The Turkana people in Kenya have a new claim to fame. Rather than being the face of famine in the dustbowls of Africa, they struck oil, and in a big way in 2012.
Despite recent drawbacks, the Eurozone is out of the emergency room after years of trials and tribulations. But the latest report by the European Commission throws some doubt on this assessment. It is clear that the Eurozone has issues to tackle that are beyond the immediate economic collapse of some of its members.
The world’s political and economic elite are gearing up to make the pilgrimage to the World Economic Forum next week. From warnings and criticisms to tongue-in-cheek guides to crashing parties, the sleepy ski resort of Davos is back for its annual outing in the news. For many, it’s just another “important” event, full of people “chasing successful people who want to be seen chasing other successful people”. So why bother – literally and metaphorically – to make the long trek up?
Unless you are an anarchist, you probably appreciate a little bit of state in your life – the collective force that upholds public order, guarantees your personal security and protects your private property. In the 17th century, the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes asked what would happen if individuals were allowed to interact with each other in the absence of a powerful state apparatus, that is in the absence of a Leviathan. He asserted that competition, jealousy and selfishness would lead to a war of all against all, making, in his now famous words, the life of man “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. For generations that have never witnessed civil war, this seems exaggerated, but it serves to illustrate the dangers associated with leaderless political communities. In the future, the global order might be characterized exactly by this absence of leadership. (more…)
Despite beginning the UNEP Switch-Asia Sustainable Consumption and Production conference with big picture, governance- and thematic-related discussions, the focus slowly narrowed in on the development and implementation of SCP strategies during day two. It is no surprise that panelists have all been in support of “implementing” SCP strategies, but what exactly are these policies? United on Improvements But What About Solutions? One of the more interactive discussions occurred when discussing how green financing and government policy making could help encourage more sustainable production practices. While important areas requiring improvement were recognized, the agreement on implementable solutions showed far less consensus amongst the participants.
Forget the G-8, the G-20, the United Nations and all other initiatives of global cooperation – in the emerging global order every nation fights for itself. At the World Economic Forum in Dubai few were as outspoken in the exclusion of the possibility of truly global cooperation as Dr. Ian Bremmer, who argues that it is to the benefit of nobody to close one’s eyes to the volatility, insecurity and humanitarian casualties that arise as ever fewer nations have the capacity and none have the willingness to exercise global leadership. (more…)
The first day of the UNEP Switch-Asia Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) conference kicked off with all the requisite excitement and enthusiasm that all first days of conferences come packaged with, as the 130 government officials, business leaders, and civil society pioneers congregated at the conference hall of the Plaza Athénée Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. (more…)
When we think about international environmental conferences, similar pictures come to our minds: experts flying in to chic venues, abundance of good food and long discussions of impacts that are hard to gauge. Which brings us to the question: do we really need to launch the tradition of another yearly environmental conference in Europe? Dr. Harry Lehmann, who conceived the idea of the European Resources Forum, thinks that the answer is certainly yes. Before heading for the first sessions of the ERF in Berlin, my colleague Tanaka Tabassum and I spoke to Dr Lehmann on his motivation for “another” environmental conference. As well as leading the planning division of the German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA), Dr. Lehmann is a veteran in the field of sustainability policy with an academic background in physics. Clearly, this is not a man who builds castles in the sky.
At the World Resources Forum (WRF) in Beijing, all environmental experts agree on the fact that today we need to take actions to tackle the problem of resources scarcity. Problematic, however, is to pinpoint who should lead the change. Prof. Munashinghe, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner, gives a very pragmatic answer: “ Market share is the key element to understand where governmental policy should focus.” If the market has oligopolistic characteristics, policy actions should focus on the supply side. In an oligopsonic market, the opposite policy maker should take actions on the demand side to make the consumer aware about possible solutions path for the environmental issue. This solution is very important because it give a simple tool for policy maker to focus their strategy on the right market actors and therefore gain in efficiency.
Given that Professor Munasinghe is a man of many disciplines, it is not surprising that our discussion with him was not bounded by any categories. One interesting theme included in our talks with him is the concept of changing values at the very base of our society. Those values ultimately also determine consumption and consequently myriads of environmental problems on all levels. Consumption has traditionally been attributed to the atomistic individual but its root is more grounded in societal value. Thorstein Veblen described this concept with the term “conspicuous consumption” by highlighting that a majority of consumption was driven merely by the need to display social standing and power.
Friday June 22, the last day of the Rio+20 conference. A haze of exhaustion hangs over the media center at RioCentro. At the far end of the auditorium, which houses a mess of cords, cameras, laptops and weary-eyed journalists, a huge screen depicts a live feed of dignitaries delivering carefully prepared statements from the plenary hall. Suddenly laughter fills the press center followed by an uproar of applause. On screen, Bruno Oberle, Director of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, reads the final statement from the Swiss delegation: “Yes, we made progress, but we missed the historical opportunity….” A well-reasoned statement steeped in empiricism, but not one that would ordinarily get a rise out of a tired press corps.
Article is co-written by Tim Lehmann. In the face of global catastrophic climate change, emptying natural resources and worldwide scarcity, the United Nations Environmental Programme needs an upgrade, or so argued Nick Nuttall, United Nations Development Programme (UNEP) spokesperson at Rio+20 (see interview at the bottom). For too long, the environmental and social pillars of sustainable development have tip -toed along behind the economic pillar. The ambition to deliver full sustainable development is still a long way behind reality. One problem is that UNEP lacks universal membership, with only about 30 percent of UN countries involved, which seems to be inappropriate in an era in which we have acknowledged the international scope of environmental problems. Nutall argues that a stronger UNEP will increase capacity to deliver services to the world’s environmental ministers, with a resultant influence on national economic policy and international trade.