Sustainability. This word is defined as a method of utilizing a resource for long periods of time without depleting or permanently damaging it. With the accelerating pace of industrialization and intensive human activities like the burning of fossil fuels, the international community is currently facing a pressing threat to the sustainability of life on Earth: climate change. As climate change leads to long term changes in global temperatures and weather patterns, it has significantly impacted not only environmental activists, but politicians, leaders, and ordinary citizens around the world. As we face new political challenges in combatting climate change, it is becoming increasingly necessary to understand the meaning and importance behind sustainability and recent environmental activism.
In September, millions of concerned and passionate activists poured into the streets in one of the biggest climate change strikes in history. According to the Guardian, these protests took place over 120 countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Philippines, Brazil, the US, and Australia, where the police observed more than 300,000 participants. As school administrators in the US authorized 1.1 million students to attend these strikes, youths played a momentous role in expressing their concerns about the environment. They were joined by tech employees at companies like Amazon who successfully pressured their executives to purchase 100,000 electric delivery trucks and to become carbon neutral by 2040. Employees even demanded that Amazon stop provisioning cloud-computing support to companies reliant on fossil fuels, showing the public’s growing awareness of the threats to Earth’s sustainability.
Amidst the increased pressure from citizens, world leaders congregated in the UN climate change summit held on Sept. 23. Some concrete measures taken toward sustainability include the commitment of 65 countries to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, and wealthy countries like South Korea, Germany, and Britain pledging to double their funds toward the UN’s Green Climate Fund—a program that aids developing countries in reducing emissions. Despite these steps, many activists were disappointed by the lack of progress. According to the New York Times, the world’s greatest emitters of greenhouse gases— India, China, and the US— have not given pledges of increased action ahead of the 2020 deadline to update their sustainable climate plans. President Trump showed a lack of interest in sustainability efforts, and rather proposed to stop anti-pollution and fuel-efficiency standards for cars, counteracting the green policies of the Obama administration. By officially revoking California’s ability to implement stricter emission standards than those of the federal government, California may soon have to abolish its policy against tailpipe pollution— the largest source of gas emissions in the United States. The new rule, which would lower the requirement on automakers to build vehicles that achieve 54.5 miles per gallon to only 37 miles, would permanently block states from regulating vehicle pollution.
As public initiatives are being minimized by the relatively dormant efforts in international summits, more government policy is needed to build truly sustainable communities. On a positive note, however, South Korea is taking noticeable strides toward the sustainability of its resources. According to the Korea Herald, an oil refining enterprise of SK Innovation, SK Energy, is unprecedentedly issuing green bonds, asset-linked instruments which would empower environmentally friendly businesses. SK Energy announced that it will issue green bonds worth $251 million and use the funds to construct desulfurization facilities in Ulsan that would produce 40,000 barrels of low-sulfur fuel oil, demonstrating the increasing cooperation between public and private sectors in sustainable efforts. Moreover, the current administration is planning to invest $439.8 million in renewable infrastructure and adopt more efficient solar power stations. Evidently, on a national level, sustainability efforts are making stable progress. However, for climate change to be fully addressed, the contributions of only some nations are inadequate: all nations must fight in unity for the sustenance of the planet and our livelihoods.