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Sustainable development in the climate change era From New York… In this interview, Professor Pavel Kabat, Director General of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), argues that science needs to stay as a partner at the policymaking table, crossing disciplines and sectors and synthesizing knowledge to create efficient, sustainable solutions What is special about the way IIASA addresses global grand challenges? Systems thinking – meaning you look into a problem and try to understand the feedbacks, not only across the different scientific disciplines and economic sectors, but also in a global and regional and local context. Then, look into cobenefits and possible synergies, but also conflicts. For example, in 2012 we launched the Global Energy Assessment around the questions: Can we have full energy access by 2030 or 2050 for two billion people? At the same time, can we double the rate of renewables in the energy mix across the world, and in particular regions and countries? And can we double the

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efficiency of energy systems? These are good questions from the energy point of view, but we said, let’s include the 2 °C climate target along with standards for air pollution and health. The study became the first to show that when you work toward these four together – energy, climate, air quality and health – you can save about 40% of the costs, or roughly US$80bn annually. The World in 2050 is a new project aimed at developing integrated, science-based approaches to achieving the just-minted Sustainable Development Goals. How will the project benefit the Sustainable Development Goals? The 17 goals the UN Assembly adopted are all sectoral – there is a goal for energy,

a goal for water – so people will start to compete for investment. Putting together integrated cross-sectoral implementation is one of the most important paradigms behind the World in 2050 project. The whole idea is to prevent the global system from misinvesting again. Let me give you an example. When we put up the energy outlook two years ago, it was based on assumptions that the oil price would remain above US$80 per barrel. What happened two years later? We went down to US$40. You can imagine what happened to the investment packages. Science could have [helped], but science was forced to leave the stage much too early. What we’re proposing here is a long-lasting partnership, where we’ll be able to not only provide the framing of long-term scenarios but also be able to recalculate when environmental or financial or other conditions change. It’s partnership thinking, where science is not prescribing but partnering to help the implementation process.

Shared prosperity. Issue 20