Wednesday morning in Geneva, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a coalition of more than 200 companies, announced the launch of Changing Pace, an aggressive, detailed road map of policy recommendations aimed at scaling up business solutions to our planet’s most pressing sustainability challenges. This program will allow the business community to arrive with focused intent at next month’s Rio+20 summit, putting forth proactive ideas about how businesses can work cooperatively with governments, policy makers and each other, to define, debate, and implement the policies that will be essential in confronting the planetary challenges that face us today and will, unless met with effective action, threaten our way of life tomorrow.
WBCSD is issuing Changing Pace as a call to action for meeting the ambitious but necessary goals contained in their Vision 2050 paper which was first released in 2010.
That document contained a number of must haves, including:
- Incorporating the costs of externalities, starting with carbon, ecosystem services and water, into the structure of the marketplace;
- Doubling agricultural output without increasing the amount of land or water used;
- Halting deforestation and increasing yields from planted forests;
- Halving carbon emissions worldwide (based on 2005 levels) by 2050 through a shift to low-carbon energy systems;
- Improved demand-side energy efficiency, and providing universal access to low-carbon mobility.
The idea behind Vision 2050 is a kind of best-case scenario for a sustainable future. It’s only been two years since that vision was articulated, and while some considerable progress has been made in some areas, we have also stalled or even moved backwards in others. The Vision 2050 goal has been spelled out specifically in terms of the global ecological footprint required to achieve a minimum living standard (0.8) along the Human Development Index (HDI).
Changing Pace, as the name implies, contains a number of ideas for accelerating progress. Really, it is more than a call to action, it is truly a road map to help us collectively, to find our way from where we are now, to where we are going to need to be, if we hope to retain any control at all over the changes that will be sweeping the planet.
The document describes a partnership between business and government, in which businesses provide practical solutions in response to a framework of public policies that point the way towards the type of long term vision articulated in Vision 2050.
These two documents will form the basis for WBCSD’s input to Rio +.20. The group feels strongly that businesses must play an increasingly proactive role in the leading the way since:
- public financing alone will fall short of the necessary investment levels to create a global economy that successfully deals with the resource and carbon limitations in the future
- encouraged by clear, predictable policies, businesses will work with their investors to implement and scale up solutions
- the sustainability race will need to evolve as we move through the different stages of exploring, testing, scaling up and learning. This learning process will benefit greatly from a dialog between policy and implementation and their respective practitioners.
Changing Pace sets forth seven categories of action that include:
• Set goals with a clear purpose and specific goals that define the world in which we want to live;
• Communicate and educate the public to foster understanding and commitment to pursue sustainability objectives;
• Standardize by enforcing and introducing performance standards, emission or usage limits and codes of conduct;
• Budget through fiscal reforms to price scarce natural resources and negative externalities;
• Invest for efficient infrastructures, technology developments, and green public procurements that mobilize private capital for green growth;
• Monitor progress through adequate indicators that compensate for the limitations of GDP; and,
• Coordinate governance that is predictable, coherent and has longevity.
These seven actions are then applied to each of the nine elements laid out in Vision 2050 as necessary to create a sustainable world. The nine elements are:
- People’s values
- Human development
- Energy and power
As an example, in the area of the economy, the must-haves that are needed by 2020 are: global, local and corporate leadership, removal of subsidies, commitment to true value pricing, long-term financing models, and dissemination of technologies. The decade of the 2020s would be devoted to redefining what is meant by progress, while continuing to evolve the previous actions. The 2030s would be marked by the conversion to True value markets, while the 2040s would bring the internalization of externalities, all culminating in what the authors call, “true value,” by 2050. True value, in this context, would incorporate the ecological and social value associated with a certain item or practice, along with its desirability, and other conventional costs.
WBCSD has developed a deeply thought out, far-reaching framework that will serve as an excellent straw man for the kind of map to a sustainable future, that is sorely needed. Naturally, the many points contained within it will need to be debated and refined. But fortunately, thanks to the folks at WBCSD, that process has now begun.
Hopefully Rio+20 will be the place where these ideas will begin to get the kind of traction across the various sectors of society that will be necessary for us to meet the oncoming challenges.
[Image credit: RightBrainPhotography: Flickr Creative Commons]
RP Siegel, PE, is the President of Rain Mountain LLC. He is also the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining format. Now available on Kindle.
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