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Getting sustainability wrong

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At the start of 2020, I made a prediction that Environmental Issues would dominate the news agenda all year long…………..I was wrong.

Climate change activists like Greta Thurnberg and David Attenborough had pushed the agenda into the mainstream for much of the previous year, but the onset of the global pandemic in early 2020 saw a different issue dominating the news. The pandemic and the resulting lockdown has helped to demonstrate the benefits of reduced vehicle movements, cleaner air and a renewed love of our parks and spaces. However, the urgency for action has not gone away and at some point, the issue will return to the top of the headlines.

2015 Paris Agreement
The political climate for climate change

Five years ago, world leaders committed to a historic agreement to tackle climate change. The UK played a key role in securing the 2015 Paris Agreement, where for the first time,195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. They committed to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 ℃ above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the rise to 1.5 ℃.

Since then the UK government have pushed the agenda further, making amendments to the 2008 Climate Change Act to set a legally binding target to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from across the UK economy by 2050. Contributing factors in achieving this goal have started to be laid out with Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing a plan to ban sales of gasoline and diesel passenger cars beginning in 2035, five years earlier than a previous commitment by the UK government.

This agenda has also driven change in local government with 74% of local Council’s having declared a Climate Emergency. This declaration acknowledges that they need to act on the causes and impacts of climate change and is a major leap forward in the momentum of change happening, with most Council’s setting target dates for their Council areas to be carbon neutral by.

Focus on carbon neutrality

The focus of the entire debate has shifted from sustainability towards a focus on carbon neutrality. Carbon neutral? Net Zero? Zero Carbon? We are hearing these terms more and more, but what do they mean? These terms refer to achieving a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere, which should balance out to zero to achieve carbon neutrality, net zero or zero carbon. There are two different routes to achieving this, which work in tandem: reducing existing emissions and actively removing greenhouse gases.

Then there is the case for going even further to carbon negativity, but that’s for another day…

UN Climate Change Conference
The next big steps

People will be looking to Edinburgh for the next big climate change steps. The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), which was due to take place this year, has now been postponed to November 2021 but the conference will still take place on UK soil at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow. The conference will bring together 30,000 delegates including heads of state, climate experts and campaigners to agree on the actions to tackle climate change and protect the planet.

At COP26 governments, businesses, cities, the global scientific community and civil society will be brought together to step up the transformation of our economies, deal with the inevitable impacts of the climate change we have already created, and bend the curve on global emissions.

Covid-19 climate change
What impact has Covid-19 had on climate change?

During Covid-19 lockdown many international borders were closed, and populations were confined to their homes reducing transport. At their peak, emissions in individual countries decreased by –26% on average. Over lockdown, social media was flooded with positive news stories of how our planet was recovering. The infamously dirty air in New Delhi was cleaner with up to 50% improvement in air quality at the beginning of lockdown. The canals of Venice were so clear you could see the marine life swimming through them.

However, there has also been a significant rise in the use of single-use plastic; personal protective equipment (PPE) of masks, gloves, gowns and visors becoming vital in preventing the spread of the virus. Microplastics expert Dr Christian Dunn said the damage of single-use plastic “would last forever” and government action was needed. So, has the pandemic this pushed us back in the initiative to send zero waste to landfills by 2050? It’s yet to be seen, but conservations warn it could spark a surge in ocean pollution after finding disposable masks floating like jellyfish and waterlogged latex gloves scattered across seabeds.

The IT Industry and DTP Zero

So what of our industry? The UN has said that without intervention levels of electronic waste will more than double by 2050. At DTP, we have always been committed to changing that and since the start of 2019, we have sent zero % of our waste to landfill! We use refuse services that turn unrecyclable waste into Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) and now we’ve set an even more ambitious target, DTP Zero. We will shortly launch DTP Zero to market, where we will make our commitments and set milestones for next steps on our journey to be a 100% sustainable enterprise.

As part of our wider portfolio of IT Services and Solutions, we ensure that when it comes to your redundant IT equipment we will re-market, re-use and recycle ensuring environmental and ethical propriety. Equipment that is deemed either unfit or not economically viable for resale or re-use is sent for recycling, materials recovery and disposal. We guarantee that all equipment will be broken down and recycled in accordance with all relevant legislation. DTP are certified by the world’s most recognized environmental management system, bsi ISO 14001 Environmental Management and when it comes to our new solutions we can provide full environmental and carbon footprint reporting, so you know exactly the environmental impact our services have.

My prediction for 2020 around sustainability dominating the news agenda may have been wrong, but the issue isn’t going away and nor is our focus on it.

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