makingit_20_pp6-13_globalforum.qxp_print 16/11/2015 15:28 Page 11
The SDGs offer an opportunity to make a major fundamental global transition to sustainability. Science for the first time ever is offering a sustained partnership for many years to come. And that partnership is grounded in a realization that goals in isolation cannot lead to successful implementation. We need an integrated, knowledge-based transition. What is the biggest obstacle the World in 2050 project faces, and how do you plan to overcome it? The absolutely biggest obstacle is the terribly siloed system we are part of – not as much anymore in science, but at the level of the global governance and institution structures. To really break through that – to convince, for example, the environmental ministry of Country 1 to talk to the minister of water in the same country to produce an investment portfolio for goals 7 (Energy) and 6 (Water) together – that’s a major thing. If we don’t have that transformational change in the institutional and financial governance in this important process of
implementing the development goals, we will terribly misinvest and mistarget. Let’s discover the co-benefits. Let’s show the numbers. We’re sometimes running around like headless chickens, well-meaning but yet forgetting that when you start a half-a-billion [dollar] water project in a sub-Saharan African country, you’re missing out badly because you are not checking at the same time for possible synergies and competition with the water needs of other sectors. This is not a way to do big transitions. As a scientist, what made you want to work at the interface of science and policy? It’s partly a kind of frustration. We see there is much more known than the policymaking process is willing and able to absorb and/or use. We believe we’ve got to make major steps towards a global transition on the climate before it is too late. But we also genuinely believe that we can turn upside down and change the fundamental paradigm, namely, that sustainable and
environmental issues – such as climate change or transitions to a decarbonized world – actually present huge opportunities, as opposed to threats, to economic development. We believe that transitions can actually be economically and socially beneficial, and this needs to be better communicated to the policymakers. What gives you hope? I was in New York for the UN General Assembly and the adoption of the SDGs, and we were part of everything. There were 100 heads of state; I attended a meeting with more than 40 mayors of global leading cities and many other political side events. Then I went to this concert in Central Park with 80,000 people from across the world. Ninety percent of them were of the young generation. The way they responded, the energy that was hanging around there, that gave me the most hope of the whole New York happening, much more than sitting in the assembly with heads of state and shaking hands with them.