Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 25, Number 7 --- 15 July 2023
Article submission: firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline next issue 10 August 2023
Secretariat Email: email@example.com Christine Muller General Secretary
Postal address: 12B Chemin de Maisonneuve, CH-1219 Chatelaine, Geneva, Switzerland
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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 environment, climate change and sustainability. 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.
27th IEF Annual Conference to be held in September 2023
This year’s IEF Annual Conference will take place virtually (at least for the most part) during and around the mid-term review of the Sustainable Development Goals in New York and the UN Preparatory Ministerial Meeting for the Summit of the Future. So, keep your schedules light on 18 – 22 September so that you can participate in the conference!
The overall topic will be Implementing Solidarity – Global to Local. The conference planning team is currently exploring different panel topics.
The first topic will be What have we learned? – Sharing local experiences and case studies from around the world. Do you have an experience with an environmental project that used a Baha’i approach to social action which you could share at this interactive opening event? Please, contact the IEF secretariat as soon as possible at email@example.com.
One event will discuss how traditionally marginalized members of communities can drive transformation. An ebbf/EF group will tell us about their efforts for Global Solidarity Accounting. And the important topic of Global Environmental Governance will be back with panelists discussing concrete proposals recently presented by civil society. One panel will consist of representatives from different organizations contributing to the topic of Implementing Solidarity – Global to Local. The conference will close with another interactive event discussing Where Do We Go from Here?
We are happy to announce that the IEF partnered again with the Adora Foundation, thanks to IEF member Ismael Velasco. You will see them in action creating a conference website, managing registration, and hosting the Zoom platform.
We will share with you more detailed plans in the August newsletter.
The IEF warmly welcomes the following new members and associates:
Shahla Karimi, Australia
Anne Grove, Ohio, USA
Bill Kelly, Canada
Andrea Waite, UK
J Thomas Pawlowski, USA
Aaron Kelly, Canada
Masoud H., Iran
Anthony Vodraska, United States
We look forward to getting to know you!
Complements to GDP: What Values Guide Development?
Baha'i International Community Event
New York, 15 June 2023
Government representatives, UN officials, and civil society actors joined the Baha’i International Community (BIC) and the Coalition for the UN We Need to explore new ways to measure economic and social progress, beyond just the exchange of money for goods and services. The BIC also offered ideas and proposals on this theme with its perspective piece Complementing GDP, Proposed Paths Forward.
While acknowledging GDP’s many flaws, Daniel Perell, a BIC Representative to the United Nations, who authored the piece, said that simple and intuitive indicators can play a key role in facilitating the participation of large numbers of stakeholders in discussing societal challenges. Indicators also need to suit the challenges facing humanity today, Mr. Perell wrote.
This event, Complements to GDP: What Values Guide Development?, built on a policy brief (link is external) developed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, on ways of moving beyond gross domestic product (GDP) as a benchmark to measure progress.
“GDP doesn’t count things like environmental impact, biodiversity preservation or depletion, crime rates, or pay equality, which we measure, let alone things like social cohesion and care work, which we don’t,” Mr. Perell noted in opening remarks.
“We need to think about how we’re conceiving of success, even in our everyday lives,” he added.
Central to many interventions during the 90-minute event was the need for economic systems — and the indicators measuring them — to reflect a wide range of social necessities and goals, rather than material growth alone.
“One of the challenges in constructing a new economic narrative is to redefine what is meant by social and economic progress,” observed Ambassador Paula Narváez, from Chile.
“This redefinition implies a wiser understanding of the relationship between the economic productive sphere and the well-being of the human spirit.”
Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the UN Statistics Division and co-author of the Complements to GDP policy brief, outlined areas that should be measured by any indicator seeking to augment GDP as identified by a recent UN proposal (link is external). These included well-being and agency, respect for life and the planet, reduced inequalities and greater solidarity, participatory governance and stronger institutions, innovative and ethical economies, and movement from vulnerability to resilience.
“The economy is not an end, but a means,” Schweinfest said, referring to the broader outcomes he mentioned in his remarks
The event, outcomes from which were captured in a summary of key findings, was the ninth in a series leading up to the proposed Summit of the Future in 2024.
Climate Governance Commission
27-28 June 2023
The second meeting of the Climate Governance Commission (CGC), convened by IEF member Maja Groff, was held at Villars-sur-Ollon in the Swiss Alps on 27-28 June 2023, alongside the Villars Symposium for intergenerational exchanges with 120 teenagers from all over the world.
The co-chairs of the Climate Governance Commission are H.E. Mary Robinson, Chair of the Elders, Former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; H.E. Maria Fernanda Espinosa, President of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly and former Foreign Minister of Ecuador; and Professor (Dr.) Johan Rockström, Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Other participants included Sandrine Dixson-Declève, Co-President of the Club of Rome and lead author of their new report Earth for All, Thilmeeza Hussain, Permanent Representative of The Maldives to the United Nations; Wanjira Mathai, Managing Director, Africa and Global Partnerships, World Resources Institute (Kenya); and Nobuo Tanaka, Chair of the Steering Committee, Innovation for Cool Earth Forum and former Executive Director, International Energy Agency (Japan).
The Commission also has youth members: Xiye Bastida, Re-Earth Initiative, Co-Founder, Climate Activist (Mexico/U.S.); Chido Mpemba, Youth Envoy for the African Union Commission and Youngest Diplomat in the African Union Chairperson's Cabinet (South Africa); and Sophia Kianni, Founder and Executive Director of Climate Cardinals; Member UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change.
IEF President Arthur Dahl, a member of the CGC Steering Committee, participated actively in the Commission meeting. The meeting reviewed an initial draft of its final report, to be issued in October before COP28, and a shorter declaration for before the high level UN General Assembly meetings in September when the IEF will also hold its annual conference.
IEF members have long supported the work of the Commission and contributed to its Interim Report Governing Our Climate Future (2021). IEF Board Members Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen and Arthur Dahl wrote a CGC paper on Towards a Global Environment Agency: Effective Governance for Shared Ecological Risks (2021). This paper was recently cited by the UN High Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism in its April 2023 report as the source of its proposals for a global environmental governance organisation. IEF Board Member Halldor Thorgeirsson prepared a CGC paper on Climate Policy Councils: Success Factors and Lessons Learned (2021). Joachim Monkelbaan is also an expert adviser to the CGC.
We shall report more on the Climate Governance Commission as its final results are released.
Integrating Solidarity, Accountability, and A Breakthrough for People and Planet
By IEF Member Gary Colliver
Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self. (Bahá’u’lláh)
We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions. (Shoghi Effendi)
I just finished reading Christine Muller’s paper “Accountability of Universal Solidarity” and the summary report “A Breakthrough for People and Planet: Effective and Inclusive Global Governance for Today and the Future.” Both are well-written and valuable contributions to the current discussion of the complex problems confronting humankind. I would like, humbly, to offer a few thoughts, based primarily on the second of these two contributions.
To begin with, I would note that the quote by Bahá’u’lláh about our vision could be usefully combined with the second quote offered above from Shoghi Effendi. In the “Breakthrough” paper, the current planetary situation is characterized as a “Triple Planetary Crisis.” In light of the two quotes above, particularly the one from Shoghi Effendi, which states that “Man is organic with the world”, perhaps this could more appropriately, and usefully, describe the current global situation as a “Quadruple Planetary Crisis”, adding the lack of human solidarity/unity to the other three identified crises. This could help in understanding what Christine means when she states that, “it may be more important and effective to address universal education for global solidarity than an accounting system. Such education needs to happen both from the grassroots up by teachers, as well as from the top down, by United Nations Agencies, political leaders, and by a deliberate effort by the media everywhere, as if our life depends on it because it really does.”
Acknowledging that “global solidarity” must necessarily include human solidarity as well as solidarity with the Earth and its other inhabitants, this education needs to include a deeper knowledge of ecological and other systems approaches to learning about science and even human thinking in general. It must also include learning the ethical principles and practices (such as “service before self”) that are the motivating and working mechanisms of human solidarity and prosperity. If worthwhile, I’m sure interested IEF members with vibrant and keen minds can expand and incorporate these ideas.
How can social, moral, and spiritual capacities be incorporated into students' education?
By IEF Member Rafael Amaral Shayani
Professors should make efforts to introduce climate action content into tertiary curriculum. This article shares the experience of building a syllabus for climate change classes applied to the undergraduate engineering program.
Both SDG4 (Sustainable Development Goal 4--quality education) and SDG13 (climate action) have two important goals related to education for sustainable development, namely:
“Goal 4.7: By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.”
“Goal 13.3: Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.”
The document “One Planet, One Habitation”, published by the Bahá’í International Community, presented some highlights related to building this capacity:
“Building capacity in individuals, communities, and institutions to contribute effectively to transformational change is therefore an indispensable element of effective environmental action. For the individual, this implies developing a range of interrelated capacities – scientific, technical, social, moral, and spiritual. Individuals must be endowed with an understanding of concepts, knowledge of facts, and mastery of methods, as well as the skills, attitudes, and qualities required to establish more healthy and sustainable patterns of individual and collective life.”
According to these guidelines, it was evident that undergraduate engineering students must develop more than just regular scientific and technical skills. The question then arose: how can social, moral, and spiritual capacities be incorporated into students' education?
An elective class named "Engineering and Climate Change" was proposed by IEF Member Prof. Rafael Amaral Shayani and approved by the Technological Faculty of the University of Brasilia, Brazil. This 30-hour class consisted of a syllabus with the following five-step approach:
Step 1: Reflect on the role of engineering in society. Students reflect on engineering skills related to holistic and humanistic approaches, global vision, social responsibility, and sustainable development.
Step 2: Identify principles. Students research the Sustainable Development Goals and goal reports, gaining awareness of global challenges.
Step 3: Understand the path traveled so far. Students research significant climate events such as the Stockholm Conference (1972), the Eco-92 Conference (1992), the Kyoto Protocol (1997), COP (Conference of the Parties) 21 and the Paris Agreement (2015), and COP 26 and the Glasgow Climate Pact (2021).
Step 4: Acquire deeper knowledge about climate change. Students analyze selected IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) AR6 (Assessment Report 6) reports from all three working groups.
Step 5: Reflect on climate protagonism. Students analyze the document "One Planet, One Habitation."
"Engineering and Climate Change" was offered in 2022 and 2023 to undergraduate students in the engineering program, with 40 students enrolled each time. More than 200 students expressed interest in the course, indicating that this generation recognizes the importance of this topic.
The reflection on engineering skills beyond formulas and equations had a profound impact on most students, as they were previously unaware of their potential to change the world. They were unaware of the millions of people suffering from the lack of water, electricity, education, healthcare, and other basic necessities. This realization instilled a desire in them to take action and find solutions. Reflecting on past conferences, coupled with examining greenhouse gas emissions over the past decades, made it clear that the world is in need of action, not just discourse.
The IPCC AR6 reports from Working Group III – Mitigation – which covered energy systems, transport, urban systems, industry, and agriculture, contained significant scientific and technical content related to engineering. However, the report from Working Group II – Adaptation – which focused on poverty, had the most profound impact. Students came to understand that engineering projects not aligned with sustainable development principles contributed to poverty and inequalities worldwide.
Reflection on "One Planet, One Habitation" emphasized the concept of the oneness of mankind and the importance of nature. Additionally, several students agreed on the need to redefine progress.
Upon completing the 30-hour class, students reported that this approach, encompassing not only scientific and technical topics but also social, moral, and spiritual aspects, provided them with a new experience within the engineering program. They gained a broader and improved vision regarding sustainable development and climate action.
Record-breaking global temperatures
updated 11 July 2023
Global temperatures set a record, with June 2023 the hottest month ever, and three consecutive hottest days ever in early July. The global ocean temperature has suddenly jumped by 0.7°C (see https://climatereanalyzer.org/clim/sst_daily/ updated daily), even before a gathering El Niño could potentially propel 2023 to become the hottest year ever recorded, topping 2016.
There has been “remarkable global warmth” in June, confirmed Copernicus, the European Union’s Earth observation arm, which said that the first few days of the month even breached a 1.5°C increase compared with pre-industrial times. This is probably the first time this has happened since industrialization, the agency said.
The long-term warming conditions caused by the burning of fossil fuels will probably receive more heat via El Niño, a naturally recurring phenomenon where sections of the Pacific Ocean heat up, typically causing temperatures to increase across the world. Another contributing factor was the eruption of the underwater volcano in Tonga on 15 January 2022, which injected unusually large quantities of water vapour into the stratosphere with a warming effect, unlike most volcanic eruptions that produce temporary cooling.
“The global surface temperature anomaly is at or near record levels right now, and 2023 will almost certainly be the warmest year on record,” said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. “That is likely to be true for just about every El Niño year in the future as well, as long as we continue to warm the planet with fossil fuel burning and carbon pollution.”
In May, the World Meteorological Organization warned that global temperatures will probably soar over the next five years, fueled by El Niño as well as emissions, with a new record hot year almost guaranteed during this period.
There is also a good chance the average temperature will exceed 1.5°C (2.7F) beyond pre-industrial levels, a key threshold agreed by governments at which point heatwaves, droughts, flooding and other climate impacts become significantly worse.
NOAA confirmed a second consecutive month of record high ocean surface temperatures in May. Excess heat in the oceans, which cover 70% of the globe’s surface, influences overall global temperatures, as well as displacing fish populations, bleaching coral reefs and driving coastal sea level rises. Severe coral reef bleaching in Belize started in June.
Regardless of whether 2023 ends up the hottest ever recorded, scientists caution that the escalating impacts of the climate crisis are now starkly evident and will not be slowed until greenhouse gas emissions are radically cut.
SOURCE: Original article by Oliver Milman in https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jun/15/record-temperatures… with later updates
Items of Interest
Empower women to grow
On 16th of June 2023, during World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, representatives of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) warned the international community that women and girls in low- and middle-income countries are suffering the greatest burden of drought, land degradation, and desertification. Climate change and intensive, unsustainable land use, combined with legal and socioeconomic inequalities, mean that women, especially in rural and agricultural settings, are the most exposed to food and water scarcity and to forced migration. Part of the solution to these growing socio-environmental catastrophes is to bolster women's rights and agency in land management, and the UNCCD called upon world leaders to prioritise equal land rights for women globally. …
Continue reading here: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(23)0013…
Plastic pollution on the world’s coral reefs
Coral reefs are dying because of warmer ocean temperatures and acidification as well as from agricultural and chemical pollution. Now, scientists have discovered another threat: Plastic pollution.
You can listen to a three minute report on NPR here: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2023/07/12/1187261701/plastic…
This is the link to the scientific paper by Hudson T. Pinheiro et al.: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-023-06113-5
Here is the abstract of the paper:
Coral reefs are losing the capacity to sustain their biological functions1. In addition to other well-known stressors, such as climatic change and overfishing1, plastic pollution is an emerging threat to coral reefs, spreading throughout reef food webs2, and increasing disease transmission and structural damage to reef organisms3. Although recognized as a global concern4, the distribution and quantity of plastics trapped in the world’s coral reefs remains uncertain3. Here we survey 84 shallow and deep coral ecosystems at 25 locations across the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian ocean basins for anthropogenic macrodebris (pollution by human-generated objects larger than 5 centimetres, including plastics), performing 1,231 transects. Our results show anthropogenic debris in 77 out of the 84 reefs surveyed, including in some of Earth’s most remote and near-pristine reefs, such as in uninhabited central Pacific atolls. Macroplastics represent 88% of the anthropogenic debris, and, like other debris types, peak in deeper reefs (mesophotic zones at 30–150 metres depth), with fishing activities as the main source of plastics in most areas. These findings contrast with the global pattern observed in other nearshore marine ecosystems, where macroplastic densities decrease with depth and are dominated by consumer items5. As the world moves towards a global treaty to tackle plastic pollution6, understanding its distribution and drivers provides key information to help to design the strategies needed to address this ubiquitous threat.
Updated 15 July 2023
Last updated 14 July 2023