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What comes first : climate change or changing the climate of negociations ?

Reframing 2014, targeting 2024 : The Institute’s 10-year trajectory

Whatever the agendas, crises, conflicts, and controversies today, access to, and re-adjustment of, natural resources according to vital human needs remain the cornerstone conditions in the search for political solutions for most of the global challenges confronting us. As a matter of fact, it is written in the UN 1994 document “Draft principles on Human Rights and the Environment” that « All persons have the right to a secure, healthy and ecologically sound environment. This right and other human rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights, are universal, interdependent and indivisible »
So let us reframe COP21, the 21st conference of the parties on climate change (to be held in Paris in 2015), by establishing the following priorities.

  • 1- Monitoring health : people, society, and ecosystems.
  • 2- Equity in accessing resources for all, while no socio-ecosystemic deficits.
  • 3- Ecological transition : social justice, environmental responsibility, and societal acceptance.

During the last few weeks, our “News section” has focused on issues such as land, peasants, food, health, the commons, demography, science and knowledge.
From this cluster of topics, an “equation” resulted :

Socio-ecosystemic resilience = Health x Food x Education x Environment (HFE2).

The HFE2 abbreviation illustrates the insane geopolitics of social and environmental dumping fuelled by rigid and unequal distribution of power and resources that undermine vital human needs, the highway to poverty. The Lancet-Oslo University report on the political roots of health inequity (see the Lancet-report ; and our commentary) provides a good example because it is a university initiative and shows what the universities should be held accountable for and how this can work in real life.

As Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust said in 2007 :

Universities are indeed accountable. But we in higher education need to seize the initiative in defining what we are accountable for. (…) The essence of a university is that it is uniquely accountable to the past and to the future – not simply or even primarily to the present. (…) A university looks both backwards and forwards in ways that must – that even ought to – conflict with a public’s immediate concerns or demands. (…) We are uncomfortable with efforts to justify these endeavors (…) because they define what has over centuries made us human, not because they can enhance our global competitiveness. We pursue them because they offer us as individuals and as societies a depth and breadth of vision we cannot find in the inevitably myopic present. We pursue them too because just as we need food and shelter to survive, just as we need jobs and seek education to better our lot, so too we as human beings search for meaning. (…) By their nature, universities nurture a culture of restlessness and even unruliness. This lies at the heart of their accountability to the future".

The need to reframe 2014 is straightforward : we expect it to take approximately 10 years to imagine and deliver a systems approach to our current problems in order to face the demographic challenge of 8 billion people and the world’s aggravating socio-ecosystemic deficits and vulnerability.

You can actually see this happening via real-time statistics in one click at :

  1. « Worldfoodclock », as a starter ;
  2. « Global Forest watch » ;
  3. « Worldometers », providing information on a range of indicators (demography, desertification, CO2 emissions, energy, food, health, economy, etc.

For cynical or greedy people there is grandeur in our current way of life : business has never flourished to such an extravagant extent and modelling it in real-time must be extremely exciting.
For others, this demonstration of man’s unbridled power raises a few questions :

  • Why are the health status of people, society, and ecosystems so tightly linked ? On these grounds, how can we best adjust and articulate once for all the organization of society with that of ecosystems (i.e., ensure the human economy stays within the limits and cycles of the biosphere) ?
  • Can we upgrade the resolution of the Millenium Developmental Goals (MDG, essentially health, food, education, environment) through a systemic approach to vital resources in order to ensure that everyone can access them ?
  • Is this approach the most coherent one to address in the best possible way the global and local climate challenge and mitigation ?
  • Why have the climate negociations as such essentially failed ? Let us take a closer look.

As quoted in « Businesses add costs of climate to bottom line » (Executives discovering that the risk of inaction is too great to ignore) by Coral Davenport (International New York Times, Jan 24, 2014), OECD leaders admit that climate change is increasingly costly for the business community because of increasing economic risks. There are reasons to believe that the business community and concerned financial institutions (see the 44th Davos Forum, 2014) can and will find solutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change on their activities. Is the opposite also true ?
At the same time, the World Bank is considering that “global warming (is) the chief contributor to rising global poverty rates and falling GDP in developing nations” (this is a different risk and matches our HFE2 equation). Are those Davos solutions going to ease poverty rates and falling GDPs ? This is unlikely, but research should be engaged on those lines asap because climate change mitigation cannot be separated from the Millenium Developmental Goals.

What, then, is the next most urgent thing ? To integrate the HFE2 equation into all political and economic agendas, starting with COP21, and then to design the tools for implementation. Are various political establishments ready and open to such a strong turn ?
No, they are not. Not when one reads that “the overarching goal of the conference is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius above current levels« ( »Schedule of Events". United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).
And “France is already totally galvanized to ensure that a binding, fair, global climate agreement is reached in Paris in 2015, in order to limit global warming to 2ºC” (see the 21st Conference of the Parties on Climate Change 2015).
It is therefore worth trying to reframe this wishful thinking summit by exploring the surprisingly broad pedagogic virtues of the resource concept.

Meanwhile, we should keep a close eye on the following interwoven « syndromes » displaying adverse socio-ecosystemic effects while hindering the ecological and societal transition process : ecological debt (increasing), competition (blind) and competitiveness / opportunities (fake), intellectual property and lobbying, social and ecological dumping and urbanization.

To keep up with these developments, follow our “News”.

With thanks to Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz and Anne Chemin for their contribution.

Publié ou mis à jour le 22 juin 2014