The end of the year is traditionally reserved for summarizing impressions. The global COVID-19 pandemic definitely marked this year and all the activities that took place during it. Coronavirus has not bypassed the environmental sector, so we could hear conflicting opinions, while on the one hand it was monitored how much the slowdown in human activities affected the recovery of the planet, on the other hand the global pandemic slowed or almost stopped some global processes to fight for sustainability planet.

In this text, we will try to summarize what happened and how much progress has been made when it comes to the so-called green sustainable development goals. Under the "green" sustainable development goals (SDGs) we mean the goals under the ordinal number: six - clean water and sanitation, seven - affordable and renewable energy, eleven - sustainable cities and communities, twelve - responsible consumption and production, thirteen - climate action and goal fifteen life on planet earth.

As we have already written in detail about the problems, with the desire to bring a little positive energy into the new year, in this text the focus will be on some positive things that happened during 2020 and which can contribute to the realization of SDGs.

WHAT DID COVID - 19 TEACH US?

The global pandemic has once again confirmed what our mothers and grandmothers have been telling us for years, "better to prevent than to cure". Prevention in times of general fear of the virus has proven to be crucial. And already at the beginning of the pandemic, it turned out that the available clean water is key to preventing and fighting the virus. Today, it is clear to everyone how important it is to wash your hands and maintain personal hygiene, and it seems that awareness has been raised that many people on the planet today live without clean water and that it is necessary to build better water supply systems and provide sanitation in public buildings, and above all in health care institutions and schools.

In addition to available drinking water, in order to ensure basic living conditions, it is necessary to supply humanity with clean and available energy. There are still over 3 billion people in the world relying on wood, coal, or animal waste for cooking and heating, and a rapid energy transition to renewable energy sources is needed to help these people and thus mitigate climate change. And this year we have seen that renewable energy sources and as competitors, so some records have been set in their production.

In Great Britain, the decline in energy demand, along with the growth of energy obtained from wind, has made 2020 the greenest year. Also during 2020, for the first time since the start of coal use, the United Kingdom managed to meet its needs for electricity without the use of coal within 30 days. This is also a great symbolic success when it is known that Great Britain is the cradle of coal use, whose use has spread from the British Isles all over the world. The UK is just one example, and other countries around the world have set records when it comes to obtaining energy from renewable sources.

All the drinking water of this world and all possible windmills and solar panels will not be enough unless the patterns of production and consumption change. During April, while the whole world was locked in their homes, if there were any, a lot of people could see what the real needs were and what was just generated.

During 2020, the global environmental footprint decreased slightly for the first time in many years. In order for this not to remain just an anomaly, it is necessary to adopt policies as soon as possible that will ensure a long-term reduction of the environmental footprint, which will be accompanied by an improvement in the quality of life. The pandemic offers an opportunity to develop recovery plans that will have an environmental and social component and that can contribute to building a more sustainable future.

 There is no more sustainable future without sustainable cities. Cities are the largest consumers of energy, water and other resources, and as much as 70% of human greenhouse gas emissions come from urban areas. More than 90% of coronavirus infections have been detected in cities. All this is a clear indication that the way cities are planned must be changed in order to combat, not only this virus, but also some future ones that are increasingly likely as urban areas expand at the expense of nature.

The global pandemic has also taught us that when a person thinks that he rules nature, he can strike a blow. The expansion of human settlements and agricultural areas has led to a reduction in overall biodiversity and this is shown by various reports. If this trend is not reversed and as humans come into increasing contact with wildlife that will either disappear or be forced to inhabit cities, the possibility of various viruses and bacteria passing from animals to humans increases. That is why it is important to protect entire ecosystems, because that is the best way to protect individual species.

Preserving species such as pandas, polar bears or blue whales is essential, but it will not be possible to preserve these species as well as hundreds of thousands of others if there is a permanent change in the climate on the planet. Climate change is the greatest challenge of today’s generation, and the fight against climate change will show whether global humanity is capable of growing up and living in harmony with nature or will continue to plummet into ruin leaving future generations without a future.

With a 7% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, 2020 is a record year, but it is necessary to continue active work in this field to prevent emissions from increasing during 2021, because we need even more than that 7% per year if we want to stay within the limit of 1.5 degrees, provided by the Paris agreement.

AND WHERE IS SERBIA IN THE WHOLE STORY OF THE "GREEN" SDGS?

 In Serbia, things are going very slowly for now, the implementation of the SDGs is late, and often there is a lack of data to be able to determine the true state of affairs. The good news is that there is more and more talk about SDGs and more research, so at the beginning of next year we expect a report on Serbia's readiness to implement the 2030 Agenda, but also other events on this topic.

WHAT ABOUT 2021?

 In the end, when we summarize everything on a global level, some progress has been made when it comes to environmental policies related to the "green" sustainable development goals, but the whole world still has a lot of work to do, especially when things return to "normal". And maybe this is the right time to understand - the situation before the global pandemic was not really "normal" and that we all need to find a new and sustainable "normal" in 2021.

 

Predrag Momcilovic

Photo source: https://data.unwomen.org/sites/default/files/2020-08/sdg-wheels.png