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How can the Internet of Things help sustainable development ?

The Internet of Things (“IoT”) is a a proposed development of the Internet comprising a hyper-connected network of everyday objects and is a cornerstone of the “fourth industrial” digital revolution – dubbed “Industry 4.0” by the German government. The connectivity of the IoT is mainly promoted as something which will provide benefits to consumers and business, particularly in cities, though it will also present opportunities for new ways of pursuing sustainable economic development.

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the European glyphosate debate needs reframing

A European Commission decision on whether to relicense – or effectively ban – the use of glyphosate-active ingredient as a herbicide has been delayed until next year following a call from the Netherlands to wait until an independent assessment of the compound’s risks to human health.  The decision is important because glyphosate helps to maintain crop yields being the most widely used herbicide globally – comprising ~ 80 per cent of all herbicides[i], and 2014 seeing nearly a million tonnes applied globally[ii].  This article argues that if a right decision on its use is to be reached, in this instance, the debate should be framed around risks to ecosystems rather than human health.

Continue reading “the European glyphosate debate needs reframing”

Landscapes offer net economic benefits

Management of natural resources is typically pursued through traditional, sector-specific approaches, i.e. agricultural, forest and water management.  New resource management approaches are needed if multiple, competing social and environmental targets are to be reconciled.  Integrated “landscape-scale approaches” provide scope for meeting these competing targets by exploiting inter-sectoral synergies.

Landscape approaches can do this by managing natural resources at broader geographic scales rather than as individual sites.  This provides a wider range of biophysical inputs, processes and outputs, therefore effectively creating a local marketplace of “needs” and “offers” between different neighbouring resource functions.

Continue reading “Landscapes offer net economic benefits”

World’s largest investor acts on climate

The business shift towards understanding and acting on climate risk is well underway – both on climate change itself and the risk of investing in fossil fuels.  The shift has taken a huge step forward recently with the world’s largest investor, Blackrock, having vetoed companies who do not evaluate long-term climate risks.

So what does this mean for the climate agenda?  It means that if companies want to raise finance, grow and ultimately stay in business they have to start reporting on management of their impact on the climate and other environmental and social risk.

Nature: the ultimate business partner?

Urban areas around the world face challenges of population growth to climate change and constraints on access to natural resources.  There are some incredibly simple, low cost solutions to these challenges based on integration of natural components into urban infrastructure – “nature-based solutions“.

The question is why these brilliant solutions are generally being ignored despite their ability to address multiple challenges?  It comes down to incomplete understanding of the long-term net business and economic benefits of pursuing them.

Environmental risk: the new focus for financial models

The decisions behind how banks invest our money are based on evaluation of financial risk.  Some banks are beginning to look at how to integrate social and environmental (“E&S”) risk into their financial models, following recognition of the fact that E&S risk is as tangible as the financial; E&S risk has traditionally been a niche corporate responsibility activity carried out on the sidelines of banking operations to handle public perceptions.

So what does this shift in banking methods mean for individuals, and how can we make informed decisions about banking amidst this shift?  Keep an eye on this post for further details on specific banking initiatives in Europe and worldwide….

Disclosure on company climate impact is not yet a mandatory part of company annual reports but soon will be.  Global systems applied at country scale are needed if climate accounting is to happen.

So what examples can we use to make climate accounting a reality?  The international tax system is probably our best example of a global system applied at country scale; lessons learnt to ensure that companies are held accountable for paying their tax will probably need to be brought to bear if climate accounting is to work.

Preparing for the next food crisis

The food price spike of 2007 saw 44 million driven into food poverty in over 20 countries worldwide from Panama to the Phillipines.  Despite a consistent drop in food prices since the start of this decade, the drivers of the crisis remain unaddressed and have largely intensified – financial speculationpeak production in all key food species and pressures from changes in the natural environment.food_prices

So should we prepare for another food crisis, and if so how?  Speaking at Imperial College, Professor Sir Gordon Conway asserted that another food price spike is inevitable (“the next food crisis, when it happens” – watch @ 19:27 – 20:05), and that countries with the greatest power over food systems will best weather the storm.

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