Transition to a more sustainable society a must, panel hears

The Bled Strategic Forum panel Alone We Fail: Working Together for a Sustainable Future heard calls for a transition to a more sustainable future. Many ways to achieve that are already being tested, but the consensus was that more needed to be done.

The reality of this world clearly demonstrates the need for sustainable development goals commitments, said Dr Janez Potočnik, Co-Chair of the UN International Resource Panel, Partner at SYSTEMIQ and former former European Commissioner for Environment as he outlined the current economic model.

The global population is growing. In one year, the number of people will rise by the population of Germany’s, in four years, you will have additional population of the US, he noted, adding that this meant that the pressure on the resources would be enormous.

“Eight people own the same as the poorest half of the world and the richest 1% is more wealthy than the rest of the world. 800 million people are hungry, over 2 billion suffer from micro-nutrient deficiencies, over 2 billion people are obese,” he said, adding that still »we throw away one third of the food we produce.«

Highlighting some of the most worrying environmental statistics, he said that a million plastic bottles were bought every minute globally.  »Only 9% is recycled and almost 80% still finish in the environment.«

Nearly half of the work we do will be automated by the middle of the century, he stressed.

Comparing the world today with the past, he said that in the past, the world had been dominated by nature, by ecosystems, and the limiting factors of human well-being had been labour and infrastructure, while now natural resources and environmental sinks were the limiting factors.

According to Potočnik, the responsibility for making changes lies with the developed countries. “We are those who need to show that we are able and ready to be more environmentally friendly”. Potočnik also believes that developed countries must set an example and help the countries which are now in the development phase so as to avoid having them repeat some of the mistakes which we have made.

All this is not possible “without seriously changing our behaviour, our economic models.” A more circular economy can reduce EU emissions from materials by 56%. A car share mobility model would reduce CO2 impact of materials by 70%, he illustrated.

H.E. Ms Ohood Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Happiness and Wellbeing at the United Arab Emirates Government, and Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office at the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, said that well-being and happiness of the people was considered the main wealth in her country.

Ms Al Roumi said that in general a country needed a solid vision, supported by the leadership and cascaded to all government entities. Then solutions must be customised, tailored to the specific country and then you need a “strong performance management”, a system to track the delivery and then adjust as you go, she said.   

Mr Harald Neumann, CEO of gaming company Novomatic AG, Austria, said that nowadays it was demanded that companies contribute to sustainability, the environment, had green strategies. “We have implemented in our corporate responsibility strategy five very clear pillars,” he said, listing responsible gaming, 100% compliance with rules and regulations, and a green strategy. »At the end of the day, this is good for business. It’s a win-win situation,« he said.

Hon. Vasantha Senanayake, State Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, said his country had identified certain key issues.

The country has increased renewable energy sources using hydro, solar, wind energy, and decreased other sources, protected environmentally sensitive areas, started recycling plastics, and also banned certain chemicals, fertilisers and pesticides.

A big issue is the human-elephant relation, partly because of the loss of their natural habitat, as the country has the highest number of elephants per square kilometre in the world, he said.

Mr Vasja Bočko, CEO of IT company IRYO, Slovenia, meanwhile stressed that healthcare was on the path of unsustainability. “It’s eating away GDP. We have good healthcare, but soon we won’t be able to afford it.”

IRYO therefore believes that big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning can improve the outcome of healthcare while reducing cost. Bočko sees this as a way to make healthcare sustainable again.

Mr Fawas Farooqui, the National Transformation Program 2020, Director General – Delivery and Rapid Intervention Center, Saudi Arabia listed four components that had been detected as key for the development of the Saudi region.

One is setting the strategies and communicating them, two is going on the ground and make sure that they are being implemented, three is measuring the performance and making sure that we are progressing as planned, and four is communicating this to the people and societies, he said.

He stressed the importance of engaging people, the civil society into the transformation.

Young BSF Representative: Mr Miloš Popović, United Nations Coordination Analyst, Montenegro said the young generation was grateful to the older generation for the results achieved so far, for halving poverty, for HIV not being an issue any more, for exterminating some diseases like malaria, Ebola, and also for acknowledging the problem in the relationship between man and the planet. He stressed that youth was a stakeholder in the implementation of the 2030 agenda.

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