Speakers from a wide range of professional backgrounds in the environment and sustainability sector were joined by IEMA members at its inaugural annual conference on Thursday 9 December 2021.

Ayo Sokale, a chartered civil engineer and project manager at England’s Environment Agency, welcomed everyone to the day-long online conference, introduced by IEMA’s chief executive officer Sarah Mukherjee MBE. Ayo used her speech to highlight all the ways in which members can tackle the climate emergency.

She explained how members should view the sustainability challenge, via the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in three pillars – environmental, economic and social. Ayo used the example of air quality in the UK and how studies have found that people from less wealthy communities tend more often to live in areas with high concentrations of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxides. This is just one instance where social and environmental injustices exacerbate the impacts of environmental issues on people’s quality of life.

Ayo emphasised the fact that everyone involved in delivering projects, regardless of their overt connection to sustainability, has a role to play in making our communities more sustainable.

Meghna Das is a chartered environmentalist and works as a senior programme specialist focused on sustainability at UNICEF. She spoke during the conference about how the lives of children are inextricably linked to the impacts of the climate emergency. She said that UNICEF’s vision is for every young person – 3.5 billion people – by 2030 to be protected from the worst impacts of a “changing climate and degrading climate”. Children are more often bearing the brunt of the climate emergency, but have least responsibility for it.

She said how children are also often some of the most vulnerable people, with 2 billion children living in areas with toxic levels of air pollution – accounting for more than 90 per cent of all children today. She highlighted how this illustrates the intersections between social and environmental injustice.

Despite coming from very different professions, Ayo and Meghna highlighted both the vast range of opportunities for environment and sustainability professionals to rise to the environmental challenge, but also the similarities in our community’s approach to tackling these issues.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.