Turning the Page on 2020

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As I write this, encouraging reports on President-elect Joe Biden’s early cabinet picks and policy plans suggest that we are starting to turn the page on 2020 at last.

Of course, we are not through the global pandemic yet.  Infections rates are rising, promising a long winter with more suffering and death among vulnerable populations.  With stimulus funds drying up, the prospect of a double-dip recession is all too real.

But the arrival of vaccines in 2021 and a new U.S. administration with a more disciplined approach to combatting the virus offer hope that, with shared effort and sacrifice, we can put this pandemic behind us.

Beyond a shared commitment to public health, we will need a shared determination to tackle the four challenges that all societies face in 2021:  defeat the pandemic, rebuild the economy, fight climate change, and deliver racial justice.

WEC and our members can play a key role in this effort.  Our mission is right on point.  Sustainable development is the ideal framework for acting on these multiple, interconnected challenges.

Societies don’t have the political or financial capital to address each problem in isolation.  We must integrate economic recovery with aggressive action on climate (and other urgent environmental issues), racial and social justice, and public health.  

Gro Brundtland’s definition has never been more apt:  “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 

WEC’s 2021 program of Executive Roundtables will arm our members with practical tools to deliver integrated outcomes for decarbonization, human rights in supply chains, sustainable food production, water security, plastic waste reduction, and more, all with a through-line of broad-based economic growth.   

Our Capacity Building programs will continue to help small enterprises in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East strengthen the economic, ecological, and social fabric of their societies while contributing to the solution of global and regional environmental challenges, most importantly climate change.   

Our Gold Medal Award will again recognize a global corporate leader—like the Ford Motor Company in 2020—whose deep commitment to sustainable development makes a difference in its own right and inspires other companies to raise their ambition. New jurors from Asia, Europe, and the U.S. will ensure that our Gold Medalist is truly world class.   

I’m especially excited about the opportunity we’ll have in 2021 to provide a sounding board for governments on effective policies to advance economic recovery, climate action, social justice, and public health through sustainable development.  WEC is not an advocacy organization, but our members have encouraged us to add public policy to our agenda, since our sustainability priorities depend on it.

With a new U.S. administration and other governments embarking on economic recovery programs, WEC can convene roundtables with policymakers for our members to share effective policy recommendations.  Our board is beginning to make plans for this work, and I will reach out to members for your advice in the coming weeks. 

As we turn the page on 2020, I wish all of you and yours happy and healthy holidays.  I can’t wait to start working with you in 2021 to help all of our societies build back better. 

Glenn Prickett is the President and CEO of the World Environment Center. He has spent three decades leading international environmental, natural resource and climate change policy in some of the world’s preeminent NGO’s.