Role of Indigenous Knowledge & Innovation in Water Management

Role of Indigenous Knowledge & Innovation in Water Management

 EcoMENA produced writing on the role of indigenous knowledge in water management that, together with innovation, should always be considered for any space to live, work, and leisure not through far off concepts but local essentials of life itself. Let us see what the author put forward to justify such thoughts.

The picture above is for illustration and is the United Nations University.

Role of Indigenous Knowledge & Innovation in Water Management

  By Ruba Al-Zu’bi 

Our ancestors have created astounding water management systems and applications that helped them combat the harsh climate and scarce natural resources in many parts of this universe. Read on to know how ancient civilizations used indigenous knowledge in water management and how innovation and entrepreneurship can ward off the water crisis facing the entire MENA region.

The Golden Past

Within MENA and since the 4th century BCE, the strongest civilizations made it through arid and semis arid conditions mainly due to their robust water technologies and hydraulic engineering. In the 14th century, the deliberations of the great Tunis-born social scientist and scholar Ibn Khaldun indicated that resilient dynasties were supported by the establishment of cities. He also highlighted the provision of fresh water as one of the few critical requirements for anchoring cities and sustaining civilizations.

The Nabataeans

Petra, a 2,000-year-old capital of the Nabatean Kingdom (South of Jordan nowadays), contains invaluable evidence of such indigenous innovations. Using sophisticated water technology, the Nabataeans were able to ensure a continuous water supply throughout the year and simultaneously mitigate the dangerous effects of flash floods. They focused on the deep understanding of all sources of water available and on adopting techniques to best monitor, harness, maintain, and utilize those resources. They balanced their reservoir water storage capacity with their pipeline system and utilized particle-settling basins to purify water for drinking purposes.

The Nabataeans’ extensive understanding of their constraints and strengths allowed them to create a system that maximized water flow rates while minimizing leakage and supported a prosperous life for many years later.

Oman

Innovation is not about engineering and science only; water markets and decentralized management of water resources are important aspects in times when regulatory bodies and water user associations struggle to master. Oman enjoys one of the most ancient community-based water management schemes that was based on water rights, institutions, and markets.

Water prices were adjusted to respond to changes in demand and supply. Well established water rights, transparent management and allowing for water trading were major contributors to improved management of irrigation water back then.

The Future is Here

While the potential to innovate in the water sector is limitless, it is still underexploited in the MENA region. Information technology, data management, telecommunication, artificial intelligence, and many other tools create opportunities to innovate and contribute to robust water management solutions and to socio-economic development.

In the MENA region, innovation and entrepreneurship have never been as central to development plans as they are today. Creating an enabling environment for tech startups that would attract investment, create jobs, and boost socio-economic development is a common goal across the region.  As far as water is concerned, and despite the strategic significance of the sector, water innovations that could enter the market and find their way within and beyond the region are very few.

Most recently, the trending concepts of green growth and climate-smart solutions are reigniting the spark for more locally anchored water innovations to help alleviate both the economic and social stresses associated with water scarcity and poor management systems. In parallel, impact investing is becoming more popular, and today’s investors are searching for companies with a strong environment, social and governance (ESG) framework to invest in.

If one is to find a positive side for the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be the refocus it brought to local production and self-dependence. Whether in food, energy, or water, availability and affordability cannot be jeopardized. Since 2019, programs targeting innovations and startups in the food security and agri-tech domain have been expanding. Special innovation hubs, accelerators, incubators, and competitions were launched to support the water, energy, and food nexus with a strong link to climate change and social inclusion.

One example is the WE4F MENA Regional Innovation Hub which supports innovators with proven solutions tackling water and/or energy issues in urban or rural food production to scale up through multiple financial and non-financial tools. As such efforts gain more momentum, local needs started to emerge, including up-skilling and knowledge management. Young graduates carry relatively enough theoretical information about a single topic/speciality, yet most of those engineering, science and business graduates lack the practical skills and understanding of the nexus and the interconnectivity between water, food, energy, society, and environment. This led to the design of several upskilling and training programs to bridge the knowledge gap and introduce the young generation to the future.

A promising example of such upskilling modules is the one implemented through a partnership between The Sahara Forest Project and Al Hussein Technical University (HTU) in Jordan. This Upskilling Program for Female Engineers in Agritech and Food Security is being piloted on 30 young females from various Jordanian governorates that got selected based on an open application and preset criteria. The participating trainees are exposed to field training at The Sahara Forest Project in Aqaba, technical lectures and seminars by practitioners, mentorship by female leaders, and inspirational talks by market experts.

The objective of such programs should not be to only help the unemployed youth find jobs but rather to widen their perspective to be able to create opportunities for themselves and for their peers and local communities. Re-anchoring the value of agriculture, water, energy, and nature is by itself a trigger for transformation in the future of work in the MENA region.

Ruba Al-Zu’bi

Ruba Al Zubi is a Sustainability Policy and Governance Advisor/Expert. She is a staunch advocate for policy-enabled action and has gained unique experience in the areas of policy and planning, institutional development, sustainability mainstreaming into economic sectors, donor relations and research and innovation management. She recently served as Advisor to the President for Science Policy and Programme Development, Royal Scientific Society (RSS – Jordan). Prior to that, Ruba led the Scientific Research Department at Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation, served as the first Policy Director at the Ministry of Environment, established and led several departments at the Development and Free Zones Commission, and served as the Chief Executive Officer of EDAMA Association for Energy, Water and Environment. In the nonprofit world, Al Zubi is a Plus Social Good Advisor with the United Nations Foundation and a Founding Member of Jordan Green Building Council. She is a global volunteer, mentor, speaker and blogger. View all posts by Ruba Al-Zu’bi →

Can net-zero carbon emission targets be met

Can net-zero carbon emission targets be met

Can net-zero carbon emission targets be met without crashing the economy? wondered Cornelia Meyer in her article.

Can net-zero carbon emission targets be met

July 09, 2021

  • The campaign for net-zero emissions by 2050 is gaining momentum ahead of COP26 in November
  • Divestment of assets may burnish image of oil companies, but will not lead to desired decarbonization

BERN, Switzerland: Global warming was on the international agenda long before the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change produced the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, widely seen as a landmark for the environmental movement. But it was the Paris Agreement, signed by 196 parties at COP21 in December 2015, that promised to be the game-changer.

The agreement stipulated that any rise in temperatures by the end of the century must be limited to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels. Scientists believe that in order to achieve this the world must reach net-zero emissions by 2050, which necessitates a 45-percent carbon-emissions reduction between 2010 and 2030.

According to the World Resources Institute, 59 countries, which between them are responsible for 54 percent of global emissions, have committed to binding net-zero targets. The UAE is reportedly considering its own net-zero goal by 2050, which would make it the first OPEC state to do so.

Can net-zero carbon emission targets be met

China, the world’s biggest CO2 emitter, has pushed back its net-zero deadline to 2060, as has its neighbor Kazakhstan. Russia and India, together responsible for 11.5 percent of global CO2 emissions, have yet to make any commitment.

There is, nevertheless, considerable momentum ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow this November. The majority of the countries that so far have committed to net-zero targets did so in 2020. The US followed suit in 2021.

Countries and multilateral entities such as the EU have the legislative power to drive change. But if net-zero targets are to be met, civil society plays a significant role.

Greta Thunberg is a case in point. The Swedish activist’s school strikes galvanized young people around the world and influenced the political agenda of many countries. So much so that parties have had to sign up to the green agenda in order to garner votes.

However, it is undeniable that the required changes will permeate every aspect of our lives. Action is needed to eliminate coal-fired power stations; install more renewable energy sources; retrofit buildings; decarbonize cement, plastics, aviation and shipping; expand public transport networks; and shift road traffic to electric vehicles. The list goes on.

Can net-zero carbon emission targets be met
A firefighter battles the flame in a forest on the slopes of the Troodos mountain chain, as a giant fire rages on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, during the night of July 3, 2021. (AFP/Fil

All of the above will require huge investment. Indeed, the US intends to plough a good proportion of its post-pandemic infrastructure spending into green finance.

In the GCC, Saudi Arabia is leading the way with the Saudi and Middle East Green initiatives, which aim to reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent with the help of clean hydrocarbon technologies and by planting 50 billion trees, including 10 billion in the Kingdom.

These steps were recently acknowledged by John Kerry, the US climate envoy, who had high praise for Riyadh’s plan to invest $5 billion in the world’s largest green hydrogen plant in NEOM — the smart city under construction on the Red Sea coast.

The EU’s Green Deal will similarly be financed by €600 billion from its Next Generation pandemic-recovery plan and the European Commission’s seven-year budget. The plan is aggressive in setting out how to decarbonize the economy. Given its environmental dimension, the Green Deal’s carbon border adjustment mechanism has the potential to revolutionize tariffs worldwide.

The price of carbon may also rise by 50 percent to €85 per ton by 2030. This is a step in the right direction, but carbon pricing will only be truly effective if it is applied globally. In which case it can become a mechanism for directing actions and allocating investments.

This is the story for rich nations with the funds and technology needed to implement rapid change. But what about the developing world, which faces significant climate threats but has limited means to adapt?

The Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement and the UN’s Green Initiative obliged wealthy nations to fund climate-adaptation costs in developing countries. The Paris Agreements’ Green Climate Fund, in particular, was groundbreaking in this respect.

However, Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, has had to call on rich nations to meet their $100 billion-a-year pledge to fund mitigation and adaptation measures in developing nations. According to The New York Times, only a third of this sum has actually been met.

FASTFACT

* Net-zero will be achieved when all global greenhouse gases released by humans are counterbalanced by their removal from the atmosphere.

Then there are the private sources of funding behind net-zero initiatives, which are particularly important because finance is a cornerstone of the Paris Agreement, binding as it does global providers of capital into the agenda.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles — the non-financial factors that investors look at when identifying risk and growth opportunities — constitute the fastest-growing asset class in the world. Deloitte expects some 50 percent, or $34.5 trillion, of all professionally managed money in the US will flow into ESG-compatible investments by 2025.

On July 7, Aviva Investors and Fidelity International, alongside another 113 investors overseeing assets worth $4.2 trillion, urged 63 of the world’s global banks to up their game on climate change, including the publication of short-term climate targets compliant with the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s net-zero scenario before annual shareholder meetings.

While this is an encouraging sign, there remain several questions about standards and so-called greenwashing. So far there are no universally agreed ESG standards, although several institutions, including the World Economic Forum (WEF), are working to create their own benchmarks.

Can net-zero carbon emission targets be met
School students hold up placards at a School Strike 4 Climate rally during a mass school strike for climate action in Melbourne on May 21, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)

The drive towards ESG investments channels funds towards green companies and has diminished the investor base for oil, gas and coal.

Most big companies have subscribed to net-zero 2050 targets and many European oil majors have defined themselves for some time now as ‘energy firms’ rather than oil giants, with aggressive plans to shift their activities toward renewables.

While these developments will lead to higher greener-energy production, they can also be misleading. Oil majors increasingly divest assets, which other entities, particularly in the private equity space or national oil companies, snap up on the cheap.

Shuffling the deckchairs might help improve the image of publicly listed oil companies, but it will not necessarily move more carbon out of the system.

The purists, meanwhile, want to defund hydrocarbons altogether. In May, the IEA issued a report, titled “Net Zero by 2050,” which recommended no new investments in upstream oil and gas assets after 2021.

Can net-zero carbon emission targets be met
An employee connects a Volkswagen (VW) ID.3 electric car to a loading station of German carmaker Volkswagen, at the ‘Glassy Manufactory’ (Glaeserne Manufaktur) production site in Dresden. (AFP/File Photo)

It says clean-energy investment needs to triple to $4 trillion by 2030. Although well-intentioned, the proposal is much more feasible for developed countries, which can afford measures like the electrification of road traffic. But in developing countries, where almost 800 million people have no access to electricity, gas is still needed as an affordable transition fuel.

The IEA report also said the new green economy could create 30 million jobs. It was unrealistic, however, when it calculated job losses of 5 million. In some of the world’s developing countries, many more than this number work in the coal sector alone.

Also, many Western governments underestimate the role that carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) will play in decarbonization of the economy. The concept of the circular carbon economy, which will reduce reuse, recycle and remove carbon, and which was endorsed by the G20, could be better appreciated by decision-makers.

Furthermore, nobody has yet compiled a full environmental and economic analysis of the life cycle of various sources of energy. A failure to understand their impact could lead to policy failures and the misallocation of funds.

In all of the above, clear and predictable regulatory frameworks are essential if initiatives are to win the backing of investors. In other words, expect the journey to net-zero to be bumpy, occasionally acrimonious, and not as straightforward as many would like.

————

* Cornelia Meyer is a Ph.D.-level economist with 30 years of experience in investment banking and industry. She is chairperson and CEO of business consultancy Meyer Resources. Twitter: @MeyerResources

Radical improvements are needed to eradicate illiteracy in the region

Radical improvements are needed to eradicate illiteracy in the region

ZAWYA published an article by Sara Al-Mulla on how illiteracy is still the dominant factor in the MENA region. It recommends notably no less than Radical improvements are needed to eradicate illiteracy in the region once and for all.

Radical improvements are needed to eradicate illiteracy in the region once and for all

The picture above is for illustration and is of the Gulf Times.

Radical improvements are needed to eradicate illiteracy in the region
Students learn the alphabet in a classroom of 12 women of different ages all eager to learn to read and write at the literacy centre of Umm al-Hareth secondary school on April 17, 2009 in Amman, Jordan.
Students learn the alphabet in a classroom of 12 women of different ages all eager to learn to read and write at the literacy centre of Umm al-Hareth secondary school on April 17, 2009, in Amman, Jordan. Getty Images By Sara Al-Mulla, Arab News

In today’s world, knowledge is deemed to be the key to progress; spearheading innovations in myriad futuristic sectors, commandeering global competitiveness and empowering people to live high-quality lives. Indeed, the true wealth of any nation lies in its human capital’s ability to thrive.

The Arab region has achieved great strides in the field of education in the past five decades, with the widespread establishment of schools, high enrolment rates and government support for students. Data from the World Bank demonstrates this remarkable progress, as the Arab region has lifted literacy rates from 43 percent in 1973 to 79 percent in 2019. Despite this phenomenal achievement, illiteracy remains a shortcoming in the region. It is estimated that about 50 million adults in the Arab world are illiterate today, limiting their roles as active members of their societies. These figures are aggravated by the 6 million children who have been forced out of school due to conflicts and poverty.

The calamity of illiteracy manifests itself in a number of threats. Without the basic tenets of communication, people could find themselves drastically limited in their life choices and their ability to carry out important daily tasks. For example, illiterate people are unable to examine a medicine label, read a bank statement, skim through the news, calculate a financial investment, understand government policies, or communicate with family and friends via mobile phones or online social networks.

Illiterate parents also tend to have lower expectations with regards to their children’s educational attainment, aggravating generational illiteracy. Dr. Bernadette Dwyer, a professor of literacy studies in education at Dublin City University, made a powerful statement in this regard: “Literacy permeates all areas of life, fundamentally shaping how we learn, work, and socialize. Literacy is essential to informed decision-making, personal empowerment, and community engagement.”

Illiteracy also costs the global economy an estimated $1.19 trillion annually in lost economic productivity, according to the World Literacy Foundation. Globally, illiterate people earn 30 to 42 percent less than those who are literate, severely limiting their capacity to thrive and access important goods and services, such as food, shelter, education, and healthcare services. Furthermore, illiteracy has been linked to unemployment or low-quality jobs, lower lifelong earnings, reduced access to professional development courses, poorer health outcomes, increased crime rates, lower civic participation and community involvement, lower feelings of self-worth, increased isolation, limited retirement savings, and welfare dependency.

In order to tackle the issue of illiteracy in the region, it is imperative that policymakers understand its root causes. Perhaps the greatest barrier to literacy is the rampant poverty rate in certain communities, where children are forced to work to help their families make ends meet. At the same time, low economic productivity in many Arab nations has limited public funding for schools and reduced financial support for families in the form of tuition subsidies and scholarships. Poverty has also worsened gender discrimination in many parts of the region, resulting in limited female enrolment in schools due to early marriage and pregnancy, violence or cultural norms about the role of women.

Additionally, deteriorating safety issues and raging conflicts have, in recent years, resulted in an exodus of children from schools. Another leading cause of illiteracy is the presence of children with learning disabilities or difficulties that go undetected or untreated. Special education is expensive to finance for families on their own, as they would need to pay for diagnostic tests, treatments, dedicated shadow teachers, and special resources.

Research shows that children living in rural areas are more likely to drop out of school compared to children in urban areas, as nearby schools are lacking. Other institutional aspects that undermine children’s ability to learn include unsatisfactory learning environments, overcrowded classrooms, shortages of trained teachers, unengaging school curricula, and insufficient learning resources.

As such, radical improvements are needed to eradicate illiteracy in the region once and for all. It is imperative that household data be captured to elucidate illiteracy rates according to geographical location, age group and gender. Additionally, such research should evaluate the root causes behind illiteracy so that appropriate policies and programs can be formulated to overcome these specific barriers.

Solutions could be designed based on the size of the cohorts, such as the establishment of modern schools to cater for large groups or individualized workshops that are tailored to the needs of small groups of learners. Enrolment can be encouraged by taking on local volunteers who can sign people up or via applications on online portals. Additionally, relevant and engaging educational curricula need to be designed to accommodate local workplace needs, in addition to the hiring of skilled teachers. For participants who are unable to attend school due to work or family responsibilities, one-on-one tutoring sessions could be facilitated on a weekly basis to meet their learning needs.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is the cultural attitude toward education. Nationwide grassroots and media campaigns can play an influential role in highlighting the priceless value of literacy and its beneficial effects on people’s lives, especially among cultures that have contradicting viewpoints on the subject. Furthermore, governments could partner with nonprofit and private sector organizations that dedicate their funds and efforts toward literacy programs.

Nations are today competing against one another in terms of their ability to transform knowledge into economic productivity and high-quality living for their citizens. Literacy is the key for Arab nations if they are to create a new renaissance period.

  • Sara Al-Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with an interest in human development policy and children’s literature. She can be contacted at http://www.amorelicious.com.
A ‘value proposition framework’ for sustainable development

A ‘value proposition framework’ for sustainable development

It’s all about Value. It’s the name of the game. Create it economically; capture it distinctively. So, a ‘value proposition framework’ for sustainable development is put forward here by Green Biz authors.

A ‘value proposition framework’ for sustainable development

By Neil Hawkins & Laura Asiala

A ‘value proposition framework’ for sustainable development
framework concept art

Whatever theoretical economic framework (such as game theory or decision analysis) or business model you want to select, value is at the heart of it. Individuals, organizations businesses and governments act to increase value — also referred to as utility — from their perspectives.

We believe this is a key to understanding the actions of various stakeholders in sustainable development, developing new strategies for making sustainability progress and, most important, for building effective collaborations across and between stakeholders upon which real sustainability rests and relies. 

Collaboration requires a desire for shared value — finding the commonalities in seeking defined outcomes, then working together to increase utility or value propositions for all involved stakeholders. Not everyone needs to like each other or agree on every outcome to build effective collaborations, but they also can’t be at odds. This requires all parties to understand perspectives and find the common ground.

Businesses — with their human, financial and capital wealth — represent an enormous (or potentially enormous) powerful force when it comes to sustainable development. Therefore, we think it critical to understand the value propositions that all businesses face — both danger and opportunity — in terms of sustainability. In the long run, their viability and success also depend upon it.Collaboration requires a desire for shared value — finding the commonalities in seeking defined outcomes, then working together to increase utility or value propositions for all involved stakeholders.

All companies have in common five primary value propositions, although not everyone regards them as a set. Each has a direct connection to sustainability:

  1. Profit
  2. Revenue
  3. Talent
  4. Capital
  5. Collaboration

Growing the bottom line: Profit

It’s the bottom line — revenues minus the costs — that still makes the ultimate business case.

It’s also one of the easiest cases to make for sustainability. A company can increase its profit directly by reducing costs, and for many companies, energy, water and waste costs can be significant.

Reducing these through focused measurement, process improvement and/or specific projects can directly improve the bottom line while also improving the sustainability of the overall enterprise. It is where many companies start their sustainability engagement and with good reason: The economics can be enormous.

Dow Inc., in its first set of 10-year sustainability goals, returned $4 billion to the company on a $1 billion investment in projects. Energy reduction also reduces costs and carbon emissions. Reducing its environmental “footprint” is also often the most immediate way for a company to build credibility for its sustainability efforts. Companies that talk a good game about sustainability but don’t take meaningful action to reduce their own footprint lose credibility and reputation, which hurts them in markets for products and services, talent and investment. 

Growing the top line: Revenue

Revenues grow through increasing market share or successful development of new products and services in response to society’s needs and desires, and it’s clear that sustainability trends have become big drivers.

Tesla is one example of visionary and bold investment in a single, although major, sustainability driver: electrification of mobility. Tesla has been very successful in this regard, but looking across all auto companies, you see the accelerating interest — and new product announcements — to capitalize on this incredibly important driver. (It will be interesting to see if GM and Ford can make the transition to become leaders in the future of electric mobility; we like their chances).

In the water area, companies such as EcoLab have built entire platforms around the management of water, cleaning water and recycling of water. The list goes on, but the key principle here is to identify the trends, invest in R&D and new products and processes, and ride the wave all the way to successful business growth.

Attracting, developing and retaining top talent

Employees are the core of any successful company. Top talent is drawn to — and kept in — companies that are successful in developing and implementing the kind of proactive sustainability strategies for their companies that make a material and purposeful difference.

Very few top students want to join a company whose activities are viewed as making climate change worse or polluting rivers and oceans or harming biodiversity and nature. Sustainability is the new “table stakes” for attracting top talent today.

When Neil was CSO at Dow, Dow attracted thousands of new employees in China from top universities with a “Green Jobs” program where recruits could join Dow to have real sustainability impact in applying their degrees (and Dow’s retention rates for these students was much higher than peer companies). When Laura was director of communication/citizenship at Dow Corning, top students didn’t wait for on-campus recruiting. When the company launched its first Citizen Service Corps, students started calling the company’s media center.

Look at any companies on campus these days and you will see that their efforts in sustainability are featured prominently. What is more interesting is the importance of sustainability to developing and retaining top leadership talent.

Like a customer you don’t want to lose, retaining the most valuable employees is critical. The drivers for hiring new talent are really the same as “rehiring” current employees. Dow very successfully used sustainability experiences — special projects, in-field assignments, academies and simulations — to develop leadership and strategy skills, while integrating sustainability across the company. Many of these future leaders remained because of the skills that Dow invested in for them in sustainability.

A ‘value proposition framework’ for sustainable development
Framework concept art, second version

Attracting and retaining investors

All companies require capital. And the pace of acceleration for consideration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors has increased significantly. Virtually no company can survive and thrive anymore with its investor base without addressing sustainability concerns as an enterprise.

Dow started third-party verified Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) reporting more than 15 years ago, and it learned and grew along the way; it worked with other reporting programs such as CDP as well. In 2020, Dow was named to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI) by S&P Global, the 21st year Dow has achieved this prestigious ranking due to its comprehensive sustainability programs. Dow became much more involved more than five years ago after the Paris climate talks when Michael Bloomberg and Mark Carney appointed Neil (then Dow’s CSO) to join the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, part of the Financial Stability Board.

Dow helped establish the reporting criteria, but beyond that, the experience provided Dow real learning and insight into where banks, financial institutions, insurance companies, bond underwriters and investors were headed. All companies today need to pay careful attention because investors are paying careful attention. One has only to read BlackRock CEO Lawrence Fink’s growing expectations in his annual letter or observe ExxonMobil’s abrupt board member changes to see that the term “activist investor” has been redefined. Times have changed.

Collaborating for mutual success while addressing key challenges

Finding safe places to collaborate to create the healthy ecosystems in which enterprise thrives is critical: supply chains, marketplaces, workforces, communities, industries — no company goes it alone.

Finding safe places to collaborate is neither easy nor simple. Competitors have antitrust concerns. Customers and suppliers have adversarial positions relative to costs. NGOs often have adversarial advocacy positions to individual companies or to whole industry sectors, and governments view their roles as to regulate and tax companies.

All of that adversarial energy can be put to better use if the focus is on more narrow objectives, especially those that involve sustainable development of regions, countries and the world as a whole. There is usually widespread agreement that we cannot regulate or litigate to stop negative trends in nature, public health, social equity and ecosystems, and that if we work together we can accelerate progress. But to do that requires a maturity of perspective on the part of stakeholders that we can agree to disagree on many things, but still find common ground to solve more narrow challenges.Adversarial energy can be put to better use if the focus is on more narrow objectives, especially those that involve sustainable development of regions, countries and the world as a whole.

The collaboration between The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Dow, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, is one such example. Finding ways to incorporate the value of nature inside the company to better inform strategic decisions was of interest to Dow, and TNC was interested in preserving nature. Both saw that valuing the services of nature would help them to meet their respective goals, and they could collaborate with integrity. It set a new standard and example for collaboration, which continues to benefit both organizations, serve as an example to companies and organizations across industries, and preserve and enhance nature, using the power of capital in a way that no mere philanthropic strategy ever could. 

When Dow worked with the University of Michigan to establish the Dow Graduate Sustainability Fellows more than a decade ago, significant faculty concerns were raised about their independence and intellectual academic freedom. Together, the company and the university put in place safeguards in response to those concerns, and hundreds of Dow Sustainability Fellows have benefitted, as have the University and those communities whose projects were addressed and implemented.

Neither example would have occurred without a strong platform for collaborating on sustainability challenges. These collaborations have helped Dow advance its business strategies and helped it learn and grow, positioning the company for future success. At the same time, these stakeholders also thrived. Win-win.

Value propositions for corporate sustainability

What company does not want top- and bottom-line growth? What company does not want top talent in their sector? What company does not want access to capital that is lower cost and more plentiful? And what company does not need platforms to collaborate with their value chain, in their communities and with their governments?

This five-part value proposition framework holds that promise for companies. Nothing short of their survival and growth is at stake today.

But we also believe that the other major stakeholder groups can benefit from understanding this framework for companies, by surfacing new ideas and creating proposals for collaboration that are more sophisticated in understanding the aspirations of their prospective company partners. At the end of the day, we all want to drive more sustainable action and bringing all stakeholders into collaborations will help us accelerate progress. Show comments for this story. 

Securing decent living standards for all while reducing global energy use

Securing decent living standards for all while reducing global energy use

Sciences News published the University of Leeds‘ Securing decent living standards for all while reducing global energy use could good news for those petro economies of the MENA region. Jefim Vogel’s proposed approach to the must-do energy transition might be helpful in that it provides little extra time for its implementation. Anyway, here it is.

The picture above is for illustration and is of Daily News Egypt.

Securing decent living standards for all while reducing global energy use

July 5, 2021

According to new research, fundamental changes in our economies are required to secure decent living standards for all in the struggle against climate breakdown.

Governments need to dramatically improve public services, reduce income disparities, scale back resource extraction, and abandon economic growth in affluent countries, for people around the world to thrive whilst cutting global average energy use in half.

Without such fundamental changes, the study warns, we face an existential dilemma: in our current economic system, the energy savings required to avert catastrophic climate changes might undermine living standards; while the improvements in living standards required to end material poverty would need large increases in energy use, further exacerbating climate breakdown.

CURRENTLY, ALL COUNTRIES WHERE DECENT LIVING STANDARDS ARE MET FOR MOST OF THE POPULATION (BLUE BARS) USE MUCH MORE ENERGY PER PERSON THAN WHAT IS GLOBALLY SUSTAINABLE, I.E…. view more 
CREDIT: VOGEL ET AL. (2021), THE INTERNATIONAL ENERGY AGENCY (2018), GRUBLER ET AL. (2018), IPCC (2018)

The study, led by the University of Leeds and published today (30 June 2021) in Global Environmental Change, examined what policies could enable countries to use less energy whilst providing the whole population with ‘decent living standards’ — conditions that satisfy fundamental human needs for food, water, sanitation, health, education, and livelihoods.

Lead author Jefim Vogel, PhD researcher at Leeds’ Sustainability Research Institute, explained: “Decent living standards are crucial for human well-being, and reducing global energy use is crucial for averting catastrophic climate changes. Truly sustainable development would mean providing decent living standards for everyone at much lower, sustainable energy and resource use levels.

“But in the current economic system, no country in the world accomplishes that — not even close. It appears that our economic system is fundamentally misaligned with the aspirations of sustainable development: it is unfit for the challenges of the 21st century.”

Co-author Professor Julia Steinberger, from the University of Leeds and the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, added: “The problem is that in our current economic system, all countries that achieve decent living standards use much more energy than what can be sustained if we are to avert dangerous climate breakdown.”

By 2050, global energy use needs to be as low as 27 gigajoules (GJ) of final energy per person to reach the aspirations of the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C without relying on speculative future technologies to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That means current global average energy use (55 GJ per person) must be cut in half. In comparison, affluent countries like the UK (81 GJ per person) or Spain (77 GJ per person) need to reduce their average energy use by as much as 65%, France (95 GJ per person) by more than 70%. The most energy-hungry countries like the USA (204 GJ per person) or Canada (232 GJ per person) need to cut by as much as 90%.

However, a major concern is that such profound reductions in energy use might undermine living standards, as currently, only countries with high energy use accomplish decent living standards.

Even the energy-lightest of the countries that achieve decent living standards — spearheaded by Argentina (53 GJ per person), Cyprus (55 GJ per person), and Greece (63 GJ per person) — use at least double the ‘sustainable’ level of 27 GJ per person, and many countries use even much more.

On the other hand, in all countries with energy use levels below 27 GJ per person, large parts of the population currently suffer from precarious living standards — for example, in India (19 GJ per person) and Zambia (23 GJ per person), where at least half the population is deprived of fundamental needs.

It appears that in the current economic system, reducing energy use in affluent countries could undermine living standards, while improving living standards in less affluent countries would require large increases in energy use and thus further exacerbate climate breakdown.

But this is not inevitable, the research team show: fundamental changes in economic and social priorities could resolve this dilemma of sustainable development.

Co-author Dr Daniel O’Neill from Leeds’ School of earth and Environment explained: “Our findings suggest that improving public services could enable countries to provide decent living standards at lower levels of energy use. Governments should offer free and high-quality public services in health, education, and public transport.

“We also found that fairer income distribution is crucial for achieving decent living standards at low energy use. To reduce existing income disparities, governments could raise minimum wages, provide a Universal Basic Income, and introduce a maximum income level. We also need much higher taxes on high incomes and lower taxes on low incomes.”

Another essential factor, the research team found, is affordable and reliable electricity and modern fuels. While this is already near-universal in affluent countries, it still lacks billions of people in lower-income countries, highlighting important infrastructure needs.

Perhaps the most crucial and perhaps the most surprising finding is that economic growth beyond moderate levels of affluence is detrimental for aspirations of sustainable development.

Professor Steinberger explained: “In contrast with wide-spread assumptions, the evidence suggests that decent living standards require neither perpetual economic growth nor high levels of affluence.

“In fact, economic growth in affluent or even moderately affluent countries is detrimental for living standards. And it is also fundamentally unsustainable: economic growth is tied to increases in energy use, and thus makes the energy savings that are required for tackling climate breakdown virtually impossible.”

“Another detrimental factor is the extraction of natural resources such as coal, oil, gas or minerals — these industries need to be scaled back rapidly.”

Lead-author Jefim Vogel concluded: “In short, we need to abandon economic growth in affluent countries, scale back resource extraction, and prioritise public services, basic infrastructures and fair income distributions everywhere.

“With these policies in place, rich countries could slash their energy use and emissions whilst maintaining or even improving living standards, and less affluent countries could achieve decent living standards and end material poverty without needing vast amounts of energy. That’s good news for climate justice, good news for human well-being, good news for poverty eradication, and good news for energy security.

“But we need to be clear that achieving this ultimately requires a broader, more fundamental transformation of our growth-dependent economic system. In my view, the most promising and integral vision for the required transformation is the idea of degrowth — it is an idea whose time has come.”

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