Earth Hour Campaign Coordinator, WWF-Australia
Past decades have been defined by trends, world-stopping events and cutting-edge advancements. From the 90s emerged the Hubble Space Telescope, the World Wide Web and The Backstreet Boys. The 2000s were defined by Beyonce’s solo debut (of course) and a new and frightening War on Terror. And we all know that the past 10 years have been about smashed avo, climate marches and the world catching on fire.
2020 is the beginning of the decade that will be defined by the environment, because it needs to be. We need to make wise, science-backed decisions over the next 10 years if we want to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030. If we don’t, we run the risk of locking in a grim, infertile future for people and nature.
Luckily, 2020 is a ‘super year’ for the environment; a year of important global meetings on environmental policy. If we can persuade global leaders to make decisions at these meetings to benefit our planet’s future, we can protect and restore nature before it’s too late.
So, what can we expect this year?
High-Level Political Forum, 7-16 July 2020, New York, USA
Despite sounding like a bit of a snooze fest, we have the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) to thank for some of the most interesting things to come out of the United Nations; the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
There are 17 SDGs, and their purpose is to cover just about everything we need to work on to make the world safe, sustainable and enjoyable for everyone by 2030. The list of SDGs is short but interesting, you can read more about them here.
Each goal has a subset of targets, and some of the environmental targets under the SDGs will expire in 2020, so it’s time for 193 member states to show the world what they have (or haven’t) achieved.
75th UN General Assembly (UNGA), 15-30 September 2020, New York, USA
The United Nations General Assembly is the only time that all 193 member states are allowed equal representation. Even the world’s smallest nations - those most impacted by climate change - can be heard and can try to influence global policy.
The 75th United Nations General Assembly will look forward to what the state of the world may be at its 100th assembly if we don’t act now. In response to global, youth-led climate marches, the future of the next generation will be central to deliberations at the UNGA.
Leaders’ Biodiversity Summit, ~20 September 2020, New York, USA
The Leaders’ Biodiversity Summit is exactly what it sounds like. It’s very similar to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, just a little more exclusive. The rationale behind this leaders-only summit is to highlight the urgency of the biodiversity issue we face at the highest levels.
UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-15), ~5-10 October 2020, Kunming, China
In 2010, the number one target determined by the UN CBD for the decade ahead was:
“By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.”
You can read more about biodiversity here. If you read it, share it, or sign up for Earth Hour, you can tell your friends and colleagues that you’re single-handedly helping the United Nations achieve one of their top targets. Nice work!
At the 2020 UN CBD, member states will establish a new 10-year framework, and re-assess their progress towards the convention's ultimate long-term goal, that people will be living in harmony with nature by 2050.
The members of the UN CBD have established achievable, modern goals for our modern world.
Working within our current economic, political and social systems means that we lose nature when we gain progress as a species, but we can’t be expected to forego the systems that we rely on for the sake of nature.
And we don’t have to.
What we can do is improve these systems to make them work harder and smarter for us and for the environment. This way, when we thrive, nature can thrive too. That’s what the UN CBD is all about!
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-26), 9-20 November 2020, Glasgow, Scotland
Chances are, at some point you’ve heard someone talk about ‘The Paris Agreement’ as if they wrote the thing (they didn’t). This agreement is probably what the UNCCC is best known for.
Aimed at limiting global warming to 2 degrees or less, the agreement established guidelines and targets to limit CO2 emissions worldwide. Sadly, current efforts, especially from larger, powerful countries, are insufficient to keep global warming at a safe level. 2020 is the year the agreement will be re-assessed, so it is the first time since it’s adoption that countries will come together to evaluate how much they’ve been able to do, and how much more they can do.
While many of these meetings were established with the best intentions, unfortunately their goals are not being realised swiftly enough. With only 10 years left to achieve these goals and a lot of work ahead, 2020 is going to be the biggest year yet for the United Nations, and for the planet. It is the reason why we are calling it a ‘super year’. The future of our planet is at stake, and we need our world’s leaders to act with urgency if we are to save the one home we all share.
There is a way you can help ensure that the future of our planet is at the top of the agenda. This Earth Hour is going to be the largest yet, with millions of people in over 180 countries taking part to raise their voice for people and nature. You can join them. Sign up for Earth Hour 2020 here. And make this a ‘super year’!