Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 17, Number 7 --- 15 July 2015
Article submission: firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline next issue 13 August 2015
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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.
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IEF launches French course on climate change
Les dimensions scientifiques et spirituelles du changement climatique
12 July 2015
The International Environment Forum has just launched an interfaith course in French on The Scientific and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change. This is a shortened version in 5 or 6 classes of the popular course in English which is both available on the IEF web site, and has also been taught for several years through the Wilmette Institute on-line learning center. A number of French-speaking IEF members have helped course designer Christine Muller to translate the course into French, and their efforts are greatly appreciated. With the UN Climate Change Conference, COP21, being held in Paris on 30 November-11 December 2015, it seemed important that these training materials be available in French to assist those who want to prepare for activities in Paris or to organize discussions of the issues in their own communities.
Global Ethics Forum 2015
Geneva, Switzerland, 25-27 June 2015
The Global Ethics Forum 2015 was held at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland, on 25-27 June. The 150 participants came from all over the world to discuss "Responsible Leadership in Action: The Value of Values". In addition to plenaries and panels, there were 12 workgroups that met three times to discuss tools and prepare projects to implement them.
The International Environment Forum has been an Associated Partner to Globethics.net and the Global Ethics Forum for several years, and it was one of five such partners (out of 200) to have its logo featured in the conference brochure. ebbf - Ethical Business Building the Future is also an associated partner. IEF was represented this year by Arthur Dahl and Joachim Monkelbaan, and ebbf by Nauman Hussain and Caroline Zagrecki Sawicki.
The Forum was organized by Prof. Christoph Stuckelburger, Director and Founder of Globethics.net, and opened by Ambassador Walter Fust, President of Globethics.net.
In the opening keynote by Musimbi Kanyoro of Kenya, President/CEO of the Global Fund for Women, she asked what was responsible leadership? It is learning how to lead together with others, with a common perspective, sharing ideas, the journey and the credit. You change yourself to align with others, finding a course together. Such a leader is balanced by values, grounded in mission, inspired by vision and pragmatic in practice. Failing is part of good practice, trying things to learn from them, encouraging more honesty and forgiveness. Finally, a responsible leader knows when to go, when it is time for a change.
The opening panel on State of and Need for Responsible Leadership, was moderated by Deon Rossouw of the Ethics Institute of South Africa. Alexander Ageev, Director of the Institute for Economic Strategies in Moscow, listed the challenges or revolutions that were coming: the end of the world, the genetic revolution, the manipulation of brain functioning, mass migration, the economic cult of GDP versus the spiritual emancipation of measures of happiness and well-being, crises in the financial system, transparency in all things and a revolution against transparency, new technologies with military uses, and many other competing issues calling for creativity, empathy and integrity. Jem Bendell of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (UK) talked about enabling everyone to lead together through mutual responsibility, group literacy and shared values. Liu Debing of the Center for International Business Ethics, China, described classical Chinese leadership as starting with individual cultivation, nurturing sincerity, seeking perfection, and learning happiness in the home before harmonizing the nation and pacifying the world. Responsible leadership required integrity, responsibility, passion, a win-win spirit and willingness to learn. Florencia Luna of the Bioethics Program, FLASCO, Argentina, described the risks from contagious diseases in an interconnected world, and the need to protect the most vulnerable. The discussion that followed raised the issues of interconnectedness and human rights, the responsibility of leadership for the ecological crisis, and the need to practice systems thinking.
The working groups discussed implementing general codes and standards, such as an institutional code of ethics, reducing inequalities by providing equal access to education and jobs, and implementing integrated reporting; as well as innovating leadership through women, investment and the media. A second set of themes included improving values-driven leadership in business, higher education, politics and religion.
The first day concluded with a public event at The Graduate Institute featuring a panel on Developing Systems and Strengthening People for Responsible Leadership, musical entertainment by artists from the Globethics network, and an address by the Mayor of Geneva, Madame Esther Alder.
On the panel, Kamel Ayadi of the Global Infrastructure Anti-corruption Centre in Tunisia talked about responsible leadership in business and the need for tools and standards such as ISO 26000, the Global Reporting Initiative and Global Compact, and a new ISO 37001 antibribery standard, and the difficulty of distinguishing sincere efforts from simple communications, requiring the commitment of top management. Liu Debing of China described how continued learning was necessary with globalization and rapid change. Divya Singh, Vice Principal, University of South Africa, called for values-based leadership in universities. Training ethical global citizens required more holistic approaches beyond the siloed academic disciplines with real community engagement. Universities needed to be socially responsible, and to assess their impact in the community. Cedric Dupont of The Graduate Institute said responsible leadership combined vision and imagination to provide solutions, with creative destruction of the status quo. Contributing to the global interest required values inclusive of diversity, thinking globally, holistically and independently, and embracing change. It was necessary to break preconceived ideas and established world-views, to use foresight tools to think about the future, and be comfortable in a zone of discomfort, with the ability to listen, communicate and tell stories. In the discussion, Caroline Zawicki of ebbf described the experience of Nur University in Bolivia requiring 120 hours of service to the community and thus creating an awareness of social realities.
The second day opened with inspiring speeches by Obiora Ike, Pastor and Professor of Ethics and intercultural Studies in Nigeria, described the emergence of transparent processes for religious leaders in Africa. Vasanthi Srinivasan of the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore referred to ethics in politics and public administration and the challenge of fighting corruption at all levels. Paulachan Kochappilly, Professor of Moral Theology in India, talked about celebrating transformation and change, with enlightenment inside to truth, goodness and beauty leading to a desire for service in responding to the needs of the deprived. Naupess Kibiswa of the African Centre for Peace, Democracy and Human Rights in DR Congo said there was no civil society under dictatorship in his country, but a recent rise in civil society organizations as an intermediary between the people and the state, filling gaps in state services and where people were abandoned to militias. Tayfun Zaman of the Turkish Ethics and Reputation Society referred to the need for trust in business. Most of a multinational's value was in its reputation. A business leader must inspire values in the company as a hard-core asset for employees, customers and the whole world.
The workgroups continued their work and reported their outcomes in the closing session. There were also announcements of the Code of Ethics collection in the Globethics.net Online Ethics Library, and the new Globethics Academy online courses. The annual Global Ethics Forums and their sponsoring organization Globethics.net demonstrate the world-wide interest in ethics as a foundation for efforts to create a better world.
[An illustrated version of this report with pictures is included in the pdf version of this newsletter and on the IEF web site]
Summary and Commentary on Laudato Si': the Pope's encyclical on the environment and poverty
By Arthur Lyon Dahl, International Environment Forum, Geneva, Switzerland
Download as pdf (253kb) 8 pages - Share with family, friends, neighbors, & co-workers
The long-awaited encyclical letter of Pope Francis, Laudato Si': on care for our common home, was released on 18 June 2015. The title comes from the canticle of Saint Francis, “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”, and sets the theme for a lengthy addition to Catholic Church teaching that addresses both the environmental challenges facing the world and persistent poverty, weaving the two themes together as aspects of the same spiritual illness facing the world today. The letter is framed as an integrated systems perspective on the material and spiritual challenges, and the need for spiritual solutions. As Baha'is we can welcome such a clear stand by the Catholic Church on issues where we share both the priority that they should be given, and the diagnosis of the fundamental spiritual illness behind both problems.
The encyclical letter, which has 246 paragraphs, opens with a sixteen-paragraph introduction. Then follow six chapters starting with where we are in our treatment of our planetary home and ending with the type of spiritual education needed to come to terms with environmental challenges and poverty. The chapter titles are: Chapter 1, “What Is Happening to Our Common Home”; Chapter 2, “The Gospel of Creation”; Chapter 3, “The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis”; Chapter 4, “Integral Ecology”; Chapter 5, “Lines of Approach and Action”; and Chapter 6, Ecological Education and Spirituality.” Each chapter has between three and nine subsections. The encyclical concludes with a prayer for our earth and a Christian prayer in union with creation.
The letter is addressed to all the peoples of the world, not just Catholics. It opens with a review of previous Catholic statements on the environment, going back to Saint Francis of Assisi, and citing also the initiatives of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church, as well as Protestant and Sufi sources. It summarizes the major environmental challenges as defined by science, and explores their deeper causes in a materialistic society of short-term selfish interests bent on profit without regard for the needs of the poor or the environment. The issues discussed include pollution and climate change, water (for which access is a basic human right), loss of biodiversity, decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society, global inequality, weak responses, and the variety of opinions. There are strong critiques of consumerism, the economy and multilateral corporations that are reminiscent of those in statements and publications of the Baha'i International Community (https://www.bic.org/statements-and-reports/statements; https://www.bic.org/publications) and One Common Faith (prepared under the supervision of the Universal House of Justice, 2005), among others.
To read the complete 8-page summary, download the PDF from the IEF website (253kb)
In Santiago, Chile, Climate Change Fuels Choking Air Pollution
BY EMILY ATKIN, 23 June 2015
Thick clouds of heavy smog hung low in Santiago on Monday, a day of exceptional filth in Chile’s pollution-stricken capital city. The haze forced more than 1,300 businesses to close after authorities declared an environmental emergency, the first of its kind since 1999. Approximately 80 percent of the city’s 1.7 million cars were forced to park, and 100 percent of the city’s 7 million people were warned to avoid outdoor activity. The warning was prudent — one of the last times this happened, an outbreak of influenza sent 3,500 children to the hospital every day.
Scientists have diagnosed Santiago with some of the “most serious air pollution problems in the world,” and the reasons amount to a perfect storm of sorts. One is just business: The city is in the midst of an industrial boom, manufacturing everything from chemicals to textiles, which ultimately results in rising emissions. The second is location: Santiago is surrounded by mountain ranges, which trap smog in and refuse to let go. The third reason Santiago’s pollution is so bad, though, is the most unpredictable. It’s the weather. For pollution to escape from within the clutches of the city’s mountains, it needs to rain. And though June is supposed to be one of the wettest months of the year, it is currently the driest it’s been in 47 years.
This is just one of the big threats that human-caused climate change poses to Santiago. Under a worst-case emissions scenario, rainfall is likely to drop by 10 percent in the area by 2040, and by up to 30 percent by the end of the century, according to an analysis by the Center for Global Change at Chile’s Pontificia Universidad Católica.
Less frequent rainfall means fewer opportunities for smog to escape, meaning more opportunities for prolonged pollution events that threaten the health of thousands. Of course, the effects of climate change are almost never black and white — another study predicted that, while Santiago will experience prolonged drought, precipitation events will be more extreme when they do occur, leading to flash flooding that could threaten drinking water supply.
As it happens, Santiago may be experiencing some side effects of climate change now, which may be worsening its current smog situation. Central Chile, where Santiago is located, has been in severe drought for eight years. And though it’s difficult to link specific extreme weather events to climate change, scientists have already linked this particular drought to the phenomenon, according to Reuters.
That’s bad news for the city, whose population is already experiencing a range of health problems amid frequent sitting smog. A 2014 study published in Science of the Total Environment found that airborne pollution exceeded European safety levels on three out of every four days. As airborne pollution increased, so did hospital admissions for cardiovascular disease, the Santiago Times reported.
Santiago officials have implemented measures to reduce smog. Since the city’s Atmospheric Decontamination and Prevention Plan was created in 1998, thousands of buses and trucks with inadequate pollution controls have been removed from the roads; dirt roads that sent particles flying into the air have been paved; open burning has been restricted; and regulations have been implemented to control industry emissions of sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter.
But scientists have acknowledged that this hasn’t been enough. A 2014 study found that little had been done to reduce the major component of particulate matter in the city — soil particles. In Santiago, the study found, a lot of pollution comes when very dry soil particles fly away from construction sites and dirt roads, picking up and transporting other chemical compounds with it. Frequent rainfall, the study said, likely helps make sure the soil particles don’t become dry enough to blow around. As climate change worsens, however, frequent rainfall is becoming less likely in the region.
Indeed, Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet is treating the current drought as permanent. “Faced with this critical situation,” she said in March, “there is no choice but to assume that the lack of water resources is a reality that is here to stay.”
Global warming is causing rain to melt the Greenland ice sheet
John Abraham, 14 July 2015
Higher temperatures are melting Greenland ice directly, but also indirectly via increased rainfall.
Greenland, one of the largest ice sheets in the world, is melting. In fact, it is melting ahead of schedule as the world warms. Scientists are working hard to deepen their understanding of this ice sheet’s behavior so that we can predict how fast and how much of the ice sheet will melt in the coming decades and centuries.
It might seem obvious that in a warming world, the Greenland ice sheet will melt. But, what seems obvious and simple can be more complex when investigated more deeply. With respect to Greenland, it is expected that warmer temperatures increase melting but warmer temperatures can also mean more snowfall, as there is more moisture in warm air which can then fall as snow. So, it has been a question of which of these two competing processes would win out. Would Greenland get smaller because of melting or would it grow as more snow fell?
Over the past few years, the verdict has become clear. The Greenland ice sheet is losing mass at an increasing rate. In fact, Greenland currently contributes twice as much as the Antarctic to rising sea levels. A new study, just published in Nature Geoscience, makes an important new contribution to our understanding of the forces at play in Greenland. Dr Samuel Doyle and an international team captured the wide-scale effects of an unusual week of warm, wet weather in late August and early September, 2011. They found that cyclonic weather led to extreme surface runoff – a combination of ice melt and rain – that overwhelmed the ice sheet’s basal drainage system. This drive a marked increase in ice flow across the entire western sector of the ice sheet that extended 140 km into the ice sheet’s interior. According to Dr. Doyle, "It wasn’t just rainfall. We saw 10 to 15% of the total annual surface melt occur in this event in late summer 2011. When this water reached the bed, the ice sheet lifted up and moved faster towards the sea."
The cyclonic weather system delivered heat and rain to the western edge of the Greenland ice sheet and under these warm, wet, cloudy conditions the way that the ice sheet receives energy for melt is very different to that under the more typical clear sky conditions. As we all know from a cloudy day, clouds block a certain amount of sunshine, but under certain conditions they can absorb the outgoing longwave radiation and re-radiate it back to the surface. This is why a cloudy night is often warmer than when the sky is clear. The same thing happens on the ice sheet.
In fact during the August 2011 weather event, melt continued throughout both day and night creating exceptionally high daily melt totals for this time of year. Moisture in the atmosphere also reduces the rate at which the air cools as it rises over the ice sheet, allowing warm temperatures and therefore melt and rain to attain abnormally high elevations. The heat released by condensation and by rain refreezing in the snowpack enhanced melt even further. Even given these factors, the water runoff from melt and rain did not exceed mid-summer peak values when ice flow was relatively slow. This is because the ice sheet’s drainage system continually adapts to melt inputs: in mid-summer an efficient drainage system forms and the ice sheet can easily accommodate high water inputs. This isn’t the case in late summer though, as the drainage system rapidly freezes shut when air temperatures fall below zero. Dr. Doyle told me, "The late-summer timing was critical. The event occurred after the end of the melt season and the ice-sheet’s drainage system had started to close down. In this state the ice sheet’s drainage system just couldn’t cope."
Professor Alun Hubbard added, “It is like an urban sewerage system that is temporarily overwhelmed by an intense rain-storm. The ice sheet plumbing – literally a network of pipes, cavities and channels - gets backed up by the sheer quantity of runoff draining into it, leading to flooding and high water pressures, which literally lifts the ice sheet up off its bed, reducing basal friction and sending it on its way.”
If the precise timing of rainfall/melt events is critical to the ice sheets flow response, predicting the future of the Greenland ice sheet may therefore be a more difficult task than was originally thought. After all, weather is notoriously difficult to predict. Hubbard concluded, “The jury is out as to whether the ‘rainfall’ event identified in our study has a lasting influence on the evolution of the Greenland ice sheet. Just as in many regions of the planet, observed climate warming doesn’t just mean hotter summers and milder winters; it’s more complex than that and more often it means more intense storm events at unusual times of the year.”
So why do we care about this? Well, in a warming world, we expect, and are already observing, increases in warm, wet weather in place of snowfall, so the effect the authors find may be more important if predicted changes in Greenland’s climate are realized. Professor Jason Box summed it up, “We’re seeing that warm wet weather that is increasing with climate change is driving more melt of the Greenland ice-sheet than we thought. And worryingly, this melt is reaching higher elevations on the ice sheet.”
The influence of such intense rainfall events has not, until now, been considered in assessments of the melt and flow response of any ice sheet. This is an important omission because cyclonic conditions are predicted to increase in the future, therefore likely playing an increasing role in driving ice mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet.
Since the 1980s when rainfall measurements began in the west Greenland town of Kangerlussuaq, the focus of the study, the proportion of precipitation now falling as rainfall rather than snow has both increased and extended into the late summer and autumn in line with increased circulation and moisture availability within a warmer, more energetic atmosphere.
The future of Greenland will have a significant influence on sea level rise. Current IPCC predictions of up to about a meter of sea level rise by 2100 are likely underestimates; many cryosphere experts think we could have even more than this sea level rise. Dealing with a changing climate will therefore present significant social and economic problems. For instance, 150 million people around the world currently live within 1 meter of sea level. What happens when coastal communities are displaced by rising waters? Let’s anxiously await the next results from this important research project.
UN seminar highlights global citizenship education
25 June 2015 NEW YORK
On June 15, UN permanent missions from France, Korea, Nigeria, Qatar, and the United States co-organized a seminar titled "Global Citizenship Education for a Just, Peaceful, Inclusive and Sustainable World", held at UN Headquarters in New York City. The Baha'i International Community and UNESCO were among seven NGOs and UN organizations that co-sponsored the event.
The seminar — archived on UN Web TV — engaged diplomats, UN officials and civil society actors in a dialogue on fostering global citizenship. The focus was on education that engenders universal human values conducive to the construction of a more peaceful and sustainable world.
Daniel Perell, a representative of the Baha'i International Community to the UN, moderated the second of two sessions, titled "Opportunities Based on Application in the Field", which focused on efforts to explore models for global citizenship education. In his brief introductory comments, Mr. Perell connected global citizenship to the principle of the oneness of humankind, which he described as having a material as well as spiritual dimension, quoting a well-known passage from Baha'i sacred scriptures: "The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens."
"Global citizenship education receives wide support at the level of concept," he said. "The challenges come when we talk about what it looks like in practice." The seminar, he explained, was a place for actors from various institutions and fields of endeavor to exchange insights and experiences and advance understanding.
Ambassador Oh Joon of the Republic of Korea to the UN gave the introductory remarks for the seminar. "Global citizenship education is now more widely recognized in the context of a shifting paradigm regarding the role of education in the twenty-first century," he stated. "Given the strong need to tackle global challenges, such as violent extremism, global citizenship education shares the importance of a common understanding of universal values, such as justice, human rights and dignity, gender equality, and cultural diversity." Ambassador Oh also strongly linked global citizen education to sustainability and explained that it had been "incorporated into the UN's sustainable development goals as an important dimension of development for all".
The event featured a range of panelists, including diplomats from the sponsoring countries, representatives of civil society, and educational experts. Prominent among the themes was the idea that education alone will not necessarily result in constructive participation in society. There was a consensus among panelists that education must incorporate human values if it is to result in a sense of responsibility to the well-being of society, from the local to the international spheres.
One of the panelists, Ramu Damodaran of the United Nations Academic Impact Secretariat, spoke about the important role civil society has played in bringing new ideas to the United Nations. He noted, for example, that among the first mentions of the concept of "world citizenship" as an element of sustainable development came in a 1993 statement from the Baha'i International Community to the first session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.
In recent years, the idea of education for global citizenship has taken on increased prominence because of its inclusion in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which call for "all learners [to] acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development", including the promotion of "global citizenship". UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012 launched the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), which seeks to spur renewed efforts to reach global education goals. Fostering global citizenship is one of three priority areas on which the program focuses.
View the flier of the program and a concept note here (PDF).
Outcomes of the Climate Summit of the Americas 2015
By Melissa Harris and Philip Gass
From July 7th to 9th, the Government of Ontario, Canada, convened more than 300 leaders from government, businesses and civil society at the Climate Summit of the Americas. The idea for the event was borne out of a discussion at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York last September, among the leaders of Ontario, Quebec and California. They recognized the crucial role that subnational, or ‘infranational’ jurisdictions play in responding to climate change. The summit set out to foster and strengthen partnerships among jurisdictions for global climate action and build motivation and support for carbon pricing. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard delivered opening remarks, emphasizing that the solutions to climate change are already known, what is needed is the mobilization, motivation and political will to implement them. This message was echoed throughout the summit.
Carbon pricing is a must
The summit saw widespread support for the necessity of putting a price on carbon, and served as an opportunity to share lessons on the wide variety of approaches being undertaken at sub-national levels.
A morning session on July 7th chaired by the International Emissions Trading Association included speakers from TD Bank Group, ArcTern ventures, the law firm Latham & Watkins and the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. With a general consensus that carbon pricing must be at the heart of a response to climate change, panelists discussed investment models, financing tools and ways in which funds raised by carbon pricing can further reinforce the transition to green economies. Reinvesting the funds raised by pricing back in transition to low-carbon economies was the preferred approach of the panelists, noting that this new revenue stream presents the greatest potential for investment in this area. An additional area of convergence was also the potential role of Green Bonds as a way to develop capital that can then leverage private financing for low-carbon development.
On an intergovernmental panel hosted by Bill Ritter, former Colorado Governor, Ministers from Ontario, BC, Quebec, Mexico and government officials from California and Brazil shared best practices and lessons learned from their climate policies. Panelists discussed coal phase-out, carbon tax, cap and trade, REDD+ and reducing short lived climate pollutants (SLCPs). While each region has taken a different approach to policies and pricing, panelists expressed an interest in working together.
At a morning panel the second day on successful carbon pricing models, participants addressed the questions of why and how pricing has worked in their jurisdictions, and how they have faced challenges to ensure a lasting impact. Speakers from Vermont, Duke University, Great Plains Institute discussed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), allowances, carbon taxes, the experience of the Midwest Governors Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (MGGRA) and the importance of decoupling economic growth from emissions. While they noted that the failure to pass national legislation in the U.S. in 2010 was a setback, the groundwork laid during that period in many states and regions has prepared those jurisdictions to better respond to new climate change approaches emerging from the EPA.
The cost of inaction
There was a reoccurring message from both government and businesses that action on climate change makes economic sense.
During a lunch keynote address, California Governor Jerry Brown explained how action on climate change is cheaper than inaction. He noted that we already have the tools, the question is whether or not we have the political motivation. A call to action for all levels of government, Governor Brown spoke to the need for federal support while recognizing that the most significant source of climate action will come from provinces and states.
On a similar note, Felipe Calderón, Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, and former President of Mexico discussed the false dilemma between economic growth and environmental improvement on day two of the summit. He provided an overview of the Commission’s new report which shows it is possible to have economic growth and a better climate at the same time. In 2014 for the first time in 40 years GDP grew by 3% while emissions did not increase. He outlined a number of actions in the areas of cities, land use, clean energy, energy efficiency, carbon pricing, efficiency, innovation, business, shipping and aviation, and HFCs with the potential to help ensure global emissions do not exceed 2C.
The issue of climate change policies and productivity was the topic of a green economy focused session with representatives from General Motors, Uniliver, the Cement Association of Canada and the Ecofiscal Commission. The importance of policy alignment and certainty was emphasized by all parties, as well the need for international perspective on how local policies effect international competitiveness for the private sector. The Cement Association use the example of cheaper imported cement taking the place in Canadian markets of domestically produced, carbon-priced product as an example of the concern of carbon leakage. As in other sessions, speakers noted that many private sector companies are increasingly seeing the inevitability of carbon pricing and called on governments to act coherently with long-term vision.
Role of forests and land stewardship
A panel on land-use and sustainable development was moderated by IISD President Scott Vaughan. Speakers from CIGI, Environmental Defense Fund, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, and Organization of American States discussed the critical role of land stewardship, forestry management and protection based on partnerships with indigenous peoples that protect human rights. Ontario was invited to join the IUCN Bonn Challenge to restore 150 million hectares by 2020. Examples of innovative finance to reflect the values of forests, including their role in carbon sinks, were explored, as was the critical importance of advancing integrated policies to support sustainability.
A mood of optimism
The second day of the summit got off on the right foot with an opening address by Former US Vice President and Chair of The Climate Reality Project, Al Gore. He posed 3 questions to frame the climate issue: must we change, can we change and will we change? The answer to all was unequivocally yes. He explained that the science is clear and the stakes are high so the status quo must change, and it is our duty as experts to build broader public support. In response to the second question, Gore noted that industry, engineers and other experts are working together to provide renewable energy solutions to enable the shift to decarbonized energy systems. Finally, in response to the question of will, Gore took an optimistic tone stating that although challenges remain, through collaboration and innovation, he believes that we will change to address climate change, the issue is whether or not the willingness to change will come quick enough. Quoting Wallace Stevens, and drawing upon the example of the civil rights movement, Gore stated “after the last no comes the yes, and on that yes, the future rests.”
The afternoon featured a number of additional speakers representing diverse backgrounds and viewpoints on climate change, but all with the same ‘call to action’ theme expressed by Gore, Brown, Calderón and Wynne.
Bianca Jagger discussed the importance of infranationals pushing the United Nations process forward, and linking human rights challenges to climate change. Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell highlighted that enlightened leadership on climate issues has and will continue to emerge, but that practical groundwork on implementation must quickly follow. A panel discussion on planning led by WWF President David Miller highlighted the critical role of government support for innovation and research on climate solutions.
IKEA Canada President Stefan Sjöstrand noted his company’s commitment of US$1billion in funding for climate solutions internationally, as well as committing to install electric vehicle charging stations at all IKEA stores in Canada this summer. President of International Council for Science Gordon McBean, representing the scientific community, shared a statement on behalf of Pan-American climate experts noting what has to be done, and that they are ready and willing to assist policymakers and others in developing and implementing solutions. Many others also committed to lend their support in various ways through the two-day event.
The climax of the summit was when Ontario and more than 20 other states, cities and regions signed the first-ever Pan-American action statement on climate change. The statement indicates that limiting global warming to 2C requires all levels of government to take action and outlines commitment options related to carbon pricing, emission reduction reporting, ambitious targets and action in key sectors. The statement builds on other initiatives such as the Under 2 MOU, the Compact of States and Regions and Compact of Mayors. It is hoped that other jurisdictions will sign on to the action statement in the lead-up to COP-21.
Sheila Watt-Cloutier provided a sobering closing plenary address on the consequences of inaction, drawing from her prior experiences, including her book Right to be Cold about the challenges Inuit have faced to their way of life as the climate warms. Climate change is a challenge for families, communities, wildlife, and the environment, and she noted that there is no price that can be put on the cost of the loss of arctic ice and the well-being it supports in the north.
In the final closing remarks the Ambassador from France Nicholas Chapuis remarked that he is buoyed by the motivation for action and the commitments that countries are making to the UN process. While these commitments not enough to maintain the two degree threshold, they are moving in the right direction. He noted this unique circumstance stating “not since 1992 have we had such hope of a universal agreement.… Paris is not the end, it is the beginning.”
The recurring message of almost all speakers was about motivation and political will. The solutions for climate change discussed at the summit were not necessarily new: carbon pricing, green procurement and transportation, urban planning, and other topics have all been discussed by environmental groups for years. What was new and readily apparent at the Climate Summit of the Americas was the overwhelming call to action from elected officials at the infranational level and their pledge to push their national counterparts to deliver at COP-21, while taking concrete steps to implement solutions themselves. Ten years ago it was scientists and environmental groups making the statements that Governors, Mayors and Premiers are saying now. Instead of just identifying solutions they are implementing them as well.
The theme of collaboration and collective solutions was also prevalent. Premier Wynne remarked that “Canada was founded on the idea that we have more to gain by working together than we can accomplish apart, it is in that spirit that we convene today”. This is highlighted in the broad range of signatories to the action statement, not just geographically, but in various levels of government. Minister Murray also noted that not only were governing parties present, but also members of opposition parties, in an effort to continue to drive climate change as a post-partisan issue.
The work of these jurisdiction is certainly not complete, and the press to drive agreement at COP-21 and beyond will be difficult, but as Gore noted, after the last no there is a yes, and the parties assembled at the summit all expressed their collective motivation to reach that yes in greater and stronger numbers than ever before.
UNEP's Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative
UNEP’s Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative (SBCI) is a partnership of major public and private stakeholders in the buildings sector working to promote sustainable building policies and practices worldwide.
Approximately one third of the world’s energy use takes place inside buildings. This has earned the building sector the dubious honor of being the Earth’s biggest contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. What’s more, the construction industry consumes more than one third of the planet’s resources and generates huge quantities of solid waste. Clearly, any attempt to improve resource efficiency must take buildings into account.
If today’s building sector has an oversized ecological footprint, there is considerable hope for reducing it in the green future. Improving energy efficiency in buildings through greener construction methods and retrofitting existing structures can make an enormous difference in reducing GHG emissions. Moreover, many of these improvements can be realized at a low cost, using existing technologies. Green construction can also have a positive effect on productivity, public health, and even employment: according to estimates, every US $ 1 million invested could result in ten to fourteen jobs.
Cities are growing quickly, especially in developing countries. Urban areas are now home to some 50 percent of the planet’s population, use a good 60 percent of available energy, and account for an equal share of carbon emissions. Rapid urbanization is affecting water supplies, public health, environment, and quality of life, especially for the poor. Fundamental changes in urban development will have to take place in order to build a sustainable future.
Fortunately, the very density of cities may turn out to be their strongest advantage. Characterized by proximity, variety, and density, cities can be fertile ground for collaboration between local and national governments, civil society, private partnerships, and academia—all of whose input will be essential to the greening of our urban areas. With the right policies, practices, and infrastructures in place, cities can be green models for efficient transport, water treatment, construction, and resource use.
U.N. Global Compact
The world's largest corporate sustainability initiative
At the UN Global Compact, we believe it’s possible to create a sustainable and inclusive global economy that delivers lasting benefits to people, communities and markets. That’s our vision.
To make this happen, the UN Global Compact supports companies to:
1. Do business responsibly by aligning their strategies and operations with Ten Principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption; and
2. Take strategic actions to advance broader societal goals, such as the forthcoming UN Sustainable Development Goals, with an emphasis on collaboration and innovation.
The Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact
Corporate sustainability starts with a company’s value system and a principled approach to doing business. This means operating in ways that, at a minimum, meet fundamental responsibilities in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Responsible businesses enact the same values and principles wherever they have a presence, and know that good practices in one area do not offset harm in another. By incorporating the Global Compact principles into strategies, policies and procedures, and establishing a culture of integrity, companies are not only upholding their basic responsibilities to people and planet, but also setting the stage for long-term success.
The UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles are derived from: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.
Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
Principle 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
Principle 4: the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour;
Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labour; and
Principle 6: the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
Principle 8: undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and
Principle 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
Principle 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.
IPCC Fifth Assessment Report
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) provides a clear and up to date view of the current state of scientific knowledge relevant to climate change. It consists of three Working Group (WG) reports and a Synthesis Report (SYR). Information about how the AR5 was prepared can be found here.
The Synthesis Report distils and integrates the findings of the three working group contributions to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report -- the most comprehensive assessment of climate change yet undertaken, produced by hundreds of scientists -- as well as the two Special Reports produced during this cycle.
The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is the most comprehensive assessment of scientific knowledge on climate change since 2007 when the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) was released. It was released in four parts between September 2013 and November 2014. AR5 is made up of the full reports prepared by the Working Groups (I, II and III) and their Summaries for Policymakers as well as the Synthesis Report.
The AR5 Synthesis Report synthesizes and integrates material contained within the Working Group reports and Special Reports. It is written in a non-technical style suitable for policymakers and addresses a broad range of policy-relevant but policy-neutral questions.
Updated 15 July 2015