Category Archives: Particular Topics

Particular topics of importance

Harnessing Energy to Satisfy Fundamental Human Needs

Pro Action Café

Generating new ideas for energy security.  Ten projects get the expert coaching treatment, as we contribute our knowledge and experience to help enhance the work of colleagues during a Pro Action Café.

Forty-five people came to take part  in the Pro Action Café, a space for creative & action oriented conversation where participants are invited to bring their project, ideas, questions or whatever they feel called by and need help with to manifest in the world.

Ten people had the opportunity to host a table conversation aimed at assisting them to deepen and refine their project ideas around harnessing energy to globally satisfy fundamental human needs & generating new ideas for energy security.

Engage in your own conversations starting from where you are, enjoying this fine Pro Action Café’s harvest on an opportunity to pool our knowledge in support of projects around energy [PDF doc].

Global Sustainability Goals

World Café

Transition to a sustainable future Earth.   An opportunity to have a look at the process of creating global sustainability goals — talking together in World Café, creating a graphic look at our priorities, coming together around how it might happen.

This session was attended by a liberal mix of scientists, policymakers, representatives from NGOs, government, media, academics and others.

The intention was to gather suggestions on the process of developing the Sustainable Development Goals framework.  So what it is that we can see together that none of us can see alone?

Engage in your own conversations starting from where you are, enjoying this fine World Café’s harvest on the means to a desired end: How might we get the best out of creating goals in order to co-create the future we collectively want? [PDF doc].

Gallery photos by Kim Davis – Courtesy of Planet Under Pressure 2012

World Scientists Tackle Food Insecurity

Dr Christine Negra, Secretariat, Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change

Food insecurity, climate change, increased competition for energy, water, degradation of land and biodiversity. The Planet Under Pressure conference is all about addressing these multiple emergent challenges, which are connected in complex ways and demand an integrated management approach. But efforts to alleviate the worst effects of climate change cannot succeed without simultaneously addressing the crises in global agriculture and the food system and empowering the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Sorghum at Sawla market in Ghana's Northern Region (Neil Palmer (CIAT))

Sorghum at Sawla market in Ghana's Northern Region (Neil Palmer (CIAT))

To make things worse, many of these issues have commonly been ‘stovepiped’ into different scientific disciplines, economic sectors, policy processes and geographic regions. The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change was set up in 2011 to come up with an integrated approach for dealing with these urgent, globally interconnected challenges. Their final report, which will be launched on March 28 at a special conference session, offers concrete actions to transforming the food system to achieve food security in the face of climate change.

To understand the path forward, the Commission reviewed the major components and drivers of the global food system including the role of changing diet patterns; the link between poverty, natural resource degradation and low crop yields; the need to address inefficiencies in food supply chains; gaps in agricultural investment; and the patterns of globalized food trade, food production subsidies and food price volatility. The Commissioners concluded that humanity’s collective choices related to agriculture and food systems must be revisited if we are to meet our food needs and stabilize the global climate.

Chaired by Sir John Beddington, the Commission drew upon the diverse expertise of its members which include senior natural and social scientists working in agriculture, climate, food and nutrition, economics, and natural resources in governmental, academic and civil society institutions in Australia, Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, France, Kenya, India, Mexico, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam. To inform their work, they conducted a survey of practical solutions detailed in the many recent authoritative reports on food security and climate change.

For each of their 7 major recommendations, the Commission’s final report characterizes the current policy landscape, the major opportunities for positive change and the roles that specific communities can play. These include treaty negotiators, global donors, agribusinesses, farmers’ associations, multilateral agencies, researchers, national governments and others. The report highlights specific opportunities under the mandates of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Group of 20 (G20) nations.

At this session, the Commission will also launch a short animation that illustrates the key actions that are necessary to put humanity in a ‘safe operating space’ for food security in 2050. An integrated approach must balance how much food we produce, how we adapt to a changing climate, and how much agriculture contributes to further climate change. The film offers a summary of some of the key steps to meeting the global challenge of meeting food needs and stabilizing the climate.

The Commission’s final report is being launched at the Key Conference Session ‘Science-based policy actions needed to achieve food security under a changing climate’ where its findings will be presented, on March 28 at 12:30 in room 11.

For further information, read the Commission report and summary for policy makers.

Get Prepared to Grow: a new perspective on the changing business environment

By guest blogger Yvo de Boer, Special Global Advisor, KPMG Global Climate Change and Sustainability Services

Over the past two decades, we have recognised that the way we do business has serious impacts on the world around us. It is now apparent that the state of the world affects the way we do business. The central challenge of our age – maintaining human progress while minimising resource use and environmental decline – can simultaneously be one of the biggest sources of future success for business.

Given the unprecedented natural resource scarcity, skyrocketing food prices, escalating energy security issues and an expected population growth of up to 10 billion in 2100, the private sector is ever more challenged to overhaul its strategy and make its business models future proof. For example, if companies had to pay for the full environmental costs of their production, they would lose 41 cents for every US$1 in earnings on average. External “off balance sheet” environmental costs of 11 key industry sectors (including upstream supply chain) rose by 50 percent between 2002 and 2010.

Government policies, investor values and consumer preferences are also altering rapidly, thus impacting businesses’ bottom line and demanding a long-term vision, supported by immediate action. Is this forced by stakeholder demand, or primarily driven by sound entrepreneurship? It is up to each and every company to decide for itself.

Rather than attempting to survive risks resulting from global megaforces, business leaders can do much more. Indeed, with foresight and planning, and by undertaking pioneering actions to prepare for an uncertain future they can thrive by turning risks into new opportunities. Companies need to develop resilience and flexibility for an unpredictable future and build capacity to anticipate and adapt.

First and foremost, businesses need to fully assess and understand future sustainability risks, for example by integrating them into an Enterprise Risk Management tool, define their responses to deal with them, and analyse opportunities for efficiency, substitution or adaptation.

Integrated strategic planning and strategy development are needed as well, which requires business management to make sustainability central to their corporate strategy and incorporate it at all levels. Put simply, businesses must manage risks and capitalise on opportunities, by turning strategic plans and strategies into ambitious targets and actions. One can think of energy and resource efficiency improvements, sustainable supply chain management, investment into innovation on sustainable products and services, as well as gaining access to new markets for greener products, services and technologies. It is also imperative to explore tax incentives tailored to alternative energy, energy efficiency and other areas related to sustainability.

Another much discussed but less implemented tool to success in this area is measuring performance and reporting on sustainability, as well as the related benefits. The growing trend of integrated reporting is an example where companies are building frameworks for sustainability reporting processes, stronger information systems and appropriate governance and control mechanisms on a par with those currently used in financial reporting.

Organisations can’t do this alone. Collaboration with partners on sustainability issues is vital to enhance leverage and improve cost-benefit ratio of action. Business leaders should seek opportunities for genuine dialogue with governments and demonstrate new and innovative approaches to public-private partnerships. Improved dialogue could focus on economic instruments and market barriers that could be reduced to make sustainable business operation easier. Good management used to be about preparing for the expected, now it is just as much about preparing for the unexpected.

Competitive advantage can be carved out of emerging risk. It is clearly no longer the question if we must transcend to a more sustainable economy. The question is the pace in which we are able, and especially willing, to achieve it.

To thrive, or even just to survive, businesses needs to understand the root causes of what affects their operations, not just the symptoms. The bold, the visionary and the innovative recognise that what is good for people and the planet will also be good for the long term bottom line and shareholder value. This is how we can make our common economy future proof.

Yvo de Boer was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2006 – 2010, the body responsible for a multi-lateral response to climate change.  In 2010, he joined the accountancy firm KPMG as its Special Global Advisor, Climate Change and Sustainability and Global Ambassador.  In 2011, he was appointed to chair the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Climate Change.

Mr. De Boer will give a plenary presentation at Planet Under Pressure on Tuesday, March 27at 8:30 a.m. on Green Economic Development.

Don’t forget the air we breathe


by Dr. Megan L. Melamed, International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC) Project

The world continues to urbanize rapidly. As outlined in a recent report, for the first time in human history the majority of the world’s population now lives in cities. Urban areas, especially megacities (cities with population greater than 10 million), are not only the center of growing economies, but according to an article published in the journal Science, urban areas are also large sources of air pollutants. Air pollutants have demonstrable and significant impacts on human health, food and water security, ecosystems, and climate.  For example, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), outdoor air pollutants cause over 1 million premature deaths per a year.

And the outlook for the future looks even worse when it comes to outdoor air pollution.  A new report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says outdoor air pollution is projected to be the world’s top environmental cause of mortality worldwide, ahead of dirty water and lack of sanitation, by 2050.   Exposure to particulate matter and ground-level ozone will cause over 4 million premature deaths per a year by 2050.  Areas of the world that are rapidly developing and urbanizing, such as China and India, will experience the most premature deaths due to air pollution.

Yet the future biggest environmental issue is not being incorporated into sustainable development or climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.  For example, the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development zero order draft of The Future We Want fails to incorporate air quality as a key sustainable development goal.  A recent article in Atmospheric Environment points out that adaptation to climate change is primarily thought of as a water, weather, and infrastructure issue despite the fact that air quality and climate change are heavily intertwined. Why is it that the air we breathe is not considered an important component of sustainable development and climate change adaptation and mitigation?

We live in a changing world.  Urbanization, economic development, energy choices, and policy decisions are changing the amount and composition of air pollutants that are emitted into the atmosphere.  There is an incredible opportunity to reduce the number of premature deaths due to air pollution by making air quality an integral component of sustainable development goals and climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.  It’s time to act.  Let’s not let the air we breathe become the number one environmental cause of mortality worldwide.

There will be two sessions on air pollution at Planet Under Pressure 2012.  The Atmospheric Composition in a Changing World: Scientific Knowledge and Uncertainty session focuses on scientific research underpinning our understanding of the Earth System response to changing emissions and atmospheric composition.  The Tackling the Air Pollution and Climate Change Challenge: A Science-Policy Dialogue session will provide a forum for a science-policy dialogue on creating an integrated approach to simultaneously mitigating air pollution and climate change.  A, IGBP/IGSC statement entitled Time to Act: The Opportunity to Simultaneously Mitigate Air Pollution and Climate Change, highlighting key air pollution and climate linkages and calling for an integrated approach to mitigating air pollution and climate change, will be released as part of the session.

Dr. Megan L. Melamed is the Executive Officer of the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry  (IGAC) Project, which operates under the umbrella of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and is jointly sponsored by the international Commission on Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Pollution (iCACGP).  IGAC coordinates and fosters atmospheric research towards a sustainable world.