Alice in India

Hey! Alice here and I am one of lucky ten students off to India to work at the World’s Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) representing Lancaster University. During this trip, I will be given the opportunity to participate in the conference of ‘Action2020’, which focuses on nine priority areas and then aims to solve them by implementing business change.

I am just about to go into my second year at Lancaster, and I am a member of the best college on campus, Lonsdale. I study Business Economics and will hopefully be completing an industrial placement in my third year, with any luck in a supply chain or a logistical role, as that is where I believe my strengths lie. The WBCSD seek to build resilience in supply chains and minimise the potential climate change risks, by understanding this, I hope to take it into my future line of work and generate environmentally efficient supply chains. I am currently the President of the Rounder’s Society on campus, after being the Treasurer in my first year. I really enjoy encouraging typically ‘nonathletic students’ (like myself) into a sporting society, promoting a healthy lifestyle and friendly competition. I also really enjoy traveling, and cannot wait to visit Chennai, as it is somewhere completely different to anywhere I have been before.

I have applied to this trip as I believe it will be a fantastic opportunity to work alongside an international, established organisation that promotes social and environmental issues, which are fundamental in today’s society. I hope that by attending this trip I will improve my own understanding, as well as the understanding of others, via social media, of the major international problems we face. I also hope to gain insight into what needs to be done to implement change within businesses so they become more socially and environmentally conscious.

That is all for now, but I am sure you’ll be hearing a lot more from me in the upcoming months. Keep updated with what is going on during the trip by using the blog and the hashtag #LUMSatWBCSD on twitter. My winning essay entry is posted below, enjoy!

Alice Hunt

In Action2020 nine priority areas are outlined to address environmental and social issues; a growing set of business solutions has been developed to combat these. Pick one business solution and critically evaluate how this solution contributes to addressing climate change.

‘Action 2020’ is the desire set out by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) for businesses to be the global force behind solving environmental and social issues facing the world (Wbcsd.org, 2016). Under Action 2020, there are nine priority areas of which the WBSCD focus their attention to; these priorities come with multiple business solutions of how the WBCSD believes business can have an impact upon that specific priority area. During this essay, I will be focusing on one priority area, climate change. Climate change encompasses global warming, which refers to the warming up of the planet, but also includes factors that mean our world is changing such as rising sea levels (Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet, 2016). The business solution I will be focusing on is how businesses can manage the world’s forestry areas and use forest products to create a carbon sink. A carbon sink is described as “anything that absorbs more carbon that it releases” (FERN, 2009) thus helps the global environment to reduce its levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

Climate change is occurring due to human activity, which is gradually increased the concentration of greenhouse gases, such as CO2 in the atmosphere, (Action2020.org, 2016) so by creating more products that are classified as a carbon sinks, such as wood-based products, which could “absorb 50% of global CO2 emissions” (Action2020.org, 2016). Firstly, it is important to analyse how CO2 is measured, to ensure that the facts given by ‘Action2020’ are accurate. A multi-tiered method evaluated by Knauf (2015) and it encompasses three approaches, which include the Kyoto Protocol-oriented approach, the consumer orientated approach and the value creation approach. The Kyoto Protocol-oriented approach looks at one specific area and using emitters it will calculate the overall impact of CO2 when wood-based products are used (Knauf, 2015). The second approach provides a method to “incorporate consumer responsibility” (Knauf, 2015) into analysing the impact of using wood-based products and the effect this has on the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere (Knauf, 2015). The third approach measures how different “forest management and wood usages” (Knauf, 2015) have different impacts upon the level of CO2 (Knauf, 2015). All three of these approaches need to be used together to guarantee that the overall impact on CO2 is measured accurately.

In a study conducted by the US Forest Service, it found out that forestry areas were absorbing 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon each year which is approximately one-third of fossil fuel emission (Kenward, 2016). This study surprised researchers, as they previously believed that the level of absorption was equally weighted between all types of carbon sinks, not just forest and wood-based carbon sinks (Kenward, 2016). This is a strong indicator to the WBCSD that limiting deforestation and implementing better forest management could result in larger forest carbon sinks, thus leading to an increase in the amount of CO2 absorbed. On a global level, the carbon sinks are imperative to the carbon cycle to ensure that greenhouse gases are being absorbed into the trees within the forests. However, on a more local level forestry areas “provide shade, which in turn lowers summer temperatures” (Sinkswatch.org, 2016) therefore limiting the level of global warming within the environment. From looking at the research, I consider it is clear that the business solution put forward by the WBCSD to combat the growing issue of climate change works well on both a global and local level to improve the issue of global warming and climate change.

However, it is important to consider that scientists are uncertain how long those forestry areas can continue to be effective in relation to the increasing levels of CO2. A scientist at the US Forest Service, Richard Birdsey, appreciated the value of forests as carbon sinks, however, is worried, as “they may not stay that way forever” (Kenward, 2016). This because if forest areas or other carbon sinks do not grow at the same pace as the rising in greenhouse gasses, it is estimated that there will be between five and thirty percent more carbon in the atmosphere, assuming carbon sinks continue to absorb at the same rates as they do now (Kenward, 2016). This proposes the problem of whether this business solution is a short-term fix for climate change, or if it can actually be sustained for the long-term future of the environment. A study conducted in North America found that the warming planet is “already is rapidly pushing many forests towards that tipping point” (Phys.org, 2016), whereby there is a continuous loop of detrimental effects caused by temperatures rising. Here, the increasing temperatures cause droughts, which places stress on the trees within the forest. In the short-term the trees can deal with the stressors being placed on it however, over time trees “deplete their resources and are much more susceptible to additional stressors” (Phys.org, 2016) meaning that during the long-term forestry areas could become less efficient as carbon sinks as they experience slowing growth (Phys.org, 2016).

It is also important to consider the trade of which is faced when deciding where to stimulate forestry growth, a large number of studies all show that a consequence of increased forestry areas is a decrease in the water supply (Whitehead, 2011) this puts forward a crucial trade-off to policy makers.

Overall I conclude that there are undisputable advantages to businesses committing to using wood-based products and improving the sustainability of forestry environments, as they are currently the best performing carbon sinks by absorbing approximately one-third of CO2 in the atmosphere. However, there are debates relating to how sustainable this method of ‘cleaning up the atmosphere’ really is. In reality, scientists are unaware of how long forestry areas can continue to keep absorbing the same levels of CO2 in relation the rising levels of human activity that causes the concentration of greenhouse gasses to continue rising. If using the world’s forestry areas causes them to be depleted it would suggest that they would become less efficient at absorbing greenhouse gasses over time. All in all, I think that using forests as a carbon sink is highly effective in the short-term, however, there will need to be advancements in science to improve the longevity of using forestry areas and wood-based products as a carbon sink. Looking to the future of greenhouse gas absorption, I would suggest a plan to be drawn up and signed by all governments and powerful companies. In this plan, they would agree on a global forest management action, as a global problem needs a global solution.

Reference List:
Action2020.org. (2016). Forests & Forest Products as Carbon Sinks ¬ action2020.org. [online] Available at: http://action2020.org/business-solutions/forests-as-carbon-sinks [Accessed 4 Aug. 2016].

Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. (2016). Global Climate Change: Questions (FAQ). [online] Available at: http://climate.nasa.gov/faq/ [Accessed 4 Aug. 2016].

FERN. (2009). What are carbon sinks?. [online] Available at: http://www.fern.org/campaign/carbon-trading/what-are-carbon-sinks [Accessed 4 Aug. 2016].

Kenward, A. (2016). Climate Change May Make Carbon Sinks Less Effective, Studies Say. [online] Climatecentral.org. Available at: http://www.climatecentral.org/news/forests-and-oceans-help-store-carbon-but-are-vulnerable-to-climate-change [Accessed 5 Aug. 2016].

Knauf, M. (2015). ‘A multi-tiered approach for assessing the forestry and wood products industries’ impact on the carbon balance’, Carbon Balance & Management, 10, 1, pp. 1-11, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, [Accessed 6 August 2016].

Phys.org. (2016). North American forests unlikely to save us from climate change, study finds. [online] Available at: http://phys.org/news/2016-07-north-american-forests-climate.html [Accessed 5 Aug. 2016].

Sinkswatch.org. (2016). Climate change: the forest connection | SinksWatch. [online] Available at: http://www.sinkswatch.org/forX.html [Accessed 5 Aug. 2016].

Wbcsd.org. (2016). WBCSD – World Business Council for Sustainable Development. [online] Available at: http://www.wbcsd.org/action2020.aspx [Accessed 4 Aug. 2016].

Whitehead, D 2011, ‘Forests as carbon sinks—benefits and consequences’, Tree Physiology, 31, 9, pp. 893-902, Academic Search Complete [Accessed 6 August 2016].

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