Wake Up Everybody: Preparing for the Next Global Emergency

Climate change and environmental degradation remain the biggest threats to our planet. As we experience the dire global economic and social consequences of a pandemic, there is cause to consider what further severe economic malady looms with a climate emergency.

While Africa currently contributes less than 4% of global GHG emissions, the continent is expected to be the hardest hit by climate change. This is largely down to geography – we are already the hottest continent and we are expected to warm up to 1.5 times faster than the global average.

As the world’s most resource-constrained economy, there is an urgent need to think and ‘do’ ahead. African businesses can secure commercial gains by only focusing on growing their financial bottom line, but performance should be with purpose. African businesses need to awaken to this threat and its potential negative externalities on their balance sheets, and very survival, and future proof their businesses by embracing Sustainability practices that address these risks. This should be a main priority of CEOs and Boards.

Our world is going through a period of accelerating change. Corporations, governments, and individuals alike are making notable adjustments – from government policy, through to business and operational models, and consumer patterns. Mindsets are changing to accommodate Sustainability innovations for a climate-smart future. An increasing number of countries have committed to net-zero emission goals by, or before, 2050. Some have a government minister responsible for climate action. And it isn’t just so-called ‘developed’ nations – Suriname and Bhutan have already declared themselves carbon negative. But most African nations are still discussing and deliberating targets.

There does not need to be a trade-off between (i) economic growth and job creation; and (ii) economic growth, job creation and sustainable, green development.

Each country must chart its own transition to a sustainable low-carbon and green economy. But the longer any country or continent delays such a transition, the more costly it will be in the long term. Africa and her businesses should not be left behind yet again. There is no Planet B. The businesses that will thrive when tomorrow comes are those that plan today to be climate-smart responsive and sustainability-conscious in their strategies and operations.

I turn again to the lyrics of Wake Up Everybody to cry out: ‘it’s time to build a new land, and it’s time to teach a new way’.