Europe and the risk that the EU will disintegrate. In addition, according to a new report from Nature, “the window for limiting warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius with high probability and without temporarily exceeding that level already seems to have closed.
Therefore, all the hope we have left now is our ability to limit the negative effects of climate change. So yes, more natural catastrophes will happen in the near future such as severe drought, winter blizzards, category-5 hurricanes and tsunamis, causing people to migrate massively to safer lands.
Setting the 2030 agenda might satisfy NGO’s, politicians and concerned citizens today, but these initiatives are clearly not enough if we individually continue to consume and power our lives the way we do right now. Natural resources will be irreversibly damaged by 2030.
Our planet is heading for a crash of natural systems, which any central bank cannot fix. But we can limit the havoc if a major adjustment happen in the way we consume, think and imagine industries and business practices. This must happen now.
The risk is that the EU 2030 Agenda don’t level up with the expectations and be a missed opportunity. Unless the Union rage against climate change and make the private sector players bend to adopt today an environmental sustainable solution to their development strategies, the transition for a sustainable Europe will be, soon or later, forgotten.