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Entering a new decade, the world stands at a crucial turning point. The effects of climate change — once spoken about as a threat in the distant future — are now undeniably felt and seen. International bodies of scientists have warned that as of 2020, we have just over a decade to halve our greenhouse emissions and avoid disastrous environmental tipping points that would bring devastating consequences to our health, security, and safety.

Innovative solutions abound… the climate challenge presents a transformational opportunity for our planet and our economies.

With the collapse of ecosystems, hyper-destructive wildfires, and record-breaking temperatures, climate change is already here. But beyond an existential threat, this time also brings with it new urgency, hope, and opportunity for radical action and global collaboration.

2019 brought the global momentum around climate action to new heights. The decade ended with record-breaking youth-led climate movements and hundreds of global companies committing to a zero-carbon economy. The silver lining to the climate crisis is that innovative solutions abound. From putting a price on CO2 emissions to switching to clean energy and rethinking our agricultural systems, the climate challenge presents a transformational opportunity for our planet and our economies.

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Despite these opportunities, however, what remains is a need for global collaboration to implement and drive the drastic changes necessary to safeguard our future. A report by the UN Environment Programme said that countries failed to stop the growth of greenhouse emissions and that more aggressive action is required. To meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement, global emissions must fall by more than 7% a year over the next decade, meaning that countries must increase their commitments five-fold.

The US is the highest producer of greenhouse gases in the world (when measured on a per capita basis), making it an instrumental actor to drive global action and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But as emission limits are rolled back and plans to open-up wildlife preserves for oil drilling are finalized, the country’s progress on climate action is consistently put-off.

2020 is an opportunity to vote for the type of environmental future you want.

2020 is the five-year milestone of the Paris Agreement, where countries have the opportunity to assess their progress and strengthen their actions. Even more importantly, however, 2020 is an opportunity to vote for the type of environmental future you want. If the US fails to cut its emissions, developing countries in the global south will continue to unfairly carry the highest-burden for climate change. Moreover, there is also the risk that other countries will lean on our example and fail to make the aggressive changes necessary to meet the 7% per year targets.

As we approach the 2020 milestones, we need bold and ambitious action at every level, from heads of state to private sector leaders and individual citizens using their voice to demand action from their governments, communities, and businesses. Here are some suggestions to take your climate action to the next level in 2020:

1) Get informed and talk about it!

Learn more about climate issues on a local, national and international level and stay up to date on policy changes. Public opinion on climate change is what has contributed to the positive changes that have taken place! Keep the conversation about the 2020 milestone going at home, at work, and at your leisure. Amplifying your voice in your immediate sphere of influence helps spread knowledge and raise climate consciousness, empowering the greater movement.

2) Vote for the Earth

No matter how dedicated we are to developing individual sustainable choices, policy ultimately determines our ability to reduce our own carbon footprint and reduce emissions at scale. Policy determines investment in clean energy, conservation efforts, and the accessibility of renewable energy sources within our neighborhoods and cities.

Make your voice heard at the ballot box, consider participating in local town halls, and reach out to your representatives to ensure they make climate change a priority.

3) Organize

Consider the social circles you belong to as sources for amazing impact! Whether it’s your neighborhood, sports team, faith institution or workplace, think about ways you can gather support where you are and mobilize a larger group to advocate for urgent climate action. Consider advocating for more sustainable practices in your local community, organizing a clean-up crew, or creating a fundraiser to support organizations fighting climate change at large like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Amazon Watch or the World Wildlife Federation.

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Kristina Delgado

Kristina Delgado is a New York-based activist, writer and international social inclusion strategist working to advance sustainable and intersectional solutions.

New York, NY