Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 13, Number 11 --- 19 December 2011
Article submission: firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline next issue 13 January 2012
Secretariat Email: email@example.com General Secretary Emily Firth
Postal address: 12B Chemin de Maisonneuve, CH-1219 Chatelaine, Geneva, Switzerland
From the Editor, Request for information for upcoming newsletters
This newsletter is an opportunity for IEF members to share their experiences, activities, and initiatives that are taking place at the community level on climate change action. All members are welcome to contribute information about related activities, upcoming conferences, news from like-minded organizations, recommended websites, book reviews, etc. Please send information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please share the Leaves newsletter and IEF membership information with family, friends and associates, and encourage interested persons to consider becoming a member of the IEF.
IEF 15th ANNUAL CONFERENCE
The 15th International Environment Forum (IEF) Conference was held in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, on 9-11 December 2011 with nearly a hundred participants in person and others following live streaming of the main sessions over the Internet. The theme was "Ethical Responses to Climate Change: Individual, Community and Institutions." It took a deeper look at the ethics and science needed to cope with adverse climate change, and explored creative responses that individuals, communities and institutions can make to preserve our planet.
The report of the conference is now available on the IEF web site at https://iefworld.org/conf15, including links to the video recordings of the main sessions, most of the presentations, summaries of each talk, and the issues considered in the workshops. As additional materials become available, they will be posted on the website.
The conference was hosted by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá‟ís of Australia and the Baha'i community of Tasmania in the beautiful and environmentally-sustainable Bahá'í Centre of Learning for Tasmania in Hobart. A local organizing committee of Charles Boyle, David Chittleborough, Amy Kean, Dimity Podger, Al Riebau and Adrian Salter, with the technical support of Kevin Starke, did an excellent job organizing the programme. A film crew covered the conference for the weekly Baha'i television programme in New Zealand.
On the IEF website in the e-learning section, you will find a case study on the Baha'i Centre of Learning in Hobart, Tasmania, as a sustainable building, complete with photos.
Prior to the conference, the Baha'i community of Hobart, assisted by Walter Jaros, organized a reception followed by a public meeting Friday evening with IEF board members Peter Adriance and Arthur Dahl as speakers. Peter spoke on "The Role of Spiritual Principles in the Quest for Environmental Sustainability" and Arthur's topic was "Sustainability and a Culture of Change." Videos and Arthur's presentation are in the conference report.
The Saturday programme, which was chaired by former IEF board member Charles Boyle, featured a keynote address by Peter Adriance on "A short history of the involvement of the Baha'i community on environmental issues". Peter has developed a timeline chart summarizing this which is now on the IEF web site at https://iefworld.org/node/540. The architect of the Baha'i Centre of Learning, Stuart Hall, explained all the sustainable features of the building.
The following panel of speakers included:
Dr Arini Beaumaris of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Australia on "Bahá'í Concepts of Capacity Building as a Response to Adverse Climate Change",
Arthur Dahl of IEF on "International Governance for Climate Responsibility",
Professor Tony Press, a leading climate scientist, on "Australia's Climate Future",
Todd Houstein of Sustainable Living Tasmania on "Individual and Community Climate Change Adaption",
and renewable energy entrepreneur and NGO director Gareth Johnston on "Getting Future Ready - Adaptation and Ethics".
Afternoon workshops were on
"Scientific and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change", let by Al Riebau and Christine Muller (by skype),
"The Baha'i Five Year Plan and Climate Change" led by Charles Boyle, and
"Refugees and Food Security" led by Arthur Dahl and Amir Abadi.
The workshops reported their conclusions back to the main session. An evening programme of music had participants dancing in the aisles, followed by a humorous but sobering film "How to boil a frog".
The Sunday programme was chaired by Zarin Salter and started with a special presentation on conservation properties for bush regeneration by Bill Thomas. Tessa Scrine of the Continental Board of Counsellors for Australasia gave the keynote talk on ""It's a Moral Issue" - How the Current Endeavours of the Bahá'í Community Contribute the Global Response to the Challenge of Climate Change".
The following panel included:
Dr. Natalie Mobin-Kehseh, Director of the Office of External Affairs of the Australian Baha'i Community, speaking on "Overcoming Partisan Politics While Advocating a Sustainable Planetary Society",
Dr, Al Riebau on "Something Good This Way Came: World Governments' Successes on Ozone Depletion, Acid Rain, and Air Pollution",
noted journalist Peter Boyer on "What Really Needs to be Done to Mitigate Human Caused Climate Change?",
Charles Boyle of Curtin University on "Creatively Green", and
Dr. Miriam Pepper, Secretary of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, on "What Faith Communities Can Do in Response to Climate Change".
Again the group broke up into workshops for the afternoon, with:
Peter Adriance and Dr. Dimity Podger leading one on "Practical and Spiritual Approaches to Reducing One's Carbon Footprint at the Individual, Community and Institutional Levels",
another led by Erin O'Connor and Stuart Hall on "Contributing to the Environmental Sustainability Strategy for the Australian Bahá'í Community", and
a third led by Zarin Salter on "Education and Career Considerations for Sustainability and Climate Action".
A conference statement was drafted and discussed at the closing session. The local organizing committee plans to prepare proceedings from the conference.
To follow up the conference, the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia has appointed a group to develop an Environmental Sustainability Strategy for the Australian Bahá'í Community. It is still possible to experience the conference and to share it with friends through the report and video recordings on the IEF web site.
IEF General Assembly
The 15th IEF General Assembly, convened on 11 December during the Annual Conference in Hobart,
consulted on the IEF activities for the past year and made suggestions to the board for the coming
year. The following members were elected to the IEF Governing Board for the coming year:
- Arthur Dahl (Switzerland)
- Peter Adriance (USA)
- Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen (Netherlands)
- Emily Firth (Switzerland)
- Duncan Hanks (Canada)
- Victoria Thoresen (Norway), and
- Dimity Podger (Australia)
The board thanked Diana Cartwright (China) for her service on the board for the past several years.
World Science Forum in Budapest and U.N. University Workshop
On 16-19 November, Arthur Dahl attended the World Science Forum in Budapest, representing the International Environment Forum. This high-level biennial event to discuss the changing world of science is organized by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in partnership with UNESCO and the International Council for Science (ICSU). It is described as the "Davos" of science, attended by presidents of academies of science, Nobel prize laureats, ministers and other leading figures in the world of science, by invitation only. It met in the beautiful building of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences on the banks of the Danube, and in the Hungarian Parliament upper chamber, where it was addressed by the President of Hungary and other dignitaries. Arthur also gave a lecture at the Central European University and met with professors there.
The United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies and the Copernicus Alliance (European Network on Higher Education for Sustainable Development) organized a workshop on "University Appraisal and Assessment for Sustainable Development" on 24 November at Rolduc Abbey, a 900 year old former monastery in Kerkrade, The Netherlands, on the German border between Maastricht and Aachen. Arthur Dahl was invited as a panelist to share the experience with values-based indicators presented at the last IEF Conference in Brighton, but then was asked to give the opening keynote on value assessment in work of higher education. The speaker immediately after was a former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, who reiterated the importance of values. There was considerable interest in addressing values more directly in education for sustainable development at the university level.
On Friday 2 December, Arthur Dahl was invited to speak to a group of foreign policy specialists in Madrid, Spain, followed on Saturday by a public lecture on "Materialism and Environment", sponsored by the Nehal Foundation at a major environmental education centre in Madrid.
Global Ethics Forum
IEF partnered and participated in the Global Ethics Forum at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on 30 June-1 July 2011. The report of that forum: "The Value of Values in Business: Global Ethics Forum Report 2011, Recommendations and Projects 2012-2013" has now been published and can be downloaded from their web site at: http://www.globethics.net/gef. The 2012 Global Ethics Forum will take place in Geneva on 28-29 June 2012.
UN System Provides Its Perspectives on a Green Economy
A "People-Centered" approach emphasized
New York, 14 December 2011 - Against a backdrop of the multiple crises of the past four years - financial, economic, food and energy - the United Nations today launched a report that offers UN agencies and its member states guidance for coordinating the transition to a Green Economy at the international and country levels.
In the first-ever inter-agency report on the Green Economy, the Environment Management Group (EMG), representing the work of UN agencies, the Bretton Woods Institutions and other intergovernmental bodies - many of whom have a human and social development mandate - outlines steps and policies for pursuing a green economic transformation that generates new sources of sustainable and equitable economic growth that will assist in a global economic recovery. Such action will require investing in not only clean technologies and natural capital, but also in human and social capital, including education, health care, cultural development and social protection.
The new report, Working towards a Balanced and Inclusive Green Economy, reflects a growing recognition of the shortcomings of business-as-usual practiced by both the public and private sector institutions over the last two decades and assesses how the UN system can coherently support countries in transitioning to a Green Economy.
It highlights the need for more integrated approaches between different international agencies and government departments, as well as more targeted investments across the environmental, economic and social domains. It also emphasizes that a Green Economy has to be a "people-centered economy" as it requires a healthy, educated and informed workforce and it must improve the daily lives of billions of people, including those living in poverty, those who are unemployed, the working poor and youth.
Urging both agencies and governments to use the forthcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (or Rio+20 Summit) to turn their commitments into reality, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said: "United Nations entities are keenly aware of the resource challenges that countries face in meeting the needs of a growing and urbanizing world population. The human and economic toll of natural disasters and the volatility of commodity prices reflect worrying trends in global climate change, the growing scarcity of some natural resources and the decline of many ecosystems.
"This report highlights how these challenges can and must be addressed as part of integrated development models that focus on poverty and human well-being." The report promotes a UN system-wide understanding of the Green Economy approach to achieve sustainable development and offers a range of instruments that governments can use to impact investment choices and consumer behavior. These include mobilizing financial resources, full cost pricing, regulatory instruments, sustainable trade and green markets, innovation and technology, and indicators for measuring progress towards transition.
"There is ample evidence today that business-as-usual is simply not an option for the decades and generations to come," said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary- General, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Chair of the Environment Management Group.
"The report highlights the fact that policies and policy mixes need to be reoriented and implemented better. The need for regulatory reform is evident, ensuring that market signals are better aligned with the sustainability imperative," added Mr. Steiner.
Public spending can be used to provide urgently needed public goods and services and leverage private investments and social and environmental projects. The report also calls for public spending to target green infrastructure and research and development that can spur green technologies and innovation, as well as better health care and education.
In addition, governments need to align their laws, regulations, standards, taxes, labeling and reporting requirements to reinforce the incentives for the private sector to direct their finance and investments towards green, responsible business and a Green Economy. The absence of appropriate regulation and pricing is causing a failure to create high potential markets in carbon trading, ecosystem services and environmental goods and services, the report explains.
Many governments have responded to the global economic crisis with stimulus packages, which are paving the way for longer term policy reform. Investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, sustainable transport and agriculture, as well as other areas, can contribute to the global economic recovery, apart from generating environmental and social benefits, adds the report.
Such investments also have the potential to create new growth paths and avoid locking capital in carbon-intensive, inefficient and polluting technologies.
In developing countries, the World Bank estimates that the need for investments in greening infrastructure, such as buildings, energy and transport sectors, could reach US$264-$563 billion by 2030. An additional US$100 million might be needed for climate adaptation. While the UN agencies, programmes, regional commissions and funds contribute to different aspects of sustainable development, including humanitarian, business and trade aspects, most of these activities reflect the national economic realities, priorities and decisions of its member states.
The report notes numerous UN-backed initiatives already underway, such as:
Climate Smart Agriculture by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Cleantech Investment by the International Finance Corporation/World Bank
Recycling of Ships by the International Maritime Organization (IMO)
Green ICT standards of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
Green Jobs by International Labour Organization (ILO)
Green Economy Initiative by UNEP
Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production by UNEP and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
Education for Sustainable Development by UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
Cities and Climate Change by UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)
Green Economy e-Learning by UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)
Safe Access to Fuel and Alternative Energy by the UN World Food Programme (WFP)
Greening the Health Sector by the World Health Organization (WHO)
Green Technology Markets by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
Energy Solutions by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
The report finds that the UN entities, along with the Bretton Woods Institutions and other intergovernmental agencies, are well-positioned to support the movement towards a balanced and inclusive Green Economy at the national level where they can provide a range of technical advice and capacity support to governments.
Furthermore, following the Rio 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 will be an important milestone along this journey as countries seek green growth solutions that will ensure sustainable development.
"The Rio+20 Summit is an opportunity to adopt the Green Economy approach as a practical solution to multiple challenges facing a world in economic recovery," the report states, and calls on member states to make collective commitments that will facilitate a global transition.
Faith leaders spearhead climate change challenge
December 16, 2011:
Faith leaders joined forces this month to urge decision-makers to act in the interest of humanity to reach an agreement on global climate change.
Failure to do so "will cause human suffering on a terrifying scale", according to Christian Aid's climate exert Mohamed Adow.
The United Nations' Climate Change Conference (Conference of Parties 17) held in Durban, South Africa, from November 29 - December 9 was attended by 10,000 people representing the world's governments, international organisations and civil society.
African faith leaders played a major role in the talks with the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), which represents more than 120 million Christians in 39 African countries, having a strong presence at the event.
Unveiling the Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change, peace activist Ela Gandhi quoted her grandfather, Mahatma, when she called upon delegates to "be the change you want to see in the world". She said those in power needed to make decisions that help to conserve the planet for future generations.
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Durban, said that the world's political leaders were in danger of failing humanity. "We express our displeasure with local and international political leadership, which has failed to take decisive steps to make the changes required for the survival of humanity and life on Earth," he said. "We as the religious community demand that our political leaders honour previous commitments and move towards ethically responsible positions and policies." The Cardinal urged the global spiritual community to do what their political leaders had failed to do and not accept platitudes instead of action on climate change.
Mardi Tindal, leader of the United Church of Canada, the country's largest Protestant denomination, said Jesus's call to love one's neighbour spoke directly to global decisions on the environment. She said: "When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was he said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind," and he added, "Love your neighbour as yourself." "We can't be compassionate followers of Christ without being concerned by the threat of climate change and its impact on our global neighbours."
Fellow Canadian the Rev Willard Metzger, the General Secretary of the Mennonite Church of Canada, added that environmental responsibility was an act of worship.
Treat the Earth with respect
He said: "Caring for the Earth is a form of worship to God the Creator. God put passion and energy into creating something beautiful for his children. How can we do anything but treat it with respect? Anything else would be an insult."
UK-based global development agency Christian Aid's climate talks expert Mohamed Adow said that if nothing is done, human suffering on a huge scale would be the consequence. "We want to leave Durban with a deal which is a strong response to the climate chaos which is hurtling towards us - and which is already having devastating effects on poor people," he explained. "Governments need to agree how to respond to the latest climate science, which shows that without deep emissions cuts now, dangerous global warming will occur. It will cause human suffering on a terrifying scale," said Adow.
The conference was held to seek to advance the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, as well as the Bali Action Plan, agreed upon at COP 13 in 2007, and the Cancun Agreements, reached at COP 16 in December 2010.
South African President Jacob Zuma opened the conference and called on all parties involved in the negotiations to work diligently to find a solution to the climate issues. "For most people in the developing world and Africa, climate change is a matter of life and death," he said. "We are always reminded by the leaders of small island nations that climate change threatens their very existence." President Zuma claimed that climate change will reduce agricultural output by 50 per cent across the African continent. He drew attention to the fact that "severe drought in Somalia is exacerbating an already volatile region causing displacement of populations and increasing refugee communities in Kenya."
The Guardian newspaper reported that two weeks of talks – the last 60 hours of which was a single marathon negotiating session, with officials holed up in a conference centre through three nights with scarcely a break – ended with a surprise decision struck during a tea break just before dawn on Sunday (December 11).
The report continued: "A small huddle of key ministers were ordered to meet for 20 minutes and thrash out their differences. With tempers rising and the talks minutes from being abandoned, the chair, South African foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, ordered China, India, the US, Britain, France, Sweden, Gambia, Brazil and Poland to meet in a small group. Surrounded by nearly 100 delegates on the floor of the hall, they talked quietly among themselves to try to reach a new form of words acceptable to all.
"The agreement – dubbed the "Durban platform" – is different from the other partial deals that have been struck during the past two decades, with developing countries, including China, the world's biggest emitter, agreeing to be legally bound to curb their greenhouse gases. Previously, poorer nations have insisted that they should not bear any legal obligations for tackling climate change, whereas rich nations – which over more than a century have produced most of the carbon currently in the atmosphere – should."
Pact must have 'legal force'
"Another first is that the US, the second biggest emitter, also agreed that the new pact would have "legal force" – a step it flirted with in 1997 with the Kyoto protocol, but abandoned as Congress made clear it would never ratify that agreement. "All of the world's biggest economies and emitters already have targets to cut emissions between now and 2020, when the new deal would come into force. But those targets are voluntary, not legally binding. This is a crucial difference for the EU and many others, who fear that voluntary targets are too easy to wriggle out of.
"Keith Allsott, head of climate change at WWF UK, said: 'Governments have salvaged a path forward for negotiations, but we must be under no illusion – the outcome of Durban leaves us with the prospect of being legally bound to a world of 4°C warming. This would be catastrophic for people and the natural world. Governments have spent crucial days focused on a handful of specific words in the negotiating text, but have paid little heed to repeated warnings from the scientific community that much stronger, urgent action is needed to cut emissions.' "
Source: Alliance of Religions and Conservation http://www.arcworld.org/news.asp?pageID=507
Touching hearts and minds: faith environmental action
December 13, 2011:
Faith groups have a vital role to play in efforts to protect the environment, Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) Secretary-General Martin Palmer told a prestigious US gathering of conservationists and scientists.
Martin Palmer was among a group of conservation leaders and change makers brought together by WWF to discuss the future of conservation at the 2011 Fuller Science Symposium held at the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC, last month.
The theme was "How can new ideas and conservation science effect change?" Martin's speech was entitled: "Touching hearts and minds - the experience of the faiths in changing lives and the planet". He started by reminding the audience of the scale of faith influence. Faiths own about 8% of the habitable land surface of the planet outright, and contribute to about 50% to schooling worldwide (70% in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa). Around 85% of the world's population describe themselves as belonging to a faith group, and religions are the 3rd largest investment group in the world. They also produce more newspapers and magazines than the entire European Union.
"So the question isn't 'why would you work with the religions?', the question is 'why wouldn't you?'," he told them.
Martin Palmer paid tribute to the role of conservation groups in alerting faiths to the environmental crisis: "You were the prophets. You were the people who told the faiths there was a problem and you stirred their conscience."
But while the conservation movement was "brilliant on externals and wonderful with data", it was "appalling at the interior world", he said. "Don't just work with the religions. Work with psychology and psychotherapy. Understand why people do what they do, don't just bemoan the fact that they do it," he said. "Let's journey inward, that's what faiths do, in order that we can understand our relationship with the external world."
Martin gave a number of examples of faith action on the environment, including ARC's work with the Daoists in China on traditional Chinese medicine which led in 2000 to the Daoist ban on the use of 28 endangered species. "The basis of traditional Chinese medicine is Daoism and the fundamental principle is the balancing of the natural forces of yin and yang," he explained. "In 2000 the Daoists issued an official excommunication of anyone using the 28 endangered species. But more important they also said you cannot be healed if in seeking the materials to heal you, you disturb the balance of the universe. Now that's probably going to have more of an impact long-term than any attempt to ban wildlife trade because it actually undermines the philosophy that justifies the violence in the first place."
You can hear Martin's presentation, as well as those of other speakers, to the Fuller Science Symposium by visiting WWF USA's website.
Other speakers included:
Lester Brown, Earth Policy Institute – "On the edge of tomorrow: Global trends and what they mean for conservation"
Jon Foley, University of Minnesota – "How can we feed the world while sustaining the planet?"
Randy Olson, Prairie Starfish Productions – "Dude, where's my climate movement?"
Bill Clark, Harvard University – "Conservation science for sustainable development: Beyond 'fighting for the crumbs?'"
Panel Discussion: National Geographic Society Chairman John Fahey, Lester Brown, Jon Foley, and Professor Rob Wilby of Loughborough University – "Conservation science in a changing world"
Source: ARC http://www.arcworld.org/news.asp?pageID=506
Updated 22 December 2011