Novelty Needed for Sustainable Development – Resilience 2008

conclusions panel resilience 2008

The Stockholm Resilience Centre has released two press releases on the conclusion of Resilience 2008.

The first Novelty thinking key to sustainable development reports on the concluding panel of the conference in which Elinor Ostrom, Sverker Sörlin, Carole Crumley, Line Gordon and Buzz Holling reflected on the conference, lessons from the past and the answers for the future.

Buzz Holling, considered the father of resilience thinking, called for freedom and flexibility in order to generate multilevel change and novelty thinking. This is needed in a time when several crises are emerging, he said.

- This year a cluster of predicted crises have become aware to the public, such as the rise of food prices due to energy market changes and the collapse of the financial market. We see that small instabilities and risks spread to practically all developed countries in the world. However, globalisation also adds a great positive value because the individual or small groups can have an increasingly global effect, Holling said.

Resilience as an continuance of sustainability thinking
Sverker Sörlin and Carole Crumley both argued that we have moved beyond traditional discussions around sustainability and that resilience thinking is increasingly being embraced as an integrated part of sustainable development thinking.

- Resilience thinking will not replace the sustainability discourse, but we can use resilience to develop sustainability further, Sörlin said. He was followed up by Line Gordon who noted that the key approach with resilience thinking is that although we might have solutions for sustainable development, we will face challenges and we must be prepared for surprises.

“One and one is more than two”
Both Holling and Ostrom praised the quality of the conference and the way art, music and science merged together.

The second, Deep rooted changes needed, reports on the discussion during the policy dialogue involving Anders Wijkman, Maria Wetterstrand, Johan Rockström, Siv Näslund and Bo Ekman. The researchers conclude that:

The pace of climate change seems to have been underestimated by researchers to date. This is compounded by the growing risk of critical threshold effects in the world´s glaciers, forests, soils and seas, which can exacerbate the climate effect. Deep-rooted and overall social, economic and ecological changes are needed. We really need to strengthen the resilience of the world´s societies and ecosystems, says Brian Walker, Director of the international network of scientists Resilience Alliance.

For the first time in the history of mankind, the research community see signs that global environmental changes are seriously threatening the wellbeing of our societies. Climate change, deforestation, soil destruction, declining freshwater resources, loss of biological diversity and depletion of the world´s oceans are acting together in such a way that researchers cannot rule out catastrophic threshold effects, which risk fundamentally altering the living conditions on Earth within a few decades.

- The world is finding itself in a completely new situation. The environmental question has become a development question. Comprehensive changes must occur in politics and administration so that globalisation and growth work together instead of undermining the biosphere, says Carl Folke, Science Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University.

- Since the consequences of climate change and a large proportion of the solution depend on our management of global ecosystems, we propose that the Swedish government – within the EU and the UN – now press for establishment of an equivalent to the IPCC in the form of an International Panel for Ecosystem Services (IPES). This IPES would have the task of following up on the UN report on global ecosystems from 2005, which demonstrated an acute need to slow down the depletion of forests, agricultural land, marine resources and biological diversity with the aim of securing continuing social and economic development, says Anders Wijkman, EU parliamentarian.

The idea is that the IPES would act as a scientific mechanism for delivering information to the governments of the world, in a similar way to the IPCC. Both these panels could be included within the UN environmental programme UNEP and could generate complementary information that ensures that the climate work of the IPCC takes account of threshold effects in nature.

- On the domestic front the Swedish government should set up a new super-ministry with responsibility for sustainable ecological and economic development, directly answerable to the Prime Minister. Signs of such change in the political system already exist with the appointment of a Climate Minister in Denmark and a new Ministry of Climate and Water in Australia”, says Johan Rockström.

The market economy has provided enormous prosperity, particularly in the industrialised countries. However, according to the researchers, it has a serious failing in that the effects of production and consumption on climate and the environment are not captured in the economic model. Now, when these effects pose the most critical problem for continuing development, comprehensive reforms are needed the researchers argue.

- A super-ministry of the type we propose would be a step in the right direction. Finance ministers would thereby have to be subordinate to the framework conditions for economic policy, namely what the atmosphere and ecosystems can bear, says Anders Wijkman.

That we now understand the problem is half the solution the researchers believe. The other half lies in the knowledge and innovative ability that mankind possesses and has demonstrated over history.

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