I wrote earlier about the vision that is slowly emerging from the WEF. Today I am going to give you an update on some great ‘how to’ ideas that have emerged from the debate.
Over 240 ideas were listed from the various groups and clusters. These ranged from the broad and the complex, to the detailed and bold.
Some of these ideas were as follows
· A new set of world values that animate our deepest principles
· A new world council for children and the young (50% of world population is under 25 years)
· Universal flu vaccinations
· 1/6 of world’s population have daily access to food less than the volume of a small cup, so food for all especially those under 2yrs
· Health and well being index by nation
· Keep our present institutions, but change teir rules of engagement (ie they must adopt world vision)
· A new security agenda
· Nationwide risk index
· Countries to insure against policy risk related to ‘green projects’
· Explanation of the benefits of immigration (both ways)
· Mass communication campaign to galvanise action at community and people
· Regular report on social competitiveness, social innovation, social enterprise
· Centre to promote health and wellbeing ( not just medicine)
· Eliminate all subsidies on fossil fuels (at moment fossil fuels enjoy a $150bn subsidy and renewables only $60bn. In India the government subsidises kerosene to tune of 410bn, thus should be changed to ensure renewables- more democratic)
· Low growth plans to be adopted by all countries and these to be backed up by a comprehensive measurement, reward and verification programme)
· SEFTA – Sustainable energy free trade association where all taxes for green solutions are dropped and all externalities are priced
· Quick start fund for 3 objectives, forestry and biodiversity protection, climate adaption fund, private-public finance of emerging technologies
· Certification for low carbon products to provide consumer choice
I will write more tomorrow about some specific plans for the development of what I see as the most exciting idea - The Green Economy.
I have just returned from the World Economic Forum today and hot from the cauldron of discussion I bring you the latest news.
I have to be honest with you that the news is mixed. Here’s my summary from the opening statements from today’s closing session
Our world is in crisis !; our values are void, risk has become the new norm, certainty has deserted us, our governance inadequate, our institutions has failed us and we are lurch into an age where food, fuel and land is too little and our emissions too great!
And yet out of this cauldron of bad news there is hope and reasons to be optimisitic
The first piece of good news is that I can say at least our governmental, institutional and business leaders are joined in recognising that there is a problem, that it is both systemic and will need extraordinary and visionary leadership and cross nation collaboration to solve.
The second piece of news is that an inlking of a new world vision is emerging. Some of the headlines from the discussions include the following.
· New a Global Architecture for governance and institutions
· Sustainable consumption (less about having and more about being)
· Mobilisation of communities in taking action
· Quantum leap in data sharing and collaboration
· Creation of the ‘Green economy’ powered by renewable energy
· Freedom of information and technology
· Agenda through consensus
· Long term investment into new infrastructure
· New vision for building a sustainable world
· Protection of our biodiversity and forestry
· Food for all
· Fair process, no corruption
I know this is not yet a world vision, but hey we only had 1.5 days! More detail in my next blog.
Larry Elliott writing in the Guardian yesterday reports that Gordon Brown is proposing a worldwide tax on banking transactions (The Torbin Tax) to fund not only the repayment of the debt that the banks have got us all in, but also to fund green technology transfer to help developing nations meet the challenges of a low carbon world.
The issues are real and chilling ( must see video) as reported on 22nd October this year and we are looking at a 4degC rise in world temperatures if we do nothing. Brown’s argument is bold and goes to the heart of the debate and why developing (poorer) nations are losing patience; the richer nations have spent years polluting and they now expect the poorer nations to restrict growth and foot the bill, this they say is unfair!
I find it hard to disagree with their argument, not least because low carbon technologies cost more and given the present financial crisis, poorer nations cannot afford them. It seems only right that we, the richer nations, should share the burden of this cost.
Elliott goes on to argue that the only pragmatic answer is clean coal, given that there is abundant supply of it, and he argues for technology transfer for its implementation. For me this misses the point. Yes coal may be pragmatic, but it is still worse than other solutions and any transfer of technology MUST include demand side reduction solutions both at a unit and city scale. New urban solutions for our growing cities that fundamentally re-look at how we live our lives and how we use energy.
If all we do is feed new development with slightly cleaner solutions, then we end up with the same old problems. We must fix the source of our problem and in parallel with providing solutions.
And so I bring you back to the need for Positive Infrastructure and Planet Positive Solutions both issues that we will debating during my upcoming visit to the WEF in Dubai next week.
Finally, I am beginning to have doubts about where my vote is going next year (UK elections). I was pretty much set on David Cameron and the conservatives, but given his latest bull*%$t on europe and Brown’s strong position and big ideas on issues such as these, I am truly beginning to waiver. My question is that given the enormity of the world problems who will be better placed at solving them; a Conservative governement fighting on the fringes of the EU or Labour from within its heart? - David, for goodness sake, please get your party’s act together or you just might blow it!
What is Positive Infrastructure?
Positive infrastructure may be defined as follows:-
‘Infrastructure solutions that have a net positive impact and support mankind in their movement away from a resource consumptive life-style towards a one that reduces our resource dependency’
The theory looks fine but as I have laid out below, it is much harder to draw the line in practice, for instance;
- New wind farms that displace fossil fuelled power stations
- Waste to energy infrastructure
- Public transport investment
- Infrastructure upgrades including roads and water distribution systems (as long as not rebuilding flawed solutions)
- New communication systems (as long as they do not include energy intensive data centres)
Hard to fit – Positive locally but negative globally
- A new road where a road did not exist before (think of Africa)
- An airport that allows goods to reach isolated areas without the need for new roads
I include a more detailed list of positive examples at the end of this blog, but it quickly becomes clear that a strict definition is extremely difficult and that any definition must take into account regional priorities as well as broader social objectives.
And so it seems that we need a different yard stick that builds on the concept of environmental debt and surplus where a country with surplus may develop new infrastructure that increases net emissions but a country in debt must always take development decisions that decrease its overall eco-footprint. This concept could be taken even further to apply to creation of Planet Positive cities , the subject of my next blog.
I would be interested in your view on my list
My full list of Positive Infrastructure ( with thanks from my colleagues at the WEF)
- Optimizing low carbon logistics
- Optimizing existing Infrastructure
- Retrofitting and upgrading existing buildings., particularly in making them radically more resource efficient. (Residential/ commercial/mixed use etc)
- Improving Healthcare and Education facilities (and making them disaster-proof)
- Enhancing or restoring natural infrastructure such as flood plains, mangrove forests, watershed restoration and aforestation
- Energy efficient and decarbonized energy infrastructure: Renewable Energy sources such as wind parks, sensitive hydropower, utility grids that allow for feed-in and decentralized electricity generation.
- Avoiding new Roads, Airports and traditional Power Plant/ utilities
- Expanding Public/ Mass Transport
- Creating integrated utilities
- Creating sustainable waste management
- Optimizing Urban development (optimal density – about 150 people per hectare, residential/ work/ leisure/ pedestrian)
- Reducing the impact of the Supply Chain (Forest Stewardship Council, Low carbon life cycle material, Carbon positive data centres)
‘We cannot move to a positive future without revolutionizing construction’
During the forum the group had to answer two key questions
What is the impact of Construction on the state of the world and how has the economic crisis impacted this issue? and What should be done to improve the state of the world on Construction?
We started by reminding ourselves of the definition of the construction process; A cyclical activity being Planning – Design – Build – Use – Retrofit – Demolish – Recycle – and back again to planning.
Globally, the construction industry has a significant impact on the world economy, resource uptake and economic performance
- Up to 44% of world GDP
- Affects 40% of the global GHG emissions
- Affects 70% of cities GHG
- Consumes 12% of the world’s water
- Employ’s 10% of the world’s work force
In this context the answers to our questions took on a new importance and in response to the first question we concluded two principle outcomes.
The global financial crisis will have a major impact on the industry
Create a significant slow-down in private sector development and focus attention on short-term horizons.
Initiate a redirection of capital into public infrastructure in an attempt to initiate economic recovery. This must be Positive Infrastructure (i.e., infrastructure that does not lock us into resource consumptive life-styles but reduces our resource dependency)
The first conclusion was unsurprising but should ring alarm bells none the less for it is clear that the present momentum for green needs to be accelerated not slowed down.
The second conclusion is less obvious and provides us both an opportunity to totally rethink how we develop the built envoironemnt but also a massive challenge. How do we ensure governments take the opportunity to develop with the long term ‘positive infrastructure’ in mind rather than going for a short term fix?
It was clear that this process must begin by recognising the difference between good (net positive impact) and bad ( net negative impact ) infrastructure solutions. Our goal should be to encourage investment into Positive Infrastructure Initiatives that improve society and reduce global impact.
And so onto our second challenge - What should be done to improve the state of the world on Construction?
It is clear that the future depends on developing a sustainable vision for urban renewal and growth and that any future must be founded on a revolution within the construction cycle that is integrative and regenerative. Decision makers will need to plan at a macro and micro level, monitor and report against those plans whilst respecting limits and embracing opportunities.
What is needed is a clear set of guiding principles that may be embraced by planners across the world. Our initial thoughts on this were based on biomimicry
1. Enhances the systems of which it is part
2. Runs on clean, renewable energy
3. Recycles and reuses everything
4. Uses only the resources it needs (better than zero carbon - Planet Positive, water neutral)
5. Contributes to biodiversity and food security
6. Celebrates form and function in response to environmental forces
7. Makes the best use of local resources
8. Adapts and evolves with climate, economic and social change
9. Ensures human health and well being
10. Facilitates the effective movement of people and goods
And so we came up with 2 key questions for future debate
- What is positive infrastructure and how can we make sure investments will flow to positive, rather than negative infrastructure projects?
- Is it possible to create a set of guiding and binding principles that can be adopted by government and planners worldwide.
Guy Battle 18.11.08
I have just returned from The World Economic Forum - Summit on the Global Agenda held in Dubai over the weekend.
The WEF identified more than 50 global challenges and put in place over 68 working groups to challenge the existing (& failed?) systems and to develop new and radical strategies to meet the global challenges ahead on finances, climate change and social issues. (www.weforum.org/globalagenda/reports)
At first sight many of the topics being discussed appear to be unrelated but as the global financial melt down has taught us, never has the world been so interconnected; the failure of one part of the network causing significant damage to all parts.
And so it seems that we are faced with a stark question – Do we continue to promote the present interdependence between nations or do we go it alone, erect the walls and try and insulate ourselves from the mistakes by others?
Given the complexity of the raging storms in front of us; climate change, poverty, resource depletion, the choice seems obvious; we must build and strengthen the multiple bonds between us so that when one fails the others compensate and structure stays strong.
A good analogy for this is the tree. A tree is a system that uses its leaves to convert sunshine and its roots to provide nutrients so it can grow. And yet if the tree loses a part of its branch network or a section of its root system it will regenerate and grow back stronger. It is resilient to most things that nature can throw at it.
If the financial crisis has taught us anything, it is that our present operating system is not nearly resilient enough and when one part fails the shocks are too great and the collateral damage too widespread.
In the short term it is obvious that we must repair and reboot the system. As a short term strategy this will get us through the immediate crisis. However, this will not provide a long term solution. It is clear that the present system has not worked and what is really needed is a total system redesign to be based on a new vision of sustainable living.
But before doing so we must all come to terms with one undeniable truth that is; ‘We sink or swim together’.
And so there is a silver lining to our present crisis for it has shown us just how interconnected we all are and how much stronger we all can be by collaborating across borders.
It provides us with a period of relative calm in which we may gather our senses and set our plans for the future. In doing so we must challenge the past in order to reinvent to the future, leverage our interconnectedness in order to build inclusive solutions that are resilient and positive for all – the planet, its ecosystems AND its people.
Guy Battle 11.11.08