IEMA CEO Sarah Mukherjee discusses the importance of Earth Day, the future generation's voice, equity and opportunities to learn from one emergency in dealing with another.


This year’s Earth Day is placing special emphasis on young people, with a global youth summit, a hip hop caucus (I suspect the fact that I am not entirely sure what this is demonstrates that I am far away from being the key demographic) and a session on teaching for the planet. It is very appropriate that young people should be in the spotlight this year; around the world, the young have given up freedoms we have taken for granted in order to protect and support older people who are at far greater risk of suffering from Covid.

Around the world, many millions of young people have lost loved ones. Students have had to replace the lecture hall and peer-to-peer learning with remote, and sometimes lonely, online study. Job opportunities have evaporated, new friends and potential partners remained unmet, adventures and expeditions unexperienced. Some of these opportunities may never return, and many countries are now facing new restrictions and another wave of the virus.

However old you are, this planetary emergency has given you pause for thought. Because, as we know, the other planetary emergency, that of climate change, has not gone away. But there is an opportunity to learn from one emergency in dealing with another. I am interested to see that the Earth Day sessions are not only about climate change mitigation, but also on equity. Like climate change, the effects of the pandemic have affected most those who are least resilient, and it has exposed the current inequalities in our systems.

It has been many years since I could even remotely consider myself young, but it is always a pleasure to speak with those IEMA members who are starting out on their professional journey. Their passion and compassion, their desire to change to the world and improve the planet for everyone - and everything - is inspiring. Our young IEMA members are very much part of the net zero solution.

However you celebrate Earth Day, let’s celebrate and encourage the vision and tenacity of young people as we all work together to make change for the better.