Environment: common but differentiated responsibilities – 06/09/2021 – Jorge Abrahão

The title of this column is a principle adopted by the UN during Eco-92 and which aims to make clear the greater responsibility of governments, companies and certain countries that emit greenhouse gases in facing the challenges of sustainable development.

Climate change is a central theme these days and offers issues for all spheres of government, in addition to other actors such as companies, civil society organizations and citizens. Cities play an important role, considering the high rate of urbanization in Brazil (85%). São Paulo, as the largest city in the country, is a laboratory of problems and solutions and can be one of the references in confronting climate change.

The survey launched this week on the environment and the city, by Rede Nossa São Paulo in partnership with IPEC (Intelligence in Research and Consulting) sheds light on the theme.

Too much worry, too little knowledge. The relationship of São Paulo residents with issues related to the environment can be summarized in this proposition. Seven out of ten people say they know little or nothing about global warming or climate change, which gives an idea of ​​the scale of the challenge ahead.

Even so, however, 80% consider the issue of global warming or climate change very important and 62% say they are very concerned about the issue. The result indicates both the importance of building public programs and policies as well as society’s information campaigns aimed at combating global warming.

The relationship made by the population between such phenomena at a global level and the Brazilian reality is noteworthy, as 81% of respondents agree totally or in part that Brazil is losing international credibility due to its actions in relation to climate change and global warming .

The relationship between the environment and health is increasingly clear to the population. Most respondents identify the increase in various types of diseases as a consequence of environmental imbalance, such as cardiorespiratory diseases (59%), dengue, zika, chikungunya (53%), and other diseases transmitted by contaminated water (47%). Furthermore, 63% fully or partially agree that environmental problems favor the existence of pandemics.

The survey also assessed the opinion of São Paulo residents on the accountability of actions to combat the city’s environmental problems. In the opinion of almost all respondents (about 90% on average for all options), in addition to government spheres, companies, industries and the higher-income population should act in the search for solutions to the city’s environmental problems.

There is also a clear perception of the individual challenges of each citizen: 61% fully or partially agree that their consumption habits are related to deforestation, which draws attention to the connection between responsibility for local actions in view of their global impact.

São Paulo emits more than 16 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, and nearly two-thirds of that amount comes from burning fuel for use in transport. The challenges are to encourage a development model based on proximity, that is, one that reduces the distance between work and residence and more attention and responsibility for the environment.

In mobility, fleets of buses powered by renewable energy that reduce emissions and pollution that affect public health (of the 14 thousand buses in the city, only 17 are electric); active commuting with safe and signposted bicycle paths and sidewalks. In waste, promote the reduction, reuse and recycling of materials. Legislation that encourages the use of solar energy in homes and buildings prevents losses and pressure on the distribution network. Civil construction, in addition to using sustainable materials, can adopt efficient lighting and cooling systems and significantly reduce waste production. Offering housing to avoid pressure in areas of springs and springs, and the universalization of basic sanitation are factors that integrate social and environmental aspects. Strengthening the sense of community associated with the improvement of urban infrastructure with an increase in parks and green areas, and solutions that allow soil permeability, use of rainwater, among other examples that prevent the formation of islands of heat and pollution, such as regions around the great avenues of São Paulo.

Environmental education, which should not be the responsibility of the Municipal Department of Education or the Environment, is an agent of transformation and awareness that can make a difference in reversing the low level of knowledge on the issues of climate change and global warming identified. in research. Without forgetting to debate moderation and what is enough, against a model that encourages consumerism.

There are increasing doubts on the part of science whether we will be able to find solutions in time to avoid the climate catastrophe that puts the lives of humans on the planet at risk. The combination of the insensitivity of most economic agents — boards of directors and CEOs, more concerned with short-term results than with the perpetuity of their business — with the leniency of politicians is a bomb with delayed effect that is mounted and that only the rapid awareness and mobilization of society can disarm.

Of course, mitigation and adaptation policies are welcome in an attempt to reduce the impacts of a nature-predatory and socially exclusionary economic model. But, above all, the challenge is to understand that it is no longer a question of “washing” and “varnishing” the actions of governments and companies. The very survival of the system and of humanity depends on a change of view and an integrated view of the dimensions: nature is not separate from human beings. We are, humbly, just one more species in this spectacular experience that took place on this little planet of the Solar System: life.

Change is the realization that we need to dig deep into the causes of problems and, to ensure the long term, tackle powerful interests in the short term. In the case of companies, business models must be rethought. In governments, the transversality of actions is urgent: in practice, there should be no secretariat for the Environment. The theme should be a priority in the departments of Education, Health, Housing, Transport, Infrastructure, and many others.

It may seem difficult, but all the complexity of the synchronisms that made us handle reason and emotion can handle challenges of this size. The ambition in relation to our capacity for transformation can and must be greater.

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