December 23, 2012 00:00
By Achara Deboonme
"We live in the world where every 12 seconds, one child died of dirty water and insanitation. CO2 continues to build up. Woods are depleting. We live in the resources-constraint world. There are limits."
The words from Peter Bakker, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), sounded horrible. Yet, it seemed he intended to frighten all, to draw business leaders’ attention and push them towards actions to save the planet.
Participating "SCG Asean Sustainable Development Symposium", Bakker sees the need that the business world revolutionise their business practices given “questionable” progress of what has been agreed at the four global climate conferences since 1970. Under the capitalist world, focus is now placed on financial return, while social return has been ignored. By doing so, business leaders fail to factor in the true cost.
The WBCSD, the CEO-led organisation with 191 members - leading corporations globally including Siam Cement Group and PTT in Thailand which are committed to sustainable development, has set the Vision 2050. In the year, global population will rise to 9 billion. Under the vision, measures are lined up to ensure that the people can live well, and within the planet’s resources. It touches on several critical elements that require particular emphasis if we are to achieve sustainability, including but not limited to energy and power, and mobility.
Bakker shared with over 1,000 attendees at the symposium that the vision starts with individual companies. From some, it would be shared by others in the same business sector. Collaboration would be further forged across other others.
“We must get all the companies to play. When they are buying vehicles, companies should buy fuel-efficient ones. By working together, you’ll find sustainable solutions… People on this planet must collaborate,” he said.
True, companies alone cannot revolutionize capitalism. It needs collaboration from the governments and regulators.
To him, Asia is the hope of the world given the economic growth pace. Yet, companies in this region should think about sustainable development and consider “how will they scale up” actions towards the goal.
Since the creation of the Club of Rome – viewed as the eco-fascist purge to criminalise climate skepticism - in 1970, the world has witnessed depletion of resources. The United Nations stepped in to host the first climate conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. Member countries convened again in 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The latest conference took place in Rio earlier this year. In light of man-made and natural disasters induced by higher temperature, some countries mainly in Europe have adopted measures to reduce carbon emission (CO2).
In November, the World Bank urged stepped-up efforts to meet world carbon reduction goals after looking at what it says would be the catastrophic consequences if average world temperatures rise more than 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.
Under the "doomsday scenario," the World Bank’s study cited the 4 degree increase as a threshold that would likely trigger widespread crop failures and malnutrition and dislocate large numbers of people from land inundated by rising seas.
In Bangkok, Bakker said that when the weather is changing, the economy will be pressured and this could lead to social tensions. The 2-day shutdown of the New York Stock Exchange, as Sandy superstorm hit the city, served as a crucial reminder.
He noted that business knows what they need to do, but they must act now and scale up actions. They are urged to look for technology solutions and engage employees and the general public’s supports. Companies should raise agricultural output through new solutions, resort to renewable energy in desalination to save water resources, and recycle water. Notably, as population is growing, all should cut down consumption. With Vision 2050 as the roadmap for the world, all should join hands towards radical transformation – zero waste and zero carbon.
“Under the vision, the sustainable world is the world with 9 billion population. All are to live well together within the boundaries of the planet…As the population is growing, we cannot continue to use it (resource) the way we use it now…The effort is not yet at the scale enough to save the planet… The only thing we need to ask now is how will we scale up,” he said.
There is a sign that business world has recognised its role, he noted. Over 30,000 business leaders gathered in Rio in 2012, against fewer than 10,000 seen 20 years ago. In the next twenty years, Rio will again host another conference.
“I foresee responsibility of business to come out and reach out to the world to help,” he said.
Vision 2050: Vital moves towards sustainability
Below are some of actions business organisations are expected to put in place within next decade to ensure a steady course towards global sustainability.
- Incorporating the costs of externalities, starting with carbon, ecosystem services and water, into the structure of the marketplace;
- Doubling agricultural output without increasing the amount of land or water used;
- Halting deforestation and increasing yields from planted forests;
- Halving carbon emissions worldwide (based on 2005 levels) by 2050 through a shift to low-carbon energy systems;
- Improved demand-side energy efficiency, and providing universal access to low-carbon mobility.