A new paper by leading scientists urges governments to act on climate. This paper recommends replacing GDP as a measure of wealth, ending damaging subsidies, and transforming systems of governance to set humanity on a new path to a better future. The scientists warn that the failure to make such changes risk climate, biodiversity and poverty crises that will spawn greater problems worldwide.
On February 20th, 2012, the paper was presented to government ministers from around the world at the UN Environment Programme’s governing council meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.
The new paper was co-authored by 20 past winners of the Blue Planet Prize (which is often called the Nobel Prize for the environment) including Bob Watson, the UK’s chief scientific advisor on environmental issues.
“The current system is broken,” says Watson. “It is driving humanity to a future that is 3-5°C warmer than our species has ever known, and is eliminating the ecology that we depend on for our health, wealth and senses of self.” Watson also presented the paper at the UN meeting in Kenya.
“We cannot assume that technological fixes will come fast enough. Instead we need human solutions. The good news is that they exist but decision makers must be bold and forward thinking to seize them.”
The Blue Planet prize laureates who contributed to the paper are:
- Professor Sir Bob Watson, Chief Scientific Adviser of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
- Lord (Robert) May of Oxford, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government and President of Royal Society of London
- Professor Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University
- Professor Harold Mooney, Stanford University
- Dr Gordon Hisashi Sato, President, Manzanar Project Corporation
- Professor José Goldemberg, secretary for the environment of the State of São Paulo, Brazil and Brazil’s interim Secretary of Environment during the Rio Earth Summit in 1992
- Dr Emil Salim, former Environment Minister of the Republic of Indonesia
- Dr Camilla Toulmin, Director of the International Institute for Environment and Development
- Mr Bunker Roy, Founder of Barefoot College
- Dr Syukuro Manabe, Senior Scientist, Princeton University
- Dr Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director-General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
- Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
- Dr Will Turner, Vice President of Conservation Priorities and Outreach, Conservation International
- Professor Karl-Henrik Robèrt, Blekinge Institute of Technology, Founder of The Natural Step
- Dr James Hansen, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
- Lord (Nicholas) Stern of Brentford, Professor, The London of Economics
- Dr Amory Lovins, Chair and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute
- Dr Gene Likens, Director of the Carey Institute of Ecosystem Studies
- Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and Director-General of the World Health Organization, now Special Envoy on Climate Change for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The paper urges governments to:
- Replace GDP as a measure of wealth with metrics for natural, built, human and social capital — and how they intersect.
- Eliminate subsidies in sectors such as energy, transport and agriculture that create environmental and social costs, which currently go unpaid.
- Tackle overconsumption, and address population pressure by empowering women, improving education and making contraception accessible to all.
- Transform decision making processes to empower marginalised groups, and integrate economic, social and environmental policies instead of having them compete.
- Conserve and value biodiversity and ecosystem services, and create markets for them that can form the basis of green economies.
- Invest in knowledge — both in creating and in sharing it — through research and training that will enable governments, business, and society at large to understand and move towards a sustainable future.
“Sustainable development is not a pipe dream,” says Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development. “It is the destination the world’s accumulated knowledge points us towards, the fair future that will enable us to live with security, peace and opportunities for all. To get there we must transform the ways we manage, share and interact with the environment, and acknowledge that humanity is part of nature not apart from it.”
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “The paper by the Blue Planet laureates will challenge governments and society as a whole to act to limit human-induced climate change, the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in order to ensure food, water energy and human security. I would like to thank Professor Watson and colleagues for eloquently articulating their vision on how key development challenges can be addressed, emphasizing solutions; the policies, technologies and behaviour changes required to grow green economies, generate jobs and lift people out of poverty without pushing the world through planetary boundaries.”
For a copy of the paper please email:
Tetsuro Yasuda (The Asahi Glass Foundation, Japan) firstname.lastname@example.org
Shereen Zorba (UNEP, Kenya) email@example.com
Mike Shanahan (IIED, UK) firstname.lastname@example.org
Patricia Yakabe Malentaqui (Conservation International, USA) email@example.com
© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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