Doing Well in Tough Times

GLOBE-Net - The first item on the agenda for delegates to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global Ministerial Environment Forum last week was Global Crises: National Chaos, a reflection of the fact their meeting was taking place at a time of unprecedented international conditions, where nothing less than the future of the earth is at stake.

The working paper for this discussion outlined a multitude of global environmental and sustainability problems that had worsened over the past 12 months and which collectively posed a challenge to world leaders on a scale never before encountered.

Rapidly rising energy and food prices, global food shortages, scarcities of clean water - problems long in the making - have been exacerbated by a financial crisis the magnitude and duration of which is still unknown. If that were not enough, climate change impacts were compounding already crisis conditions in many parts of the world.

The need to stem the chaos arising from the near collapse of the global banking system has dominated the attention of governments and the international financial community in recent months. However, the economic recovery measures now being developed could bear directly on the resolution of the other environmental and sustainability challenges.

There are two basic truths to keep in mind with respect to the current economic situation: first, it will not last - things will get better; second, the old way of doing things (i.e. the ways that led to this predicament) are not the tools needed to navigate through and beyond our recovery. (Einstein said it best: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”)

What this means with respect to surviving and doing well in hard times is that continued dependence upon ’business as usual’ approaches cannot and must not prevail both during and following our recovery period.

On a global scale, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) predicts that once a business-as-usual growth path resumes: 

  • Global energy demand will rise by 45 per cent by 2030, and the price of oil is expected to rise to US$180 per barrel.
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will increase by 45 per cent by 2030, leading to an increase in the global average temperature up to 6oC.
  • The world economy will sustain losses equivalent to 5-10 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) and poor countries suffer costs in excess of 10 per cent of GDP.
  • Ecological degradation and water scarcity will increase.
  • There will be over 1 billion people living on less than US$1 a day and 3 billion living on less than US$2 a day by 2015.

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