Motivation

Urgency

The overwhelming majority of scientists, and all of the world’s leading scientific bodies, agree that anthropogenic emissions are driving climate change. Despite concerted attention of the international community since the 1990s, global emissions have continued to rise. In its most recent assessment of the science, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) examined a range of emissions scenarios. In the worst case scenario where the rise in greenhouse emissions doesn’t level off until the latter part of the century, the best-estimate temperature rise was 4C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. We are already on track to exceed 2C in the second half of this century.

The world’s population grows by 80 million people every year. As a result the area of land available on the planet to support life is reducing annually. Over the last 100 years the average amount of land available for food, energy, water and materials has fallen from 8 ha per person to 2 ha per person. At the same time the bio-capacity of the planet to support life is being reduced. We live as if this has not happened. A factor 4-5 change in reducing pollution and ecosystems destruction and improving renewable resource productivity is required by 2050.

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Cities and the natural world

The urban environment deserves special attention, both in the developing and developed economies. More than half the world’s population now lives in urban areas. Though cities come in many configurations with vastly different densities and are frequently heralded as efficient, the reality is they have ecological footprints that vastly exceed their geographical area and bio-capacity. Today, 50% of the world lives in cities. Urban centres account for 70-80% of global energy consumption, producing 75% of the world’s carbon emissions and consuming 75% of the world’s natural resources. The UN predicts 70-80% of the world’s population will be city-dwellers by 2050.

At present, we design and manage cities in a piecemeal fashion: resources flow in and out of urban areas, with little recognition or concern about where these come from and where wastes are deposited. This approach is unsustainable.

The eco-city and sustainable city movement is undergoing significant growth. Much focus is on providing the city with smart ICT systems and a lower-carbon built environment. This is not enough. For a city to achieve sustainability, it is necessary first to understand where it stands today in meeting its water, food, energy and economic resource needs. This requires understanding the extent to which it relies on its regional hinterland to meet its needs and the extent to which it draws in resources from a wider geography. TEST’s approach is to provide city-regions with this information on the ‘here and now’ and provide them with the means to explore the potential impacts of future scenarios.

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Transformational change

Incremental development in individual fields of expertise will not deliver the necessary step changes in resource use and the required outcomes for health and wellbeing – for individuals, communities, economies, and the natural and built environments. The radical shifts required can only come from systems innovation and active collaboration across multiple disciplines.

Whilst technology improvements will continue to be attractive, our approach is not to focus on new developments alone. Through a thorough understanding of how human systems and ecosystems interact, we believe great progress can be made to achieving transformative change by using what we know now in a smarter way.

To address the systemic challenges of climate change, resource consumption and urbanisation, we need to adopt a systems-centred approach to designing for an ecological age where a) on average greenhouse gas emissions are 50% of levels in 1990, b) the global ecological footprint is no more than an average of 1.44 GHA per capita and c) with parallel focus on increasing human development index rather than solely upon economic growth.

This represents a factor 4-5 improvement in the way most countries in Europe operate today. Our aim is to demonstrate how this can be achieved at scale by 2030.

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Economics fit for purpose

The natural environment is the basis of our socio-economic system. It provides us with basic goods and services and increases our resilience to climate change and resource scarcity shocks. There can be no economic stability without ecological stability. The planet’s ecology is capable of regeneration and our approach is to make this a priority as part of future development.

Progress in economic and social development during the past century has been achieved through the exploitation of planet’s finite resources and destruction of ecology. Whilst there is growing awareness of the earth’s biophysical limits, we continue to run our economics and businesses with little regard to the natural planetary boundaries we face. We need a ‘deeper economics’ – that values the finite resources we consume, takes account of their impact on ecology and the value of regeneration and defines social development beyond GDP growth.

A key objective of our approach is to ensure our analyses include all of the main aspects that form a ‘city-region metabolism’ to enable our city-region partners to have a deeper insight into the economics of their region. We see this as a transformative step in adopting circular economic models critical to developing future products and services and accelerating the pace at which cradle-to-cradle design principles underpin innovation.

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Communities and Culture

Citizens are often un-empowered and placed outside the critical processes shaping and driving change. Our aim is to ensure that the information and insight we develop in partnership with a region draws on input from across cultural communities and is made available to as wide a section of society as possible through innovative visually rich real-time information. Effective engagement with the region’s community and cultural sectors is central to this.

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Trust and Neutrality

We see a clear need for a new type of NGO with deep multi-disciplinary skills, to act as a neutral catalyst to foster new forms of collaboration between the public and private sectors, and champion new and effective means of involving communities and enlisting their capacities for innovation. The Ecological Sequestration Trust was founded in direct response to this need, to pioneer and apply this urgent new approach to capacity development.

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Commitment to the UN Global Compact

The Ecological Sequestration Trust is a participant in the United Nations Global Compact. This is a global network that brings together business and non-business entities in a shared commitment to ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Its overarching objectives are to mainstream the ten principles in business activities around the world, and to catalyse action in support of broader UN goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

The Trust embraces the Global Compact as a vehicle for collaboration and dissemination of open-source tools and learning within the public, private and charitable sectors as we work to demonstrate the action required to achieve validated low carbon, ecologically sustainable solutions that are economically effective.

The Global Compact website is found at www.unglobalcompact.org.

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