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WEF Impact Summit highlights need to secure the global commons

September 25, 2018

wef impact summit 2018
“Transformation requires actions from a much broader set of actors beyond governments, only by working together can we safeguard the global commons” Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Sustainable Development Impact Summit in New York

How can leaders propel action to secure the global commons now?  This was the central question for one of the headline sessions, Environmental Stewardship in the Sprint to 2020, at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Sustainable Development Impact Summit in New York this week.

The international community is engaged in a “Sprint to 2020” spanning across multiple environmental agendas that will culminate or have important milestones in 2020 (see below).

Speakers, including Al Gore, former Vice-President of the United States, Johan Rockström, incoming co-Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), explored the challenges and opportunities facing world leaders in driving transformational change to safeguard the global environment, and help meet those milestones. 

Other panelists in the event on September 24, included Leanne Kemp, CEO of Everledger, and David Yeung, Founder, Green Monday.  They addressed how to involve new actors to infuse the disruptive power of innovation, new business models and the 4th Industrial Revolution into the management and governance of the global commons.   While, Luis Alfonso de Alba Góngora, Special Envoy for the 2019 UN Climate Summit, discussed what more the global community can do to achieve the exponential change needed to get on track for a sustainable economy.

Noting the significance of the global environmental agenda making it to the main stage of the WEF’s flagship conference, Naoko Ishiioutlined three reasons for this.

First, she said, “the message from science—that we need to take urgent action— is much better communicated and is reaching decision makers beyond the environmental community.”  Second, she noted, “it is now widely recognized that the needed transformational change in our food, energy and urban systems is not costly, and has huge potential for innovation, business opportunities, job creation and better lives.And, third, “multi-stakeholder coalitions have emerged as an important mechanism to deal with these challenges.”

Transformation requires actions from a much broader set of actors beyond governments”, Ishii said, emphasizing that “only by working together can we safeguard the global commons”.

Last year, Naoko Ishii outlined an economic case for protecting the planet in a TED talk about the global commons.

The second annual Sustainable Development Impact Summit (SDI) was held in New York on 24-25 September to drive solutions for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Developmentand Paris Agreement on climate change. 

More than 750 participants attended the Summit and included entrepreneurs and leaders from business, civil society, non-profit and international organizations, government, policy, science and technology. They represent nations, organizations, civil society and businesses at the forefront of public-private cooperation. 

SDI’s thematic pillars are: building sustainable markets; mobilizing development finance; environmental sustainability; and harnessing science and technology for the global commons.

The Summit, a unique platform, connected and advanced over 100 world-leading coalitions to raise ambition and turn commitments into action on climate change and sustainable development.

Background

The international community is engaged in a “Sprint to 2020” spanning across multiple environmental agendas that will culminate or have important milestones in 2020. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Climate: 2020 is the year countries will present revised plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and get closer to the objective of minimizing global warming to well-below 2°, striving for 1.5°C.
  • Forests: The New York Declaration targets cutting natural forest loss in half by 2020, and striving to end it by 2030;
  • Oceans: The UN Ocean Conference in 2020 will assess progress on SDG targets (and 1400+ commitments made in 2017);
  • Water: SDG6 targets to protect and restore water-related ecosystems by 2020
  • Production and Consumption: SDG12 targets to achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes by 2020;
  • Biodiversity: 2020 is the deadline for meeting Aichi Biodiversity targets. In 2020, COP16 of the Convention on Biodiversity will be held in China, where new targets are expected to be agreed.

Hence, the year 2020 will be a critical milestone in assessing progress and renewing targets for our global commons. The “sprint to 2020” looks at how political, business and civil society leaders can propel an action agenda in an integrated fashion. It is however important to look at this as a take-off rather than an end goal.