A recent report by the International Energy Agency showed that some 6.5 million deaths yearly are linked to air pollution. The same report noted that the premature deaths attributed to outdoor air pollution would probably increase to 4.5 million from 3 million by the year 2040 with much of the deaths concentrated in Asia. After all, according to the World Health Organization, roughly six out of seven million people who die yearly due to air pollution are in Asia. And these numbers are likely to increase if no real efforts are made to curb emissions.
Sounds gloomy, right? However, all is not lost as the report also stressed that the dreary scenario above could be changed if total energy investments are to be increased by seven percent until 2040. Increasing investments in energy will mean a decline in premature deaths from outdoor air pollution by 1.7 million in 2040. Deaths from household pollution would fall by 1.6 million annually, too.
Will we see an increase in investments significant enough to alter the number of deaths linked to air pollution? Similarly, can we also reduce our carbon footprint globally and hold the global average temperature to below 2 centigrade as agreed by our leaders in last year’s COP 21 meeting?
Maybe. But it is worth noting that many are taking environmental problems seriously. What we see these days are prominent people who are urging us all to sit up and find solutions to the growing problem of climate change. Last year, the Pontiff spoke out about the environment. This was also followed by the world leaders in COP21 who reaffirmed the previous commitment of allotting $100 billion yearly by 2020 to fund climate-related efforts, and to keep the global average temperature to mitigate the risks of rising atmospheric level. Even Oscar best actor Leonardo DiCarpio spoke emotionally about our environment in his acceptance speech.
Just recently, the three North American leaders agreed to a trilateral energy and climate plan during the recently concluded Tres Amigos summit. Presidents Barrack Obama of the US and Enrique Nieto of Mexico and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to increasing the power coming from clean energy sources to 50 percent from the current goal of 37 percent by the year 2025. The trilateral agreement also includes the three countries agreeing to increase the goal of reducing methane emission from 40 to 45 percent as well as to commit to the research and development of clean technology initiatives and their commercialization.
Even farmers are now being encouraged to adopt climate-smart farming methods through the Climate-Smart Lending Platform. This platform has the intention of making credit cheaper and easier for small-scale farmers to protect their crops from weather disturbances while adopting climate-friendly practices. The goal of the initiative is to entice farmers to sustain their climate-smart agriculture practices.
Similarly, in Mexico, an Energy Savings Insurance Initiative was launched by the Inter-American Development Bank where small and medium-sized businesses in the agro- investing sector can buy insurance for their energy-efficiency upgrades for a small amount. These SMEs can benefit from buying such insurance since they will spend less on power should their upgrades work. If not, these firms can obtain an insurance pay-out. This initiative is set to be replicated in other Latin and Caribbean nations soon.
Locally, our Climate Change Commission has already started its review on how we can attain our commitment to helping the world reduce our carbon footprint. This initiative involves other departments including the Energy Department in reviewing our Energy Plan to promote the development and use of more renewable energy sources.
All these initiatives are music to my ears, as well as for others who wish to help address the world’s environmental problems. May these agreements and efforts undertaken by different countries and their leaders bear much fruit so that the next generation can enjoy God’s gift of nature. After all, in the words of Pope Francis “The effects of the present imbalance (in the environment) can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.”