The 22nd April will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth day. With everything going on at the moment, it’s hard to even contemplate the word celebration; but at times like this, it is important to rally around the positives and our progress on climate change definitely qualifies for that. I, like many others, usually lead a very busy working life going from event to event, one policy to another and always keeping my eye on what the next steps are to get us where we need to be. Being hunkered down here in lockdown I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on the past few years and really take stock of just how far we’ve actually come as a collective.
I know that there were big plans domestically and internationally for this years Earth Day, some of which had been years in the making. Whilst disappointing, public health and safety quite rightly take precedence and cancelling these events was the right decision to make. In lieu of the planned festivities I’ve decided to celebrate in my own way by paying tribute to the extraordinary accomplishments we’ve achieved in the past year – let alone the last 50! – that are worth celebrating.
Firstly, renewable electricity generation has been growing year on year and 2019 was no different. The latest Energy Trends data from BEIS released last month found that renewable electricity generation increased by 3.8% to a record breaking 36.9%. This has more than quadrupled since Energy Trends data began in 2012. Only just a few months into 2020 and renewables have already broken another record; Q1 marked the first time in history that renewables were the UK’s main power source.
“the UK is set to completely reconfigure its relationship with what made it the country that it is today – fossil fuels.”
Secondly, in June of last year the UK became the first nation in the world to declare that it will become Net Zero by 2050. Now I know that almost everyone reading this is well aware of this announcement and considering the political events that followed, this is old news. However, I do think we sometimes forget how much of a phenomenal achievement this is. There is a long way to go to get there, but taking the Government on their word, the UK is set to completely reconfigure its relationship with what made it the country that it is today – fossil fuels. Historians and the like will look back in hundreds of years from now (thanks to global warming keeping below 1.5 degrees!) and pinpoint that announcement as a watershed moment in history and I will take pride in knowing myself, my colleagues and all those in the industry played their part.
Thirdly, climate consciousness has well and truly seeped into the mainstream. I can imagine back in 1970 where Earth Day began, the pioneers of the event were probably deemed by the mass public as ‘hippies’ or ‘tree huggers’. Seldom taken seriously, associated with rebellious teenage phases and often the punch line to a number of clichés in sitcoms and popular culture. Oh how things have changed! Demonstrated by the global schools strike for climate change, extinction rebellion demonstrations and the consistently high support amongst the public to prioritise climate change; being environmentally friendly and self-aware is now not just a way of life but the way of life. Support amongst the public so strong that it has defined a generation. With all the work going on now and the most environmentally friendly generations soon to have our futures in their hands, I can’t help but feel hopeful for what is to come.
As shown above, in the past year alone, the climate change movement has fully consolidated its hold on scientific expertise, political will (as far as legislating Net Zero goes) and public will. This is a feat that seemed so far away only a few years ago let alone 50! As can often be the case, we get lost in what is still left to do but tomorrow I will be raising a glass with a smile on my face for all that we have achieved so far and for all the good yet to come. I hope you’ll all be joining me!
Nina Skorupska is chief executive of the REA source