By David Thorpe
The related extinction and climate crises that are
threatening the survival of life on earth can only be solved by reducing our
ecological footprint – systematically curbing impacts and repairing nature to a
level that sustains us within the planet’s means.
“We are facing a climate catastrophe.” These are not just
the words of tree-hugging Gaia-worshippers. They were said this week by the Legal
& General insurance company, the UK’s largest money manager, which last
year blacklisted many companies for being unsustainable.
“As financial policymakers and prudential supervisors
we cannot ignore the obvious physical risks before our eyes. Climate change is
a global problem,” they said in a statement.
Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, and
Villeroy de Galhau, the governor of the Banque de France, said the same in an article
in the UK Guardian newspaper this week, as they called upon financial
institutions everywhere “to raise the bar to address… climate-related risks
and to “green” the financial system”.
The wave of protests sweeping around cities across the world
Extinction Rebellion – is simply asking for common sense to prevail in the
face of the overwhelming threats facing the planet.
The plain fact is that all money spent
everywhere must now be only spent sustainably: to meet our needs while also
rebuilding & repairing our planet.
Not unlike the immediate French and worldwide response to
the devastation of Notre Dame Cathedral, we must all, especially our leaders,
pledge to take urgent action. Watching this global icon go up in flames has struck
the hearts and souls of people around the world; within a few days almost €1
billion have been pledged to rebuild it.
Rebecca Johnson, a former Greenham Common anti-nuclear
protestor compared this to
the extinction crisis on BBC News: “Imagine millions of Notre Dames,
all over the world, and not just art and history, but full of people, animals,
plants and insects, the biodiversity. That is what the protesters are concerned
that leaders are doing nothing about.”
The movement’s articulate young visionary, Greta Thunberg, told an assembly of European
members of parliament this week: “We need cathedral-like
Here she cries as she laments the rate of extinction of species. “Forget Brexit, tackle climate change,” she tells the MEPs, to a standing ovation. “Our house is falling apart and our leaders need to start acting accordingly and they are not.”
As she was speaking, and all this week, the streets of European
cities are being blocked by Extinction Rebellion protesters, who have pledged
not to stop blocking traffic until their demands are met.
Some city leaders are already responding.
About 100 cities and towns in the UK have already passed
resolutions declaring a climate emergency.
The website climatemobilisation.org
is attempting to keep track of all cities in Switzerland, North America,
Australia and the UK which have done so and has so far logged about 460 of
them, including 18 in Australia, such as Darebin, Yarra, Vincent, Victoria,
Gawler, Mariby, Hawkesbury and Adelaide Hills.
In California, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Richmond, Oakland and
Santa Cruz have also done this, to name but a few.
The question for everybody, is what does a
council do to follow up, having passed the resolution?
To meet the demands of the resolution they have to become
carbon neutral by 2030 at the latest. They also have to include the population
in their decision-making.
This will necessitate action on many fronts.
There is a solution.
towns, regions and cities must become ‘one planet’.
A campaign is beginning to persuade cities, towns and
communities to declare “one
planet” status that allows them to plan and track a path into the
“safe and just space” defined by the
work of Kate Raworth and others,
where the basic needs of citizens are met without damaging the planet.
framework proposed is a way for any town and city to work out how to #MoveTheDate of
Overshoot Day (a measure of unsustainability) to become more and more sustainable
over time using a framework
beginning in my own part of the world with #OnePlanetSwansea,
#OnePlanetCarmarthen and #OnePlanetLlandeilo. Work is underway to tackle
Cardiff, the capital of Wales.
start this process in your own town, wherever you live.
The aim is
to make all cities regenerative, based on circular economies and renewable
energy, to ensure we live within our means. The solutions already exist.
Policies to support them must be based on evidence, not upon ideology, belief
systems or loyalties, because we are all in this together.
has not caught up with the fact that humanity crossed the threshold of “one
planet” living and began living in deficit way back at the beginning of the
1970s. This is why we need data, indicators and a coherent plan to relate our
activities to what the biosphere of our planet can tolerate.
six-step path towards One Planet Cities and communities
- Obtain community buy-in and feedback at all levels
Hold a series of public meetings and online and off-line
consultations to explain the context and aims in order to obtain feedback and
- Decide which standards and objectives to use
These will include a methodology and accounting system and
be applicable to all sectors such as soils, biodiversity, water, energy,
buildings, transport, well-being, etc. They must include ecological
- Set baseline – the current situation
Use data and surveys to ascertain the starting point from
which goals will be set: On the supply side, the productivity of its ecological
(greenspace and water bodies). On the demand side, the ecological
footprint – assets/resources required to produce the natural resources and
services it consumes.
- Set targets for each sector over realistic
A system similar to that applied by the UK Climate Change
Act could be adopted, along with the Global Footprint Network’s Net Present Value Plus (NPV+)
tool to test the results of different scenarios. A set of five year plans
may result, each with a budget and a set of targets. The overall target could
be, say, 30-40 years away, to meet everybody’s basic needs within planetary
limits. Each short-term target will be a step closer to the overall one. Each
sector (biocapacity, water, food, energy, buildings, transport, industry, etc.)
will have its own schedule.
- Set in place ways to measure them
This should be based on what data is easy and
cost-effective to gather, and relate to the baseline situation, chosen metrics
and sector targets. The data should be transparent and publicly available.
Everybody should be able to view the progress being made.
- Ratchet down consumption over one or two
Each five-year plan will have its own evaluation period to
check that all expected benefits are resulting, to share experiences, to
accommodate criticisms, to potentially revise plans, and to celebrate
If a population’s ecological footprint
exceeds the region’s biocapacity, that region runs an ecological deficit.
almost all regions now do. A region in ecological deficit meets demand by
importing, liquidating its own ecological assets (such as overfishing), and/or
emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It must therefore identify the
origins, destinations and impacts of consumption.
then be possible to model the effects of changes of policy and practice towards
a circular economy upon the related biocapacity.
Development Index (a measure of how human needs are being satisfied)
against the ecological footprint over a time period can indicate the direction
agencies at all levels can manage their capital investments in a fiscally
responsible and environmentally sustainable way by using ecological footprint
accounting and the Global Footprint Network’s Net Present Value Plus (NPV+)
traditional net present
value (NPV) formula used by economists adds up revenue and expenditures
over a period of time and discounts those cash flows by the cost of money (an
interest rate), revealing the lifetime value of an investment in present terms.
tool adds to this calculation currently unpriced factors, such as the cost of
environmental degradation, and benefits like ecological resiliency.
All costs and benefits – even those where
no monetary exchange occurs – thereby can be seen as “cash flows”, and can be
evaluated using different future scenarios.
provide a more accurate and useful guidance on the long-term value of the
investment, because it makes reference to the ecological footprint of the
project in question.
ecological footprint can therefore help to identify which issues need to be
addressed most urgently to generate political will and guide policy action. It
can improve understanding of the problems, enable comparisons across regions
and raise stakeholder awareness.
By identifying footprint “hot-spots”,
policymakers can prioritise policies and actions, often in the context of a
broader sustainability policy.
time trends and projections can be used to monitor the short- and longterm
effectiveness of policies.
understanding where the best long-term value is, policies can be oriented
toward better outcomes, building wealth, avoiding stranded assets and leaving a
better legacy for future generations.
2070 can assist with monitoring cities’ carbon footprints of consumption
and production. ISO standards cover
environmental management, energy management and life-cycle analysis to help put
in place procedures for reducing impacts.
same time, all citizens and politicians need to do more to raise awareness
about the issues.
information at http://theoneplanetlife.com/
want support in doing this in your neighbourhood, get in touch.
We can do
this. It just needs a massive, concerted effort.
David Thorpe is the author of the book The ‘One Planet’ Life and the forthcoming book ‘One Planet’ Cities.