Meeting global climate goals requires ambitious, transformational and systemic action. Sustainable infrastructure is at the heart of this opportunity and can deliver cities where we can move, breathe and be productive; resilient systems for power, water and housing that withstand increasingly frequent and severe climate extremes; and ecosystems that are more productive and robust. Mobilizing public and private resources is an essential part of generating the trillions of dollars needed for this sustainable infrastructure.
Climate change is not simply an “environmental” problem. Rising temperatures pose potentially catastrophic risks to people, their livelihoods, and entire cities.
“Moving towards a more responsible and efficient use of natural resources is key, not only to address resource scarcity, wastage, and the associated environmental effects, but also for incentivising innovation and modernisation towards a circular economy. Resource efficiency essentially means doing more with less, as it allows us to create more value using fewer natural resources. This transition can contribute to sustainable economic growth that generates welfare, while limiting harmful impacts on the environment and hence future generations.” Ángel Gurría, Secretary General, OECD (from Preface, Flachenecker & Rentschler, 2018)
The need for more resource efficient and circular economies
High and volatile resource prices, uncertain supply prospects, rising demand, and environmental impacts – various factors are putting increasing pressure on policy makers, researchers, firms, and investors to explore pathways towards sustainable and efficient resource management.
Moreover, rapid technological transitions that are changing our lives for the better are also adding to the challenge. The significant increase in renewable energy technologies such as solar power, the increasing proliferation of electric vehicles, and the rapid increase in smart-phone use are some of the trends that are improving people’s lives. Yet, while these developments are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, they are also driving up demand for critical natural resources.
And yet, while resource efficiency investments could yield both economic and environmental benefits, global resource efficiency has increased by a mere 1% per year over the past three decades. This is insufficient to counterbalance ever increasing resource demand. Even declared champions of the resource efficiency agenda, including the European Union, have yet to deliver on their ambitious goals. Overall, despite high-level attempts to mainstream the resource efficiency agenda, policy measures still lack a coherent, systematic approach and large-scale implementation.
But this has come at a cost. The stress on our planet has been immense. Human beings have dramatically altered the climate, changed the chemistry of the oceans, and triggered mass extinctions. The impact has been so great as to define an entirely new geological era – the Anthropocene, turbo charged by a “great acceleration” of population, economic growth and natural resource consumption since the 1950s.
So what will the world be like for our children? By 2050, the population is projected to top 9 billion. People will probably live better and longer lives. Global GDP will likely triple; natural resource consumption will double. And the effects of climate change–some now inevitable–will be felt more strongly than they are today. Sea levels will be higher, weather more erratic, biodiversity less, and water and natural resources likely scarcer. People who live in poverty will be especially vulnerable to natural disasters, land degradation, water shortages, and shocks in food production.
There is a myth that cooling technology is just for those who live in hot and humid climates. Let me break this illusion. How else do you think we would keep the food fresh and safe to eat? Or create and preserve medicines for people to shield their lives? Even the Internet relies on cooling technology to keep servers in massive data centers from overheating.
Recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) set out clear scientific evidence of what a world impacted by climate change will look like in their Global Warming of 1.5°C report, and the facts are striking: climate impacts in a 2°C warmer world are far greater than with 1.5°C warming.
From the Old Farmer’s Almanac to cutting edge satellite systems, farmers have always been in the market for weather forecasts that help them decide when to plant and harvest to mitigate climate risks. Earlier this month, the 48th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change delivered sobering news: the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR1.5) concluded that climate impacts are already occurring and will be much worse at 2°C than previously projected.
Read the Chinese version of this blog
Blogging from the Commemoration event for the 2018 International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer in Beijing, China.
Have you suffered heat stress this summer? If not, you were lucky. Depending on where you live and how wealthy you are, a sweltering and humid couple of days can either be an opportunity to catch up with paperwork in an air-conditioned room, or they can literally mean the difference between life and death. Too much heat can kill you.
As the Global Environment Facility’s 6th Assembly welcomes over 1,000 delegates and heads of state in Vietnam this week, it seems like a good time to take a step back and consider how we are doing when it comes to environmental action and sustainability.
It is no secret that disruptive “technologies of tomorrow” are now regularly touted as a keystone to addressing a changing climate. A recent study by IFC shows that building on technological innovation, global markets for climate-smart business already exceed US $1 trillion in size in key industries ranging from energy storage and electric vehicles to green buildings and supply chain logistics. By scaling up business models relying on these technologies, developing countries can unlock trillions more in investment opportunities while promoting shared and sustainable economic prosperity.
As I join my colleagues this week in Cape Town (South Africa), to exchange positive experiences on climate resilience at the 2018 Adaptation Futures Conference, I could be somber. The world’s premier knowledge event related to adaptation is taking place in a city coping with its worst drought ever. Signs at the airport, throughout the city and the hotel warn: “Don’t Waste a Drop!”, “Every Drop Counts” or simply “Save Water.”