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Earth Day 2022 commentary by Climate Strategist Lucian Peppelenbos

22 April 2022 - Earth Day was founded in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson to force environmental legislation onto the national agenda in the USA. Prior to that, such legislation did not exist – it was perfectly legal to dump chemical waste in water streams or to spew toxic smoke into the air.

Now, more than fifty years later, we have extensive legislation in place in many parts of the world, but the cause of Earth Day is more relevant than ever. The latest scientific reports on climate change and biodiversity read as a cry of despair. At the launch of these reports, UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke of a “code red for humanity”, while commenting that our leaders are lying with their “broken climate promises” and “empty pledges”.

When a top diplomat uses such words, it is clear that one is living in turbulent times. After a global pandemic, the news is now dominated by war, energy insecurity and rampant inflation. We are facing a crisis that is prompting the USA to re-open federal lands for oil production, the UK to reconsider fracking, and the EU to sign long-term gas contracts with potential lock-in effects. On the back of this, the EU has also decided to postpone its legislative agenda on the use of pesticides and the restoration of nature.

With such short-sighted responses to these crises, it is tempting to respond with skepticism. But the 1970s were probably no less turbulent, and that didn’t hold back the emergence of a global environmental movement. At Robeco we always say that while the direction of travel is clear, the road to net zero is bumpy and disruptive. This is what that bumpy ride feels like.

As we travel this path, it is critical to be aware that energy security goes hand in hand with renewables and decentralized power systems. Food security goes hand in hand with regenerative agriculture, ecosystem restoration, and healthy diets. And resilient supply chains go well with human rights and the circular economy. Let’s keep that bigger picture in mind as we live through these turbulent times. The crisis we face now makes us at Robeco more determined than ever to help drive the long-term transition to a sustainable economy.

Lucian Peppelenbos, Climate Strategist at Robeco

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