As we wind down 2023, let’s chart a course for a more sustainable 2024 - let’s make a New Year’s Resolution! (Cue the party horns and paper-coil noisemakers.) Representatives to the United Nations Climate Change Convention, or COP28, from almost 200 countries around the world have just come home from Dubai with a renewed resolve to limit climate change to 1.5ᵒF and save 30% of Earth’s land and oceans for wildlife by 2030 (a.k.a. 30X30), so surely we can also make some changes to contribute to that effort. As Margaret Mead reminds us, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
This year COP28 focused on four areas: transitioning to clean energy; building climate-resilient societies; delivering climate finance; and consulting local communities and Indigenous Peoples on climate change decisions. John Kerry, representing the U.S. in Dubai, supported a phaseout of fossil fuels, a step the convention has been unable to make previously, but one that needs to happen if the limit of 1.5ᵒF is to be met. How can we reduce our use of fossil fuels? We can conserve electricity, drive less, and we can try to eliminate plastics from our households. We can also commit to eating less meat which requires more land and fossil fuels in its production than plant-based meals.
The first step for any new habit is to measure your baseline. The Global Footprint Network has created a tool to measure your CO2 emissions in tons/year. You can find out what your Ecological and Carbon Footprint is here: footprintcalculator.org/home/en. This great tool not only lets you know where you stand currently, it also lets you know which activities contribute the most to your footprint and gives great resources to help you lower your impact. The United Nations has also created a useful resource for living more sustainably – The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World – which addresses each of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
We all know that making a resolution is far easier than keeping it. One strategy for successfully achieving your resolution is to monitor it. Peter Drucker, influential management theory expert, famously said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” So, once you decide on your resolution – whether it be updating all the weatherstripping in the house or creating a plastic-free household or something else – make sure to set some parameters. Decide on a start date; set yourself up for success by breaking up the project into manageable tasks; and monitor your progress. One of the big tasks that COP28 is tackling this year is called “global stocktake” which is an assessment of whether we are on track to meet the goals set by the Paris Agreement in 2015. The result of this assessment will inform their decisions going forward. Monitoring outcomes allows us to alter our plans if needed, and it provides encouragement when we see progress towards our goals.
The final step of any New Year’s Resolution is to celebrate your success, but don’t wait until the end of the project to pop the cork. Celebrate each step towards your goal. John Kerry pushed to get the words, “phaseout fossil fuels” into the COP28 final agreement and only got two of those three words. The pact calls for “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner.” This statement’s explicit language regarding coal, oil, and gas is being hailed as a significant breakthrough. Progress!
Behavior changes can be difficult. The root of the word resolution, or resolutionem, means the process of breaking up. In essence, we need to break an old habit before we can form a new one and that’s hard. According to Mark Twain, “You can’t break a bad habit by throwing it out the window. You’ve got to walk it slowly down the stairs.” A community of support can make that process easier and ensure success so let’s resolve together to live more lightly on our Earth. For 2024 you are invited to join us here at the Conservation Corner each month where we will tackle a new behavior change, starting with Fast Fashion in January. We do not purport to be the experts by any means. We are simply starting the conversation and welcome your comments, suggestions, ideas, and support. Join us as we discover new ways to meet our need for food, shelter, water, and space while leaving enough of all those things for wildlife. Let’s save the world this year!