You can view here the Press Release on the launch of the new Report to the Club of Rome.
As part of the Club of Rome’s 2052 campaign, we are launching this thought-provoking book by Johan Rockstrom and Anders Wijkman. It has been designated a Report to the Club of Rome as it contributes to the discussion about the need to rethink the way we use resources.
Building on the notion that there are planetary boundaries which we fail to understand, it is part of a growing school of thought that says by eroding the earth’s resource base on which human life depends, current growth models contain the roots of their own destruction.
The book is published by Earthscan/Routledge in November.
It is being launched in Brussels in the European Parliament in December, where the two authors will describe its findings. Click here for the invitation.
It has been reviewed in Nature.
Bankrupting Nature’s 12 key messages
1. Scientific evidence is overwhelming that human pressures on the planet have reached a point that poses major risks for future welfare and prosperity. Science indicates that we are transgressing planetary boundaries that have kept civilization safe for the past 10,000 years. Accelerating human activity is now the most significant driver of global change, propelling the planet into a new geological era, termed the Anthropocene. We can no longer exclude the possibility that our collective actions might trigger tipping points, risking drastic and irreversible consequences for human communities and ecological systems.
2. The sustainability crisis is manifested through social, financial, economic and environmental problems now playing out globally. We are faced with a set of serious challenges, driven by wasteful production and consumption, skewed trading and subsidy systems, and persistent and recurring financial crises. Gross inequities persist between nations, and inequality is on the rise within most countries. Unemployment is endemic and rising, particularly among the young. The financial system is divorced from the real economy and has failed to generate sufficient levels of investment into sustainability.
3. The concept of “planetary boundaries” provides us with a science-based framework that can guide us through the necessary transition to sustainability. We need to adopt a more holistic approach to human development. It is no longer possible to deal with one issue at a time.
Today´s – mostly vertical – approaches might give the impression that there is a significant degree of uncertainty within the scientific community. However, if we put “all our cards on the table” about the global environmental risks, the ‘risk panorama’ is much more obvious. Moreover, the critical interplay between the atmosphere, the oceans and the land-based ecosystems becomes a whole lot clearer. We need to develop a properly integrated, solutions-oriented science for global sustainability.
4. The aim must be to strengthen the planet’s resilience and its ability to continue providing a “safe space” for human development and wellbeing with respect to a number of critical issues, such as climate change, depletion of stratospheric ozone, biodiversity loss, changes in land and freshwater use and interference with nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, air pollution, chemical pollution and ocean acidification.
5. Climate denial can be explained in several ways. In order to counteract the strong vested interests and ideological and cultural barriers we must find new ways of communicating with the public to complement scientific facts and data, and to reach the people who disagree, despite the overwhelmingly-clear scientific evidence about the risks we are facing.
6. The Earth has had a remarkable capacity to buffer the expansion of human activities, allowing continual economic growth despite serious ecological decline. The economy is built on the belief that material consumption can expand indefinitely. However, science tells us that this is not possible given high and increasing pollution levels, collapsing ecosystems, climate change and resource constraints. De-growth is no solution either, as it would mean the collapse of our social, financial and economic systems. The growth dilemma can only be resolved by a thorough discussion about growth´s dilemma and a transformation of our economic system.
7. The short-term nature of both politics and the market system constitutes the greatest obstacle to addressing today’s serious threats to sustainability, as does the tendency to focus on one issue at a time. The financial crisis is not about money alone. To pay back all the debts will require substantial wealth generation, which can only happen with the help of major inputs of energy and materials. Prices for energy and most other commodities are on the increase, which will make the pay-off of debts more difficult. The only logical consequence is to apply a systems perspective – to merge the agendas of economics and finance with the agendas of climate and energy security, ecosystem decline and resource constraints.
8. To change course, priority should be given to the following:
- replacing GDP as the main target of development;
- taking nature into account, by assigning a value to ecosystem services and biodiversity;
- implementing a tax reform: reducing taxes on labour and raising those on resource use;
- removing all environmentally harmful subsidies;
- using public procurement proactively for sustainability objectives;
- rethinking the framework of the financial system in order to control the credit volume;
- obliging financial institutions to report their risk exposure in terms of high carbo investments;
- rethinking both the system of quarterly reporting, and the compensation system for people working in financial institutions, which is currently based on short-term performance ;
- introducing long-term planning by rethinking the system of discounting future values;
- rethinking business models so that revenue is earned through performance and high-quality service rather than simply selling “more stuff”.
9. It has been suggested that ‘decoupling’ the link between economic growth and the use of energy and materials will produce ‘green’ growth. The results have been poor, however, as the gains are frequently eaten up by continued economic growth. A way out of this conundrum is to focus on effectiveness – i. e. doing the right things – rather than on efficiency alone.
The main thrust ought to be for a circular economy, with industrial systems that are efficient and waste-free. Products should be designed for longer use, reuse, disassembly and refurbishment. Materials should be reused and recycled, thus reducing the demand for mining and new manufacturing, while increasing demand for reuse, recycling, maintenance and repair, This would help create jobs at local level.
The circular economy could be promoted through adopting binding targets for resource efficiency, increasing taxes on the use of virgin materials and refocusing research policy on sustainable innovation and design.
10. We need strategies for planetary stewardship. Solutions and policies must pass through a “nine billion filter”, i.e. work for a future population of nine billion people. This means delivering services that offer gains in resource efficiency by a factor of five or more, building a low-carbon and resource-efficient infrastructure, and seek systems-based and transformative solutions.
11. Birth rates continue to be very high in many of the poorest countries. When a country’s population increases by 3-4 % yearly it is extremely difficult to expand public services. In addition, many countries with high population growth also have growing shortages of water and arable land.
It has been claimed that world population growth is not a problem for sustainability, as poor people use fewer resources and have a smaller carbon footprint. This is a very short-term view, as everyone has the right to decent living conditions. It will be easier to reach sustainable solutions if world population can be stabilised, and the main measures to reduce birth rates are education for girls and family-planning.
12. While efforts to improve global governance have had limited success, the world must continue to work for global agreements, as well as working for local solutions, led by individual governments, cities and regions, companies and civil society organizations.
Development cooperation must be closely linked to environmental and climate efforts. Turning the Millennium Development Goals into Sustainable Development Goals, as suggested at the Rio+20 Conference, would be a move in the right direction.