Insights from Climate Under Pressure Conference, London

Greenloop is attending the Planet Under Pressure Conference, held in London, from the 25th till the 29th of March 2012.

This international conference gathering scientists, policy makers and the private & public sectors around the theme of the multifaceted aspects of climate change impacts on our societies is an important milestone for the preparation of the upcoming Rio+20 conference to be held next June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
We propose to give you a personal insight on this conference by reporting the key messages that are being delivered.

Caroline Zaoui reports

Day one at Planet Under Pressure

On the state of the planet

“Where on Earth are we going??” (Will Steffen, Executive director of the ANU Climate Change Institute, Australian National University)

The urgency to change our paradigm and the risk of societies' collapse were openly discussed

  • A panel of youth representative in the UK insisted on the fact that despite the loads of information available on the state of our planet, there is no sign of lifestyle change to reduce our impact. Translation of research results into society as well as education are therefore key to make progress.

Their survey across UK schools shows that the youth considers that media should take more responsibility on the topic of climate change, and start broadcasting more positive messages, initiatives and solutions to tackle the issue of climate change: no more scare mongering tactics!

They also emphasized on the urgency to protect biodiversity as well as the forest and call for a change in our agricultural practices.

Finally, UK's youth is well aware of the raw material shortage, such as Helium (40 years of stock left!), and worry that it might lead to a rapid deterioration of our health system, as such raw elements play important roles in modern medicine.

A vibrant call for action from Lord Anthony Giddens

(Emeritus Professor, London School of Economics, UK):

  • There's no green economy on earth
  • We live in a runaway world

  • There is no historical experience of the risks we are facing; the earth has never faced such rapid changes before (CO2 emissions, land use, etc)

  • We need a paradigm change in order to see any substantial change. Examples:
    - Implement actions below the level of nation states, such as the Transition Towns Movement!
    - Need for new leadership, state & regional agreements: a key role to play for Brazil and China
    - Fight the fossil fuel industry inertia: close coal fire power stations down!
    - Need for “utopian realism”: we can't go on this way; we need a new model of development, a change in the system!
    - Adapting from the Suffragettes' motto: “Deeds, not ONLY words

On preparing for Rio+20 and building up a vision for the Planet 2050

All panellists insisted on the need for new vision, framework to support bottom up initiatives. Giving incentives to companies was also mentioned, as well as the need to reconsider our cultural values: what does it mean to being respected and admired? This could help change our consumption behaviour.

However, there was hardly any mentioning of the role of politics. Why is it so? The panellists proposed that there is a disconnection between the public's opinion on climate issues and its trust in politics to solve environmental issues.

A closing question to the panellists: what could be the top one change to be implemented in the next 5 years ?

  • Change in organisations to fund, support multidisciplinary research and science

  • Change consumption behaviour: reduce the consumption of animal proteins

  • Smarter urban design

  • G20 meetings should now incorporate climate/environmental forecasts to mainstream the risks and environmental issues within the G20 countries national planning

  • Use the evidence at hand and have the political will to use this evidence!

Words from Elinor Ostrom (Nobel laureate 2009 Economic Sciences, Indiana University, USA):

    • Let's be optimistic otherwise we can't do it!

    • Technological innovation alone will not suffice

    • Need for cross sectoral approaches

    • WE HAVE 10 YEARS TO REDUCE OUR EMISSIONS, we must act now!

Integrating sustainable development into a strategic planning in any organisation (parallel session workshop)

Hosted by Peter Price-Thomas (CEO, The Natural Step International) and Stanley Nyoni (Senior strategic advisor, The Natural Step Switzerland/S2 Strategies)

Through a series of participative exercises, TNS hosts introduced the audience to the power of “thinking strategically about sustainability”.

Referring to the 9 non-substitutable human basic needs as well as the 4 sustainability principles that constitute the ground for The Natural Step methodology, the audience was asked to reflect and share with their neighbours on their thoughts and understanding of some of the basic needs, and were asked to generate a mind map addressing the following questions:

  • What role would play organisations in promoting sustainability?

  • What sustainable products/services would they propose?

Despite the diverse and mixed background of the audience, a few recurring themes emerged from the work tables:

  • Promoting a sense of shared ownership/common goods, collaborative consumption being one example;

  • Going back to common sense. Ex: provide populations with first medical aid based on ancient knowledge;

  • Transversal organisations to adapt to and fulfil people's needs;

  • More education on environmental issues;

  • Design eco-effective services and products: to prevent the excessive use of resource and generation of waste.

A series a sustainability business cases were presented to illustrate the practice and vision guidance of TNS:

  • A world acclaimed Swedish fast food chain: Max;

  • Rohm & Haas chemical industry: towards sustainable PVC (polyvinylchloride);

  • Nike, with its North Star product line;

  • Whistler, a Canadian town to host the Olympic Games in 2020.