Built Environment and GEO 4, the last wake up call?

In 1987 (sustainable development) was about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland) but now in 2007 – the bill we hand our children may prove impossible to pay (Steiner UNEP)

The GEO4 report, Global Environment Outlook: Environment for Development launched yesterday by the UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programe ) should be read and considered in the context of the contribution that the global built environment has made to our current environmental crisis. (Just under 50% of global carbon emissions, 50% of all UK waste etc, etc- the figures, although varied, have been well documented in many places)

The GEO4 report received much news coverage and hopefully will be the last wake up call we need, and seen as another key milestone in our awareness of what we are doing, along side the Brundtland commision, the Stern Report, Inconvenient Truth etc

From GEO4

“all too often [the response] has been slow and at a pace and scale that fails to respond to or recognise the magnitude of the challenges facing the people and the environment of the planet,” said the environment programme’s executive director Achim Steiner.

“The systematic destruction of the Earth’s natural and nature-based resources has reached a point where the economic viability of economies is being challenged – and where the bill we hand to our children may prove impossible to pay,”

The report said irreversible damage to the world’s climate will be likely unless greenhouse gas emissions drop to below 50% of their 1990 levels before 2050. To reach this level, the richer countries must cut emissions by 60% to 80% by 2050 and developing countries must also make significant reductions, it says.

(see Contraction and Convergence)

The 550-page report took five years to prepare. It was researched and drafted by almost 400 scientists, whose findings were peer-reviewed by 1,000 others.

One of the report’s authors, Joseph Alcamo said that race is on to determine if leaders move fast enough to save the planet. “The question for me, for us perhaps, is whether we’re going to make it to a more slowly changing world or whether we’re going to hit a brick wall in the Earth’s system first,” he said.

“Personally, I think this could be one of the most important races that humanity will ever run.”

Guardian – Environmental failures ‘put humanity at risk’


The Independent – Not an environment scare story

6 thoughts on “Built Environment and GEO 4, the last wake up call?

  1. Blair Anderson

    that the Prime Minister of New Zealand is committed to 100% carbon neutral, 2040.

    This is, in principle, contraction, where the convergence is to zero net emissions. A noble goal. It is not quite C&C (trading) rather a small bubble of self interest in 100% Pure New Zealand. But it is a committed start. IF by 2060, we need to make adjustments, it would surely be a more rational decision to know by then what per capita emissions must look like, than to continue to chance our arm against so many unknowns today. Hence the Precautionary Principle Applies.

    She also said she was ‘all ears’ with what we could do with 1000 years of coal on our back door.

    While it might look largely like cheap advice, “with the right precaution, it could last 5000 years or more.”, the intrinsic value of that statement demonstrates vastly more social capital than extraction to the the very last kilojoule/Megawatt, were it ‘reduced’ to ash.

    There might just be another way…. coal + waste to liquids, with the added value of bio-available carbon suboxides looks the most promising. It requires thinking outside the square but the efficiencies are tangible, thus bankable ‘carbon credit’. But despite an attractive mass-energy balance it still remains in essence a ‘location based’ materials handling problem requiring scalar research and optimisation for seasonal inputs. New Zealand’s R&D capacity is driven by project based investments ‘in the particular science’ required. Follow the money! C&C, ie: socialise the benefits. It is [even of they dont know it yet] ‘the conscience’ behind the emissions trading scheme. (NZ Treasury officials, CHC.)

    When I asked Rt Hon. Helen Clarke PM, yesterday, of her meeting with GBritain’s Gordon Brown PM in C&C London, in CarbonZeroBritain and that she had discussed oportunity for a 100% PURE NZ climate ‘trading’ advisory role, it revealed, she had no idea what in principle or name ‘contraction and convergence’ was. If Joseph Alcamo’s ‘if leaders move fast enough to save the planet.’ is to happen here, Angela Merkel needs to visit the fertile antipodean common ground here.

    Angela? You listening?

    PS: Bring one of those cute BMW EuroIV [bio] diesels over for me. I want to play my part for the global commons too. Soft-top will be fine! I promise to run it only on 100% Pure Kiwi juice and while I’m fixing stuff here. Of course, you’re free to use it while your here and when ever you come back. No-probs. Summer’s good here. Bring a hat.

    The Archbishop’s already C&C here, so “C” I guess we can meet up in Christchurch.
    Its a good place to stand. The South Island is BMW country BTW. I’ve worn out three already. Better bring one for the Anglican Church. It would look cool outside

    (not the Prime Minister) Blair.

    PSS: If the BMW wont fit on the plane, we can AMEX one off of the lot here, don’t worry. Saving the Planet can be just as much fun here.


  2. Blair Anderson

    We cant even keep oil ‘secure’ let alone distribute it fairly. We are collectively too incompetent to be entitled to exploit it. The PS’s are really mocking the ‘buy a new car’ way to save the planet. Everyone seems to want to show they are ‘more’ climate friendly, so mush so its becoming fashionable to appears to be green, while failing to confront the required global social equity (ecology).

    A bit like buying a bikini and still eating the chocolate. (smile)


  3. fairsnape Post author

    Blair – Totally agree – take a look at blog entries here on greenwash! Its like the cycle trainer I bought to improve my fitness – it works by siting in the corner of my study – but as I bought it and told friends I did so – I must be getting fitter!

    By the way would welcome your comments on this article (and its comments) http://www.worldchanging.com/archives//007452.html

    How would you like to guest post on this blog on the current state of the built environment in NZ in relation to the sustainability agenda?


  4. Blair Anderson

    It certainly is a passion of mine and I thank you for asking. I had the experience of seeing the opportunity to make the kind of structural changes to the built environment here in Christchurch however, regretably the opportunity, at least in my home town is now lost. The prme target is in reconfiguring the arteries and what they carry. Our current doubling of expendature on roads ‘based on cars’ is clearly an error. However the approach needs to be much more integrated, and despite some resistance to the concept, social imperatives must drive the endgame.
    Roading support for transitional technologies ‘ie: priority lanes’ and bus guideways is a must but without integrated addressing the movement of goods and general freight, along with commuter and traveler, it fail to optomise the required/desired societal solution.

    We are, ironically, weakest when our self interest is not served.

    I am available for public speaking engagements. Schools also seem to respond very well to the message and the delivery.

    (I will be speaking on Earth Day with a positivist “achievable solutions might look like this” accompanied with some new thinking on carbon.)



  5. Pingback: Have we picked the low hanging fruit of Sustainable Construction? | fairsnape isite

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