The convergence of man-made environmental and economic crises has put us all on notice.
We must ramp up efforts to involve all sectors – civil society, business and government. Otherwise our efforts to nurture anything of social, economic or political importance will fail to bear fruit if all they have to thrive in is a degradet planet.
During the 20th Century the consumption of fossil fuels increased 12 times while production increased 34 times. It is estimated that, bearing in mind the speed in which the natural resources are consumed, by 2050 we might need more than two planets to sustain us.
Our planet’s population is growing at such a rate that sticking to the same economic model we use today is unsustainable. We are 7 billion-plus strong, and the environment is buckling under our weight. We are witnessing widespread glacier melt across Asia and South America where over 1 billion people live. Rainforests are being depleted to the extent of 12-15 million hectares every year. CO2 emissions increased in 2010 to record levels. Over 900 million people are going hungry and a similar number have no access to safe drinking water. Over 1.3 billion people, 20% of the global population, have no access to electric energy, while its consumption in other regions is enormous.
Imagine these numbers in 2030, less than 20 years from now, when the global population will have grown to 8.3 billion, according to United Nations estimates.
But there are great opportunities that can be realised if leaders of business, economy and State support the growing awareness on sustainability in all areas of life. More than ever, a willingness to allow civil society, business and government to seriously work together is needed to promote sustainability in every respect, particularly environmental and economic.
This is where Green Cross must keep playing a critical role as an international platform of dialogue among environmentalists, politicians and businessmen, raising global and national awareness on the issues at hand, particularly the impacts inflicted on humanity and our ecosystems: increasing poverty, environmental-related conflicts, rising temperatures, water scarcity, over-consumption, deforestation, unplanned urbanization.
We must adopt sustainability in every sense: from the energy we use, to the water we drink, the food we eat, the homes we live in, and the environment we cherish. Put in this context, traditional economic models seem moot, antiquated, unjust and, above all else, unsustainable.
To meet these challenges, we must embrace solutions that exist today. Business must change. We need to work more closely with the business sector to help it become more sustainable, because “today’s ecology is tomorrow’s economy”.
And this is happening.
But to be truly effective, use of renewable and alternative energy technologies and measures must grow in the developing world. The South cannot be left behind. If it is, the sustainability of our planet is not possible. Sustaining only half the planet will only throw the world further out of kilter in environmental, security and economic terms.
Since becoming the Chairman of Green Cross International in 2007, I have witnessed great changes globally, within my own country, and even my own business interests.
As a businessman, I am on a special mission to turn words into action and support realistic strategies. I make sure that the investment projects I involved myself in meet the highest standards of environmental protection, social considerations and local conditions. “Sustainability” is no longer regarded as a concept too hard to understand, achieve or implement. It is becoming mainstream.
To maintain and grow this, the world economy must take an entirely new direction. A complete shift of our production, distribution and consumption patterns is required.
This does not mean forgoing economic growth. It means growing economies in ways that sustain and regenerate our environment and societies, based on an ecologically sound economic model that is in tune with our needs and aspirations, and not based on consumption and waste.
This level of change can only be achieved in a new partnership between governments, civil society and business. Market forces alone are not strong enough to achieve such massive transformation. Business needs help from supportive regulatory frameworks to stimulate demand for sustainable new products and services, subject to a change in consumer behaviour patterns.
Green Cross must be at the heart of this drive. We need to keep growing our network, increasing our influence and influencing those who make decisions. I was proud to see in 2011 in my home country of Poland that Green Cross was able to launch its latest fully-fledged national organization. Expansion is essential if we are to achieve our clearly defined and crucial mission: responding to the “nexus” between security, poverty and the environment. In 2012, the Rio+20 UN conference will be held to discuss the issues of green economy and sustainable development. The utmost goal for us is to identify the obstacles, threats and opportunities in promoting the environmental, economic and social directions included in Agenda 21.
And we have every motivation to act. 2013 marks our 20th anniversary, a remarkable milestone that vindicates the aspirations of our founder, President Mikhail Gorbachev, to create a global organization that could respond to the planet’s challenges.
These challenges are great, but they can be met. We must build upon Green Cross International’s achievements and agreed policies, especially those concerning preservation of biological diversity, climate changes, changes to patterns of consumption and production, combating poverty and promoting social and economic development.
In closing, under my Chairmanship at Green Cross International, our objective moving forward will be to advance our work even further, by using existing international and national instruments, to meet today’s great challenges for the betterment of the planet and fellow citizens.