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It is youth month in South Africa and time for us, as the older generation, to contemplate and question what we are we leaving behind for generations to come. More importantly, what examples are we setting for them?

The world today is in turmoil with the Russia-Ukraine war adding exponentially more to the deficit caused by COVID, with economic and societal damages likely to take decades to recover.   

The WEF stated in an article in January 2022  “ Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.”

youth month in South Africa

Decisive action? In 2009, at a UN summit in Copenhagen, wealthy countries resisted calls to directly compensate poorer nations that are harmed by their carbon emissions. Instead, they agreed to channel $100 billion a year to these countries to help them deal with climate change. Thirteen years later the $100 billion has not materialized as no agreement has been reached on the financing model. Yet the planet and the people continue to suffer.  

Let’s not beat around the bush. We need to stop being politically correct as that is not going to save our planet or leave behind a better future for our young ones. The truth is that the developing world is paying the climate change price for the developed world.

At COP26 Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley was brave enough to call out richer countries to stop throwing garbage in her yard and then telling her to clean it up. The garbage, in this case, is greenhouse gas emissions that fuel more extreme storms and hurricanes, causing widespread destruction which can cost billions of damages.

I totally agree with the argument that developed countries, like the United States and those in the European Union, are responsible for most of the heat-trapping emissions pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. Developing countries have lower emissions but are still bearing the brunt of a hotter climate through more severe heat waves, floods and droughts.

“It is unjust, and it is immoral,” Mottley said at the summit. “It is wrong.”

Africa contributes less than 4% of the global greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. It is a cruel irony that, in many experts’ opinion, the people living on the continent that has contributed the least to global warming are in line to be the hardest hit by the resulting climate changes.

We certainly talk a lot about climate change and climate action, but it is still just talk. New policies and legislation have been passed in many countries, yet there is no relief for the people who are really suffering. Those who do not drive or even own a car or has the means to purchase products packaged in plastic, produced through factories that do not measure or even think about their Co2 emissions. Even worse, produced by companies that do the bare minimum just to ensure they have ticked all the boxes from a compliance perspective.

Climate action is so much more than just compliance. It is about consciously looking at what we, as business, can do to stop the damage we cause to the environment.

A simple example: If you package your products in plastic, you are harming the planet. Yes, changing the status quo will take courage and initially will have an impact on your profit margins… but ask yourself the question: do we not owe it to our young people to help fix the broken world that we as the older generation created? We need to work together to ensure that we leave behind a beautiful and healthy planet for our young ones.

Tiekie Bernard

Founder & CEO