Written by Alberto Serena
After the introduction section on Monday, time has come to fully focus on the Courses topics and todays lecture took place at the UNDP International Environment House Offices. All of us were sitting around a table and were encouraged to actively take part in the discussion. It’s so inspiring to gather contributions and insights from people of different origins and backgrounds, but still sharing the same goals and commitment!
Dr. Alexandre Hedjazi presents an introduction on the connections between energy, climate and society. A successful development strategy requires inclusiveness to converge to a common identification of goals and needs, in order to develop a framework of actions. Only the alliance of like-minded parties can make negotiations successful. The definition of planetary dynamics of globalization, for example, involves its economic, politic and environmental consequences. Regional alliances of convenience are important to give voice to Countries or zones without significant political influence which share similar challenges.
As an example of paradigm shift, the energy sector needs to phase out the current production layout towards smaller facilities closer to users (from a power-plant concept to distributed generation).
Prof. Martin Patel introduces the key indicators; with regard to their development over time, abrupt changes and a periodic pattern can be observed: the causes are feedback mechanisms. The parameters are strongly interrelated: growing population and consumptions, for example, go along with increasing use of water, mainly linked to cooling of power plants and irrigation.
Dr. Cécile Molinier (formed Head of UNDP), Dr. Arthur Dahl (former official of UNEP) and Dr. Elise Buckle (UNDP Climate Partnership Specialist) present the roles and the intervention areas their specific Organizations cover.
The UNDP is at the core of the interaction between donors and developing Countries, and acts as a development coordinator, bringing together the expertise needed to respond to the demand of the specific territory and Nation; its core focus areas are poverty eradication and inclusiveness, specifically addressing the 1st and the 10th SDGs. Inequality and gender are accounted for too.
The MDGs (Millennium Development Goals), developed by a small group in New York, were not participatory. Marginalized and vulnerable people were excluded from this definition of global development: they need to be listened and considered, to make a paradigm shift from discriminatory practices and regulations to inclusive and fair ones. Very refined data at the small scale are required to take into account their needs.
The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are participative, featuring thematic consultations on specific issues, e.g. population dynamics, often discussed on a shared platform. The most important stages in life are identified in pre-natal care, access to the job-market, retirement. However, difficulties exist in defining a strategy to go into the particular Country needs.
Democratic Governance is a key tool giving importance to those who are currently not heard; accuntability and transparency are ensured by allowing the people to elect representatives. A reflection on the root causes of vulnerability and the actions to improve resilience is needed.
Dr. Arthur Dahl presents a very inspiring speech on the threats from climate change, the necessary actions to be taken through environmental governance, as discussed and addressed in the previous international Summits which set the major milestones which have led to the definition of the SDGs, and finally the possible pathways to sustainability.
The core focus of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is promoting the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.
Our traditional idea of the World, as studied in History and Geography, is a map of Countries of different colours or mountain chains and oceans, but the effects of climate change cross the borders and the Earth, as a living being, presents system processes which are sensitive to environmental parameters: control variables for the planetary boundaries are defined to monitor and quantify the safe and risk zones for each of these parameters. The most critical ones are the severe loss of genetic diversity and the pollution by biochemical flows. Some other parameters are still uncertain and require a further assessment.
The first attempt to define guidelines for sustainable development dates back to 1972, with the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. It is now defined as “the development meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. The most recent summits led to The future we want document and The Road to Dignity programme, which passes on the torch to young people, who are encouraged to make a positive use of the globalized World connections and dynamics to exchange ideas and experiences to boost innovations. COP 21 is the most recent summit and GEO-6 Assessment for the Pan-European Region 2016 is the new commitment of the European zone.
The SDGs and their indicators define a paradigm shift for people and planet: they are inclusive and people-centered, leaving no one behind; the 12th is presented with particular attention. The strong involvement and commitment of all the actors, starting from the people and local communities, plays a key role in their successful achievement.
We can find a great source of inspiration in Nature, still a perfect working example of team work (symbiosis), circular economy (effective recycling), synergy (integration), whole-oriented prosperity (ecosystem balance), full-sustainability (energy captured from the sun).
Science, policy, finance and ethics are strongly interconnected. Environmental issues are becoming more and more important (migration, food security, resilience, energy and marine resources conservation, waste management) and require joint efforts of the governments (overcoming their national borders), industry, civil society and individuals, constituting the new Millennium challenge.
This intense day ended with a very engaging group discussion proposed by Dr. Elise Buckle about possible interventions addressing the negative effects of climate change in four key areas: transportation, agriculture, urban planning, clean technology.