I am looking forward to seeing the research that has been carried out by the WBCSD to attack global issues such as climate change. Such crises require collective efforts in order to be attacked, therefore the sense of community that has been created by this particular organisation by uniting many firms and organisations to address such issues motivates me to get involved and help spread the word in order to make a difference.
The essay I wrote to gain a place on the trip was researching sustainable cities and the effects they have on climate change. One focus of my essay was the Gujurat cities of India, these cities being the most urbanised, it seemed to be a great area to study for my essay (and give me an opportunity to explore specific areas of the country I will be visiting later this year!) I have attached my essay below. Please read and share any thoughts you may have.
“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.”
Action2020 is an organization that sets an agenda for businesses to take action on sustainable development to 2020 and beyond. It outlines nine priority areas to address environmental and social issues. These areas are: climate change; release of nutrient elements; ecosystems; exposure to harmful substances; water; basic needs and rights; skills and employment; sustainable lifestyles; and, food, feed and biofuels. A growing set of business solutions has been developed to combat these (www.action2020.org). This essay will critically evaluate how one business solution contributes to addressing climate change – this solution being sustainable cities.
Sustainable cities are those which use the worlds limited resources sparingly and efficiently to ensure an infinite functioning city. Creating sustainable cities is vital to the development and stability of international economies, societies and social well-being in the future. The Urban Infrastructure Initiative (UII) is a key business solution exercised by the World Business Council of Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to achieve a sustainable world. “UII envisions a world where cities provide a sustainable environment for people to live, work, move and play” (www.wbcsd.org/urban-infrastructure.aspx).
According to the WBCSD urbanization is rapidly increasing especially in developing countries, with more than half the planet’s inhabitants living in urban areas and approximately 3 million people moving into cities every week. For example, it is estimated that around 700 million Indians will live in urban areas by 2050. The aim of the UII is to bring together a variety of companies from various sectors such as energy, buildings, materials etc. to help urban authorities develop realistic, practical and cost-effective sustainability action plans. Businesses are seen as willing to participate in such initiatives as cities are the growth engines of national economies and typically consume 75% of a country’s energy and resources- making cities one of the biggest contributors to climate change and indeed determining the future successes or failures of business. Bearing this in mind, the aim of the UII initiative was to produce a ‘transformation report’ outlining an integrated action plan for the city. This is a public report given to the city in order to support its efforts toward the implementation of a sustainable urban infrastructure. The outcomes of the UII suggest that all cities seeking to realize their sustainability objectives can benefit from engaging with business early in the planning and strategy development process. Early engagement is seen to leverage the capability of business to identify innovative and cost-effective solutions to complex, cross-cutting urban sustainability challenges (www.wbcsd.org/urban-infrastructure.aspx).
The initiative has produced many recommendations for cities, businesses and other organizations to take the agenda forward. For example, cities are to work with businesses as a key stakeholder in sustainability strategy development in the meanwhile businesses are to collaborate with other businesses and professional experts on urban sustainability strategy development.
The UII sent organizations such as Siemens, United technologies and Schneider Electric across 10 different countries to conduct research and highlight the most prominent areas for development in sustainability. One example of this work is that in the Gujarat cities of India. The Gujarat cities are the most urbanized cities in India, and will soon have more people living in cities than villages for the first time in its history. However, rapid urbanization and industrialization has had negative impacts on quality of life and the environment. Inconsistent regulatory measures and enforcement have resulted in unplanned urban development. This has led to poor air and water quality, inadequate wastewater management, intermittent energy supplies and degradation of ecosystems and habitats. The rapid expansion of electricity generation, mostly using coal, has increased greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to localized pollution problems and wider climate change. Urban planning was the ‘umbrella’ under which solutions for energy efficiency and wastewater management were considered. The UII derived Solutions to the problem of energy efficiency in these areas, such as energy efficient lighting, energy awareness campaigns, solar water heating and financing energy efficiency. (www.action2020.org, http://www.wbcsd.org/urban-infrastructure.aspx)
Although the work of the UII is often seen as a positive, international project that aims to create a sustainable world, the extent to which it is successful in this can be questioned. To illustrate, the UII attack issues such as climate change through projects like the energy efficiency changes in the Gujarat cities of India. However, it needs to be questioned whether it possible to measure the outcomes of such projects or in fact climate change at all? Indeed, such initiatives take many years of planning and require heavy financial investment and to not see any impact that this may have on the world may deter businesses in the future from getting involved. In turn, without international business involvement, and large scale solutions being put in place the long term existence and success of the UII and its aims of creating sustainable cities and fighting climate change may be at risk (www.wbcsd.org/leading-energy-companies-join-forces-to-enable-near-doubling-of-renewable-energy.aspx).
Furthermore, in order to attack a global issue such as climate change, global involvement is required. Thus projects such as attacking energy efficiency in India can be seen to not have enough global impact. All cities in all countries, all people in all societies need to inherit the same methods of sustainability solutions such as those of the WBCSD in order to make a real impact in creating a sustainable world. Without this mass involvement, then the work of the WBCSD may not be valued or credited consequently, international involvement in the initiative may not happen resulting in the growth of the UII coming to a standstill (www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-polman/redefining-business-purpo_b_6549956.html).
In conclusion, given the argument presented throughout this essay I would suggest that although the work of Action2020 provides a basis for creating a sustainable world through its 9 priority areas and various business solutions, the scale at which it operates would need to greatly increase to be able to attack global issues such as climate change.
http://www.action2020.org (accessed 20/07/16)
http://www.wbcsd.org/urban-infrastructure.aspx (accessed 19/07/16)
http://www.wbcsd.org/leading-energy-companies-join-forces-to-enable-near-doubling-of-renewable-energy.aspx (accessed 22/07/16)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-polman/redefining-business-purpo_b_6549956.html (accessed 23/07/16)