At recent workshops in Lima and Bogota, Global Footprint Network explored the implications of ecological limits and biocapacity for the global climate negotiations at Copenhagen and beyond. The workshops were part of multi-day seminars on climate change organized by the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership and sponsored by the British Foreign Commonwealth Office.
The discussions looked at carbon in the context of a “peak everything” era in which human pressure on nature is reaching a critical tipping point across a range of natural systems. It described how such a framework could actually provide a strong motivator for action that has heretofore been somewhat lacking from the climate change dialogue. Participants in the two seminars came from all across South America.
At a three-day program in Lima, Senior Associate Steve Goldfinger met with corporate and government representatives to look at Footprint trends and what those will mean for the economy and the marketplace. The session used a “wedge framework” to consider different types of solutions that could help end ecological overshoot. Participants then brainstormed about opportunities for businesses that are early adopters in developing products and services that advance these solutions.
The five-day program in Bogota was designed to encourage regional cooperation among South American governments in addressing climate change. Goldfinger emphasized that in a world grappling with multiple ecological limits, from carbon build-up in the atmosphere to food shortages and biodiversity loss, the system perspective provided by the Ecological Footprint helps ensure that solutions to mitigate climate change don’t simply transfer demand elsewhere in the biosphere. Goldfinger also explained how continued access to and careful management of biocapacity will play an increasingly critical role in a country’s ability to maintain its economy and provide a decent quality of life for its citizens.
Both sessions suggested that, contrary to the current “Wait and see what others do” attitude that has hindered the current climate negotiations, it is in the self-interest of businesses and governments to be early adopters and drive change, rather than be steamrollered by it.
“While Copenhagen is critical, it is in a country’s best interest to act and act soon, regardless of what happens in Copenhagen,” Goldfinger said. “Sometimes Copenhagen is looked at as a burden. I think we helped shift that perspective to: ‘If I want to maintain a robust economy and the well-being of my people, its important to act soon and act aggressively.’”