Sustainability Blog

Spring of Sustainability

By Apurva Gosalia - Jun 08, 2021

By a remarkable coincidence, the two pairs of numbers that form the year 2021 also mark the beginning and end of this year’s astronomical spring – March 20 to June 21.

Even more remarkable are the events that took place during this period, which I believe will go down in history as the “Spring of Sustainability,” or “SOS” for short. They will have ground-breaking and long-term effects on various business sectors, including the global lubricants industry.

On April 21, negotiators from the European Council and the European Parliament reached a provisional political agreement on setting stricter laws to achieve a climate-neutral EU by 2050 and a collective net greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

The next day marked the 51st Earth Day, an international annual event celebrated around the world to pledge support for environmental protection. The 2021 theme is “Restore Our Earth.” Earth Day was first observed in 1970, when 20 million people took to the streets in the U.S. to protest environmental degradation. The event was triggered by the Santa Barbara oil spill, as well as other issues such as smog and polluted rivers

This was followed on April 22-23 by a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden to address the climate crisis. The summit convened 40 world leaders to galvanize efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. At the same time, the U.S. announced its aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% until 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

An alternative to the distress call “SOS” is the term “Mayday,” which for me refers to May 5, the day on which the German government raised its climate change ambition to target net zero emissions. Proposed targets call for a 65% reduction of emissions by 2030, 85-90% by 2040 and net zero by 2045, all compared with 1990 levels. Previously, the goals were 55% by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050. The sudden shift follows a landmark court ruling in favor of the plaintiffs representing German young people’s future wellbeing and reflects rising public demand for green policies.

Another landmark ruling was handed down in the Netherlands on May 26. A Dutch court ordered Royal Dutch Shell and its group of companies that it must cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels. The decision resulted from a case brought by seven climate campaign groups and 17,000 Dutch citizens as co-plaintiffs. Furthermore, the court said the emissions measurement applied to Shell, its suppliers and group customers. This implies the ruling covers Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, meaning the company would have to offset emissions generated by the use of its products, too.

Finally, World Environment Day was celebrated on June 5. This annual event is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of the environment. First held in 1974, it has been a platform for raising awareness on environmental issues, such as marine pollution, human overpopulation, global warming, sustainable consumption and wildlife crime. In 2021, WED focused on ecosystem restoration with its theme “Reimagine. Recreate. Restore.” The day also kicked off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, 2021-2030, a global mission to revive billions of hectares, from forests to farmlands and from mountaintops to the depths of the sea.

Even though spring is not over yet, let’s see what the summer brings.


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