Business and global crises: Climate change, Coronavirus and Black Lives Matter

By Asitha Jayawardena

Coronavirus pandemic is just a fire drill of what would follow from a climate crisis and Black Lives Matter protests that undergo different parts of the world, said Lise Kingo, CEO & Executive Director of UN Global Compact.

She was launching the UN Global Compact Business Summit on 15 and 16 June 2020 as it marked 20 years of uniting business for a better world. Under this, businesses sign up to principles of environmental protection and social justice.

‘The overall problem is that we are not sustainable in the ways we are living and producing on the planet today,’ said Kingo. ‘The only way forward is to create a world that leaves no one behind.’

She said that she found ‘very, very clear connections’ of inequalities and ‘endemic and structural racism’.

What she said is climate change, coronavirus and Black Lives Matter were the interwoven crises of environmental sustainability, public health and social equality.

Let’s see what they are, namely equality, health and sustainability.

Black Lives Matter

Around the world, racial inequality has come in various forms and slavery in Ancient Rome as well as Civil War 1861-65 in the United States are examples.

However, Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968) was an American Christian minister who led the civil rights movement from 1955. His methods were nonviolence and civil disobedience inspired by Christian beliefs as well as the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi. In 1968 he was assassinated. Another is Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005), who was an American activist in the civil rights movement. With King Jr., she provided the leadership in numerous struggles. She died in 2005.

In 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic, racial inequality ignited with the death of George Floyd in the US that brought about in numerous parts of the world, from the UK to Australia, with one theme – Black Lives Matter.


Second is the coronavirus and the closest pandemic is Spanish flu in 1918-19.

Caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus, the Spanish flu was an unusually deadly influenza

pandemic that lasted about 15 months and infected 500 million people, a third of the world’s population at the time. No-one is sure about the death toll, which is 17 million to 100 million, making it the most brutal pandemic in human history.

In December – or as early as August – 2019, coronavirus struck in Wuhan, China, and now the death toll is 446,000 with 119,000 in the US, 45,000 in Brazil and 42,000 in the UK.

Climate change

Thirdly, it’s climate change, which happened in 1900s and became the massive hurdle that humankind has to face. To unite against climate change, the world came together in 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, Brazil.

Since then, numerous conferences and agreements have come into force and the latest is Paris Agreement in 2015.

The main goal of Paris Agreement is to limit the global temperature rise to 2oC (or even better 1.5oC) above pre-industrial levels by 2030 if undesirable impacts of climate should be avoided. Current global temperature rise is 1.1oC above the pre-industrial level and there is not much room to go until 2030 if it’s 1.5oC.

After Paris Agreement, the Conference of Parties (COP26) was the next gathering of the world that was to happen in November 2020 in Glasgow, UK. Due to coronavirus pandemic, it was postponed a year, to 1 to 12 November 2021.

Since the last century, floods, fires, droughts and sea level rises that are relevant to climate change have killed millions of people but they would not count as those perished by climate change. The planet would not be suitable for us to live in if we continue to emit carbon emissions to the atmosphere. And we have nowhere to go!

Three crises, one solution

According to the UN secretary general, António Guterres, building a fairer society of people with healthy lifestyles is impossible with a planet undergoing climate breakdown and ecological destruction. We must understand that.

As Lise Kingo said, let’s intertwine the calamities of social equality, public health and environmental sustainability.

Around the world, 20,000 businesses who lined up for the two-day summit should do is the same.


Covid-19 pandemic is ‘fire drill’ for effects of climate crisis, says UN official

UN Global Compact

Worldometers: Coronavirus


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