Co-chairing 2011 WRF Expert Meeting

St. Gallen, March, 2011. The WRF Expert Committee met in St. Gallen, March 10, 2011. The experts discussed various topics and provided their advice about program and speakers and an outreach strategy. The next World Resources Forum will be held in Davos, 19-21 September 2011. Find out everything about it here. Watch the videos of the event.

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Co-chairing 2010 WRF Expert Committee Summit Meeting

St. Gallen, June 2010. The WRF Expert Committee met in St. Gallen, 14-15 June 2010, and discussed lessons learnt from WRF09, as well as the tentative program for WRF11. Five ‘hot topics’ for a call for papers emerged. The beautiful setting of the Swiss Alpes helped to get a far reaching vision. Xaver Edelmann and Bas de Leeuw chaired the meeting.

The clusters which emerged from plenary and working group discussions are:

1.Security of Supply Peak minerals, Scarcity of metals and minerals, Environmental and social burden of resource extraction, Resource extraction and socio-political conflicts, Recycling of important material flows, Secondary resources

2.Growth, Innovation, Decoupling, Efficiency and Sufficiency Supply chain management, Regional and global material flows, Efficiency of processes and manufacturing, Dematerialization, Low Carbon Society, Green economy, Circular economy, Resources and greenhouse gas emissions, Best practice examples and case studies

3.Assessment Methods, Resource Use Indicators and Targets Life cycle analysis, Ecological footprint, Grey energy, Carbon footprint, other Greenhouse-gas-related indicators, Water footprint, Soil-related indicators, Material flow indicators and (per-capita) targets, Standards

4.The Social Dimension of Resources Welfare of countries, New economic approaches beyond growth, Values and lifestyles, Consumer behavior, Social LCA, Sustainability assessment, Sustainable consumption, North/South context, Industrializing countries

5.Communication and Education Information systems, Product information, Youth involvement, Awareness for resource limits and sustainable resource management, Workplace training, Outreach

The next meeting of the Expert Committee will be held early 2011.

Chairing UN Sustainable Consumption and Production Systems Session

New York, 10 May 2010. The ten-year action plan on sustainable consumption and production, coordinated by the UN Marrakech process, needs to ensure equitable consumption and production opportunities. A side-event organised by the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) was held at the occasion of the 18th meeting of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development, moderated by Bas de Leeuw.

Speakers included Jeffrey Barber, Executive Director of the Integrative Strategies Forum, Gail Karlsson, member of the US Citizens Network for Sustainable Development, Uchita de Zoysa, Executive Director of the Sri Lanka based CED, and Chris Soderquist, systems dynamics consultant and trainer.

Read a personal report by Susan Overakker (Sustainable Susan) here.

Calling for systems approach to scarcity in India

New Delhi, March 25, 2010. As part of the Foresight India symposium taking place March 25-26 in New Delhi, Sustainability Institute’s Executive Director Bas de Leeuw will be presenting his text on applying a systems approach to resource scarcity.

In this text, De Leeuw begins by pointing out that through the years an increasing amount of credibility has been given to the issue of resource scarcity. Such scarcity is not only due to quantitative limitations, but also to the constraint location may put on their availability, due to conflicts and security concerns. Though society is far along this growth path, de Leeuw assures us there is still hope. If we put effort into looking at the whole picture, gathering more specific data on the global situation, and demonstrating the consequences of inaction, we can better understand the change we need. This change must be reflected on a global, national, and individual level in order to produce effective, innovative solutions and the legislation to support.

Read the article here.   Reader available here (PDF). Sustainability Institute web coverage here

Sustainability Institute calls for tapping systems thinking potential in UN process

Copenhagen, Denmark, December 8, 2009. Bas de Leeuw, Executive Director of the Dana Meadows Sustainability Institute in the USA pointed to the untapped potential of systems thinking for better achieving the sustainable consumption and production agenda. Individuals need to be empowered to “be the change in the world they want to see”, he said. Bas spoke at an event organized by the Climate Sustainability Platform, an open forum for climate negotiators, sustainability influencers and people from developed and developing countries across the world, moderated by the Sri Lanka based Centre for Environment and Development (CED), organised back to back with the Copenhagen Climate Change talks.

Jeffry Barber, a long time sustainability campaigner from the USA, said that it is the movement of people and their initiatives around the world that will lead the way. Uchita de Zoysa, CED, said it is not ‘development’ that people around the world are asking for, rather ‘happiness for future generations.” The Platform plans to be an active contributor to the upcoming two-years of UN negotiations on an international ten-year framework on Sustainable Consumption and Production, with the first events scheduled for May 2010, New York.

Find the full article here.

Reporting from Egmond’s Eco-Efficiency Conference

Egmond, June 9-11, 2010. Participants of the Third International Conference on Eco-Efficiency, discussed how to ensure that 8 billion people in developed and (former) developing countries can have a good life by 2050. Bas de Leeuw reported live through the Broker Online and at the conference itself.

  1. It was stated that two challenges needed to be fulfilled simultaneously. The environmental challenge is that by 2050 the pressure on the environment needs to be diminished with a factor 2 to 5 (this means that the environmental stress will be reduced with 50-80%). The socio-economic challenge is that by 2050 a 4 fold increase of Global Gross Product (GGP) will be needed to eradicate poverty, have all people live a ‘good life’, having access to basic needs and more.
  2. Meeting both environmental and socio-economic goals means that the world needs to improve its eco-efficiency with a factor of 10 (over 5% per annum). The 5% target is an average figure and will need to be applied to all technologies and product-service systems; those with lower improvement potential will need to be compensated by more progress in others.
  3. This is an unprecedented challenge, but we have 40 years, and the world has seen other drastic changes in the past. It is therefore not impossible.
  4. Improvement of technologies alone will most likely not be sufficient, nor are win-win options, balancing economy and the environment. A decoupling of economic growth from environmental damage is needed, by means of developing and implementing deep eco-innovations: new technology/product-service systems, combined with changing consumer demand and mindsets.
  5. We need to identify opportunities for:
    • influencing consumption volumes, building upon in particular a thorough analysis of the underlying causes for consumption, in conjunction with ongoing (scenario) work on degrowth, and building on demographic trend analyses. Analysis will be required to the impacts of, for instance, shifting from work to leisure in the most developed countries, with corresponding less income, but perhaps compensated by a higher quality of life.
    • influencing consumption patterns and lifestyles. The environmental impacts of such shift need to be analyzed, including reviewing changes in income elasticities of consumption.
    • improving production technologies.
  6. Drivers or incentives to bring about these changes include the use of communication tools (green marketing or advertising, education, awareness raising campaigns), legislation, fundamental redirection of the pricing system and other governmental policies (such as on environment, labor, transport). The involvement of the expertise of psychologists and sociologists was considered very important. Individual consumers should be empowered to become concerned citizens.
  7. Integrating and ‘bringing together’ various related concepts and approaches was considered important for achieving better understanding among researchers. System thinking skills were pointed out. Enabling end-users to get better access to the various information and data tools was considered key for the effectiveness of policies. The “Earthster” program, developed in the USA, was mentioned as an example of open source sharing of LCA data, enabling companies and governments to better know and work with their supply chain.
  8. The Conference did not provide evidence that a 5% eco-efficiency gain per annum would be possible, and recommended further research as on stronger drivers for eco-innovation. Research on the rebound effect was considered to be among the priorities, as well as on consumer behavior, revised market pricing as an instrument for social change, and specific needs and perspectives of developing countries, more in particular on their abilities for achieving eco-innovation, supported by fair technology transfer. A long-list of detailed issues for further research is added to this statement, available at the conference website.
  9. It was suggested to aim for a next conference on how to achieve a 5% eco-efficiency gain through measures such as promoting transport by train, organic catering and reducing waste. The eco-efficiency discussion will be going on, including on the internet, and possibly by organizing back-to-back sessions with existing conferences.
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SI has a new leader

HARTLAND, VT, USA, September 15, 2009  The Sustainability Institute announced today the appointment of Bastiaan “Bas” de Leeuw as their new executive director. Mr. de Leeuw’s move from his current position, leading the United Nations Sustainable Resource Management Program, will help the Institute strengthen its global support program for Climate Change negotiators, its modeling and outreach work addressing other key environmental challenges and its leadership development program, the Donella Meadows Fellowship.

During his 12 years with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Mr. de Leeuw launched various programmes and initiatives, in particular UNEP’s Sustainable Consumption Programme, the Advertising Initiative, YouthXchange, SC.net, the Life Cycle Initiative and the Wuppertal Institute’s Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production. Early on, de Leeuw was instrumental in promoting and designing the UN’s “Marrakech Process”, aimed at building an international ten-year framework of programs on Sustainable Consumption and Production.  Most recently, he played a leading role in developing the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management, a think-tank on global resource use chaired by Dr. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsaecker, with Mr. De Leeuw as Head of the Secretariat.

Regarding his time with UNEP, de Leeuw had this to say, “Throughout my time there, one of the most rewarding aspects was working with a young team of diverse nationalities (Australian, Austrian, Brazilian, Chinese, Dutch, Egyptian, French, German, Italian, Kazakhstani, Kenyan, Korean, Mexican, Norwegian, Peruvian, UK and USA), all eager to make a difference, while respecting various cultures and values. We all learned to have patience and make compromises where necessary for the greater good. The UN’s greatest assets are their junior staff.  I am grateful for that experience and now look forward to working with SI’s dedicated multidisciplinary team of scientists, writers, project managers and trainers, who are currently gearing up for the UN Climate Change Conference [COP15] in Copenhagen.”

Dana Meadows

The Sustainability Institute (SI) and its partners, Ventana Systems and the Sloan School of Management at MIT, have developed a scientifically-grounded system dynamics model (C-ROADS) to help decision makers achieve more effective national and international climate policies.  In partnership with the Global Observatory, C-ROADS will be used to provide real-time analysis of the implications of the Copenhagen summit to global media and to civil society groups lobbying for a strong, science-based agreement. The SI and partners also provide easy-to-use, open-source climate change support tools on the Internet, suitable for schoolteachers as well as technical advisors.

“The current climate crisis demands a global solution: nations must collaborate and they must act fast. National leaders and their negotiators must see clearly how their positions interact strongly with those of other nations, to either facilitate or obstruct the global solution required to avert environmental catastrophe”, said de Leeuw, who will take up his position in November. The December Copenhagen Summit, tasked with agreeing to a framework for climate change mitigation beyond 2012, is only a few months away.

Mr. De Leeuw notes that climate change is not the only pending crisis. “We must also deal with global natural resource scarcity, increasing prices, worsening labor conditions and environmental degradation, all intensified by global interdependence and financial instability. But these challenges also provide opportunities to break old habits and develop better patterns of production and consumption, respecting nature and humanity. We need to find solutions based on the same science-based systems thinking that the world is now applying to climate change.”

To help grapple with these issues, SI’s Donella Meadows Fellowship Program trains sustainability leaders from around the world in systems thinking and organizational learning. Currently, 74 Fellows apply these skills to their high impact work in corporations, government, foundations and civil society organizations in over 16 countries including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and The Netherlands. The Fellows Program reinforces the Institute’s commitment to ensuring that a diversity of voices and experiences will help shape policy at every level, from global to local.

From his 12 years of service at the UNEP, Mr. de Leeuw brings to the SI a wealth of experience in resource management and strong relationships with sustainability leaders around the world in government, non-profits and the private sector. Mr. de Leeuw looks forward to strengthening the connections between his networks and the work of the SI. A January 2010 International Symposium on Sustainability in Mumbai, India, where Mr. de Leeuw is a member of the organizing committee and an invited speaker, will provide an early opportunity to develop those connections, which are so critical in addressing complex international sustainability issues.

The Chair of SI’s Board of Directors, Jeanne Veatch-Bragdon, noted that one of the great strengths Mr. de Leeuw brings to the Institute is the far-reaching network of individuals with whom he’s worked and who speak highly of him, his leadership and his commitment to creating a sustainable future.  “Mr. de Leeuw’s personal mission is closely aligned with that of the Institute.  We are indeed fortunate and look forward to helping him build the Institute’s capacity to impact the momentum of the global movement toward sustainability.”

Press release Sustainability Institute

Facilitating EC Green Week session on resources

Brussels, 3-6 June 2008. Besides the problems of climate change, the scarcity of our planet’s natural resources and pollution, mankind is faced with equally pressing challenges related to production, consumption and waste disposal. Many people are unaware of the speed at which we are using up our natural resources, and that we are producing waste far faster than it can be turned back into a useful resource. Green Week 2008, organised by the European  Commission, took a closer look at the sustainable use of natural resources, focusing on waste management, sustainable consumption and production.

UNEP’s Bas de Leeuw – head of the Resource Panel Secretariat – moderated the June 4 session on identifying priority natural resources. Watch the unedited video of the full session.

Putting a priority on certain natural resources can play an important role in reducing the environmental impacts of resource use. This session focused on the advantages of using one resource over another, such as wood rather than stone to build houses. It also covered a range of related issues including trends in raw material use, price developments, market failures, the development of methodologies and how these elements influence sustainability. 

Speakers were Thomas E. Graedel, Member of the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management and Professor, Industrial Ecology, Yale University,  Phil Dolley, AEA Technology, and Andreas Kunsleben, Effizienz-Agentur – cleaner production in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Bas looks back and forward