Hyper-complexity in the management of sustainable projects


Written by Nicol Garzón, Project Manager Coordinator.


The management of sustainable projects in a territory deserves a careful understanding of the complexity of its systems. Multiple interacting systems, composed of different variables and their relationships, converge on the territory, thus defining nodes of hyper-complexity. These nodes can be carefully managed from the collective expertise and ability to recognize the structural variables and asking the right questions before launching a response.

At the different levels of a territory, there are diverse complexities such as social, ecological, geological, edaphological, hydric, and atmospheric complexities, among many others.  These are not simple chapters of environmental impact studies (to give an example) to be presented to environmental authorities; they are a classification that allows us to understand the numerous list of variables that play a part in each territorial system. Additionally, if we add the fact that they are interconnected and are not an exclusive part of a specific classification, we are made aware of the complexity of understanding and working for the territories.

In our industry we have been inclined at different times, to provide simplistic answers for the territory, that spawn from our understanding of urban areas, without pausing to recognize the hyper-complexity of the territory and its issues, and from there, effectively add value to the territory. As humanity, despite the complexity of our thought processes, we usually use filters and lenses that simplify a territory into a handful of variables depending on the interest of the project, given the restrictions of the system: —usually— budget and time.

Faced with this critical scenario of project management in a territory, from an academic standpoint, and with the aim of recognizing the restrictions of entry, as well as the value of the territory, professionals have been investing without fear, in complex solutions for complex situations.

Interdisciplinary studies, a global understanding of projects —with all macro variables and interconnections—, the identification of the structural variables (that lesser number of variables that have an impact on a greater number of variables), and the differentiation between slow variables and fast variables, are usually heavily invested on. This investment is what allows ALLCOT to have a solid, concrete, understanding of the territorial dynamics.

It is in this scenario of a tongue-twisting language, that the purpose of ALLCOT goes beyond the design of environmental projects, by offering complex solutions to complex situations, which connect the territory and its expectations with market requirements.

ALLCOT maintains its focus on the results that add sustainable value to the territories, but recognizes and takes into account the different structural variables according to the territorial dynamics.

To our Project Managers, ALLCOT’s Project management is not a replicable formula; it is a continuous recognition of the uniqueness of each territory, and its challenges, its changing environments, and of high uncertainty. Projects in ALLCOT do not follow a linear logic, but on the contrary respond to the dynamics of change, to the adaptive processes, to the flows of social and ecological resilience and noticeably to market requirements.

Different countries of the world, including governments in Latin America and the Caribbean since 2015, have incorporated sustainable development goals, and the fulfilment of the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in their agendas, which has encouraged development of policies, programmes and projects in the territory, that either end up in a “picture-perfect result”, or go beyond, by adding collective value. It is here where managers who close the gap between policy and management, after investing in crafting the right questions, can make sustainable development projects a reality, by recognizing the limits imposed by nature, and achieving social prosperity, under the understanding of territorial complexities.

Nature’s time bomb


Written by Felipe JiménezClimate Change Mitigation Consultant


Humankind is destroying natural environments at accelerating rates. Deforestation, extensive agriculture, climate change, habitat invasion, biodiversity loss, and wildlife traffic, not only destroy vital ecosystem goods and services for humans but also open the way to zoonotic diseases and contamination of urban centers exposing people to deadly pathogens like the SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the current Covid-19 pandemic. It was a matter of time for this time bomb to explode and cause such a dramatic impact in the world, as a result of environmental overexploitation and biodiversity’s mismanagement. 

Governments, with the help of local and international organizations, have a great opportunity and responsibility to set their countries and the world on a more sustainable path. Currently, policies and subsidies have been structured towards the protection and conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity. Governments have understood the importance of reforming subsidies that are harmful to nature and introducing the payment of taxes for those activities involved in environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. The encouragement and promotion of effective nature-based projects and the strengthening of environmental monitoring and regulation procedures are being backed up by the governments and private sector initiative of creating more nature-based jobs. This in turn boosts up the economy and supports recovery processes within the ecosystems, promoting biodiversity’s conservation and restoration.

In addition to these actions, governments all around the world have banned wildlife traffic and taken precautionary measures to ensure food security and healthy consumption. In the same way, society leaders have conducted educational campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of establishing more sustainable alternative activities and confronting the problem through green investment and reinforcement of a more environmentally friendly economy and market. 

Given the current situation, ALLCOT has a clear vision of its role in enhancing practices for the promotion of a resilient and well-functioning ecosystem. As a leader in the formulation of sustainable and climate change mitigation projects, ALLCOT supports the conservation of ecosystems and thus, the protection of biodiversity. Through the projects focused on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, ALLCOT tackles deforestation and forest fragmentation restoring biological corridors and protecting flora and fauna species, especially those key species considered vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered due to their role as environmental indicators of a healthy ecosystem. Together with the mitigation and climate action scheme, ALLCOT develops a variety of sustainable initiatives around renewable energy, energy and resource management, and waste management. Through these series of projects, the organization conducts a qualitative evaluation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that could be positively impacted by the project’s activities and is currently working on a methodology that will allow monitoring this impact.

Among the activities that support the implementation of these programs, the projects include educational campaigns towards wildlife traffic, the correct resource, and environmental management, finance administration, governance, social leadership, etc. Additionally, supporting the previous idea of the encouragement and promotion of nature-based projects, ALLCOT develops well-structured plans that involve local community participation which gives them the opportunity to establish and learn about sustainable alternative activities and businesses.

 We must realize that when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life. Resources overexploitation, plastic pollution, overfishing, and the contamination of water sources are some additional critical issues that humankind must confront through the alignment of sustainable initiatives and actions. The formulation of such nature-based projects must receive clear support from the government and the private sector. These investments and subsidies will create a more resilient economy and will also tackle social problems such as poverty and hunger. Allcot’s contribution to the conformation and realization of these projects highlights the strong commitment that the organization has with the Paris Agreement objectives and the 2030 Agenda goals.

The SDG index, a Tool for a more Accurate Monitoring of Sustainable Development in Latin America


Written by Andrés Melendro, Sustainability Manager


Last Wednesday, June 16th, the Center for Sustainable Development for Latin America (CODS) launched its SDG Index: a measure of the progress of Latin American and Caribbean countries towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report highlights that, overall, the region is not meeting the goals set forth in the 2030 Agenda, and that the health and economic crisis linked to the COVID-19 pandemic also represents a considerable setback in most of the SDGs. If the current trend continues, the goals set in 2015 would not materialize even on a 50-year horizon.

SDG 13, Climate Action, stands out as an exception because widespread quarantines and restrictions on production have led to a considerable drop in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, the rebound effect is foreseeable since the reduction is circumstantial. In particular, it is possible that the interest of investing in sustainable projects and green technologies gets delayed by the haste to reactivate or protect sectors of greater importance for the immediate future of a company. In this sense, ALLCOT’s work to develop projects that generate financial incentives to reduce emissions is more relevant than ever.

The methodology advanced by the CODS is based on the one that the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has been using for several years worldwide to establish international comparisons. The CODS adjusts it to the statistical reality of the countries of the region, given the unavailability of many indicators. In this way, the comparison becomes more valid. In some cases, for some States, there is no available methodology for SDG measurement. Another issue is the lack of data: the index requires figures ex-ante and ex-post 2015 to measure progress since the creation of the 2030 Agenda.

The report also includes a visualization tool called the dashboard. This allows to highlight, through a traffic light code, how close an SDG is to being fulfilled, in order to serve as a prioritization tool in each country.

The publication of the SDG Index, as well as the creation of the municipal SDG indexes in Colombia cities by the Corona Foundation through its network tracking cities’ wellbeing, illustrate the trend towards the appropriation of the SDGs by non-governmental entities and their measurement at sub-national scales. The private sector, and in particular organizations setting standards for corporate sustainability reports, have also included the SDGs in their performance metrics. Precisely, ALLCOT is currently developing statistical tools to quantify the impact of the socioeconomic co-benefits of its climate change mitigation projects, through the 230 indicators associated with the 17 SDGs.

This exercise presents several challenges, given that the project areas tend to be smaller than local political-administrative divisions in the country where the project is developed and usually do not coincide with their geographical limits. ALLCOT, like the CODS, adapts the SDG indicators to the real data availability and to variables that make more sense depending on the specific context. In addition, to mitigate the absence of local data in many rural areas of developing countries, ALLCOT has created mechanisms for collecting primary data to establish a meaningful SDG baseline. In this way, ALLCOT takes a leadership role in measuring corporate impact on sustainable development.

Green Recovery Based on Carbon Pricing and Sustainable Finance for Latin America


 Written by Enrique Lendo, Business Development Mexico Advisor


The current economic landscape is complex, a different scenario from all the sustainability projections for 2020. At the macro level, governments are now able to choose whether the incentives built into their economic recovery policies will be directed to traditional, less competitive, and more polluting industries, or towards sectors that will create economic gains and social welfare in the long term. For instance, investment in renewable energy could bring gains of $100 trillion dollars, create 42 million new jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector by 70% by 2050. 

At the micro-level, manufacturers will have to adapt to the new trends in the value chains of a less interconnected world and find input providers closer to their production centers. In the service sector, digitization and virtualization have expanded like never before, fostering innovation and the development of new products and processes. Only these companies and sectors able to adapt with creativity and speed will survive in the post-Covid world.

In the coming months, trillions of dollars will be mobilized to address both the sanitary and economic crisis triggered by Covid-19. However, only a small fraction of national governments, regional groups, and subnational jurisdictions have signaled their intent to consider sustainability principles and policy tools in their economic recovery plans. The European Union has ratified its net-zero emissions commitment for 2050 by placing its “Green Deal” at the center of its economic recovery strategy, while the new government of South Korea will base its economic recovery plan on incentives for green recovery to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

In the Americas, this issue has been part of the debate in the recent US legislative and the upcoming national elections, with lawmakers proposing a “Green Deal” as one of the pillars for the economic recovery strategy. In addition, a number of subnational governments such as New York and California have incorporated climate green objectives in their economic recovery plans. On the other hand, Canada’s federal government has stated that the crisis will not obstruct its climate change commitment and it is supporting investment projects to help industries meet their methane emissions goals. Notably, however, climate change and sustainability agendas have been absent in the language of politicians, CEOs, and other decision-makers in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region.

While LAC contributes only 11% to global greenhouse gases (GHG), the region is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. At the same time, many countries in the regions have stood out for their mitigation and adaptation strategies, with emerging carbon pricing schemes in Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina.

Due to its rich forest, ocean, coastal and biodiversity resources, as well as highly proficient technical expertise in carbon accounting, the region is also a priority geography for Nature-Based Climate Solutions (NCS) Along with globalization, economic integration and the building of environmental laws and institutions in the last years, the private sector in many LAC countries has embraced environmental responsibility principles and practices.

Covid-19´s economic crisis presents major challenges for the LAC region. In this context, governments and companies already engaged in the path towards low emissions and sustainable development might be tempted to deviate from longer-term sustainability goals to address more immediate short-term needs. Opportunities to boost long term and financially sustainable economic growth and create millions of jobs should be secured in cleaner industries. A recent report by UN -Climate found that 35 million green jobs can be created in LAC if the region invests in a 100% renewable energy matrix and electrifies its transport sector. At the same line, tens of millions of jobs could be created in the forest, rural and coastal sectors through forest conservation and restoration, as well as sustainable agriculture and blue carbon projects, financed with carbon compensation credits, green bonds and other financing innovative tools using SDGs and NDCs as benchmarks.

It is in this context that countries in the LAC region will need to design their recovery strategies according to their needs and circumstances, preferably based on low emission and sustainable development criteria. In the design of such strategies, it will be necessary to consider both the scale of resources and incentives needed, as well as the different sources of funding, policy tools, and industries/sectors to trigger the adjustment.

Currently, countries in the region finance their recovery strategies from international sources such as rescue packages from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and from national public and private sources. In addition, governments may adjust their regulatory frameworks to ease the compliance cost with different standards for the benefit of vulnerable citizens or industries. They can also strengthen regulations, standards, and supervision in those sectors or industries presenting a higher risk to the economy or public health.

The stimulus measures commonly used to incentivize economic recovery in times of crisis include direct government transfers and subsidized interest loans, fiscal loans, debt restructuring or forgiveness, stabilization funds, and investment in infrastructure and public works projects, among others. The destiny of resources can vary from companies and organizations to communities and citizens, according to priority geographies, sectors, and industries in each country. Some areas of opportunities for “Green/Sustainable Recovery Strategies” in LAC countries include:    

  • Trade and investment incentives for clean and sustainable products and services
  • Price incentives for energy intensive industries, including carbon pricing and subsidies phase-out in key environmentally harmful sectors.
  • Public/private investment in natural capital, resilience, adaptation, and sustainable agroforestry, fisheries, and food systems, including Nature-Based Climate Solutions.
  • Automation of processes, digitization, and virtualization of transactions and services.
  • Investment in industries and sectors with high potential for green/sustainable job creation.
  • Reconfiguration of infrastructure investment in the transport-mobility, housing, education, services, entertainment, and leisure.
  • Investment in R&D to boost innovation and improve products and processes towards sustainable patterns of production and consumption.
  • Regulatory and fiscal incentives for sustainable businesses.

Building on CPLC´s model for enhancing dialogue, creating knowledge, and boosting advocacy amongst public and private leaders, a public-private dialogue process is proposed to identify concrete opportunities and projects in the area of carbon pricing, sustainable finance, and economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.The initiative could start in countries active in the carbon pricing arena such as Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Argentina, but also others considering carbon pricing instruments at the subnational level or among private actors like Brazil, and with high potential for investment in NCS sectors such as Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Peru.

IETA has already launched a process to develop Natural Climate Solution strategies in the region starting with Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil. In the north of the hemisphere, Canada’s federal government, some Canadian provinces, as well as some states in the US, might be interested in participating. The process could consider representatives from the following areas:

  • National and subnational governments
  • Central Banks
  • Business groups and private companies with green/sustainable profile
  • Banking and finance associations
  • NGOs and think tanks
  • Youth organizations and leaders
  • Cooperatives
  • International Organizations and Development Banks: World Bank, IFC, CPLC, IDB, CAF, UN-ECLAC, UN-Climate, UN-Environment, UNDP, CDB, OECD, GGGI.

 

Cookstove Project: Alternatives that benefit the community and the environment.


 Written by Natalia Rodrigo, Head of Group Business Development


Air pollution impacts from cooking comprising wood-based fuel and charcoal represent 2% of GHG global emissions. This wood-based fuel comes from unsustainable and uncontrolled harvesting practices, which lead to forest degradation and its sub consequent loss of carbon sequestration capacity. In addition, forest degradation is related directly to soil erosion, soil and water pollution, flood risk increase, and biodiversity loss, among others.

It has been reported that nearly 3 billion people make use of this type of household cooking process, mainly located in the least developed countries (LDCs). Apart from the damage to nature and environment protection, this traditional household cooking practice also implies tangible impacts on public health.

As a result, aimed at the urgency of trying to change this dramatic situation, local initiatives have been created. These strategies are supported by international alliances and investors, which promote the gradual substitution of wood-based fuel and charcoal stoves to more efficient devices, enabling to reduce from 30 to 90% the CO2 emissions which are resulted from household cooking. The reduction rate depends, of course, on the technology and type of fuel used by the stove.

Mitigating climate change and environmental degradation require an inclusive industry that makes clean cooking accessible to the three billion people who live without it. From ALLCOT, we develop and support energy demand projects based on the efficiency improvement of traditional household cooking stoves.

All in all, efficient cookstoves projects foster not only GHG reductions but also nurture sustainable development among local communities by advocating the integration of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With this cookstove delivery project, we can impact 10 different SDG at once:

SDG 3 Good health & Well-being: Efficient cookstove projects eliminate the black carbon resulted from traditional devices, promoting decrease rates on respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases.

SDG 4 Quality Education: Efficient cookstove projects compose an educational strategy based on operation and maintenance as well as environmental and H&S (Health and Safety) awareness.

SDG 5 Gender Equality: Women are empowered across the implementation of these projects due to the fact of their leadership on the educational strategy.

SDG 6 Clean Water and sanitation: Awareness programs across local communities in terms of the importance of boiling water to prevent gastrointestinal diseases.

SDG 7 Affordable & Clean Energy: Improved cookstoves are based on long-term use devices, boosting effective fuel consumption, implying tangible money-saving across local communities.

SDG 9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: An inclusive industry, based on R&D and improvement of infrastructure, is created across efficient cookstove projects.

SDG 10 Reduce inequalities: Improved cookstoves are based on an affordable price, which encourages local communities to acquire this technology.

SDG 13 Climate Action: Efficient cookstoves projects enable us to reduce from 30 to 90% of the CO2 emissions which are resulted from traditional household cooking devices.

SDG 15 Life on land: Efficient cookstoves projects promote the effective fight against forest degradation and biodiversity loss.

SDG 17 Partnership for the goals: An inclusive industry as well as worldwide institutional alliances are created across cookstove projects.

This project is an example of the effectiveness of cross-cutting projects, which, through concrete action manage to address several issues. For this reason, ALLCOT continues to be committed to this type of action that represents a long-term benefit for both the community and the environment.

Inflection Point


Written by Enrique Lendo, Business Development Mexico Advisor.


The World Environment Day sets a landmark for the international community. On June  5 of 1972, the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment triggered a process that has produced over 500 international environmental cooperation instruments to date. Mexico has subscribed about a 100 of these agreements, strengthening our environmental management capacity and positioning our country as a player committed with global challenges.

Currently, most of the countries around the world have enacted environmental laws and established institutions for their implementation. However, they have not been capable to halt global environmental degradation. Greenhouse gas emissions have doubled since the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992.  We have also lost 80% of wildlife species biomass and half of the natural ecosystem’s original areas due to massive deforestation, urbanization and pollution. Over one million species around the world are in danger of extinction.

But in the last years, the methodologies to monetize climate change impacts and the contribution of natural capital to the economy have also been improved. For instance, we know that services provided by biodiversity to productive systems are worth at least 1.5 times the value of global GDP. We also know that natural disasters cost over $100 billion dollars a year in damages and that the cost of climate change inaction could reach over 15% of global GDP by 2050.

Therefore, capital markets around the world are currently tuning their risk models to account for environmental and climate change impact of investment projects. On one the hand, physical infrastructure is more vulnerable to hydrometeorological impacts, on the other, the new generations of consumers and investors demand responsibly produced goods and services. Mexico´s Central Bank (Banco de México) and the UN have recently released the “Climate and Environmental Risks and Opportunities in Mexico’s Financial System, setting this sector in a path that will reward sustainability and punish pollution through risk assessment.

The post-covid19 crisis provides a point of inflection in which governments and companies are able to choose between updating their strategies towards sustainability patterns or perpetuate inefficient and shortsighted growth models. In the last weeks, countries, regional blocks, and subnational governments around the world have announced green recovery strategies. The European Union just released its € 750 billion economic recovery package to finance low carbon infrastructure. In the US, Democrats are positioning a “Green Deal” in the face of the upcoming national elections, while South Korea and Indonesia already implement green recovery plans.

In contrast, sustainability has been absent in the language of decision-makers in the Latin American region despite its potential to scaleup investment, create jobs, and foster welfare in the long term. A recent UN report concluded that the transition towards renewable energy and transport electrification in the region could create 35 million jobs by 2050. In Mexico, millions of people living in rural areas could benefit from investment packages to foster sustainable practices in the agriculture and forest sectors. But in order to harness these opportunities, governments need to start designing their economic recovery strategies with a comprehensive and long term perspective. Never in history had we been presented with such an attractive and feasible chance to redefine our development model.

** Article originally published in Reforma news paper:

The life principles of indigenous communities, an alternative for communication


Written by Ronal Cubeo, Climate Change Mitigation Consultant


Out of the issues that trouble us as humanity, the most visible one nowadays is the COVID 19 pandemic. Certainly, the expansion, magnitude, and impact that it has had on countries at different stages of industrial and technological development have created great challenges, perhaps one of the most important being communication.

I was asked to write a short piece on “The importance of communication in the time of COVID” and relate it to the concept of MALOCA. In this sense, it is necessary to specify the concept and meaning of MALOCA in the indigenous populations of the Colombian Amazon. The MALOCA has at least three functions: first, as a physical space where families live; second,  as a vital space for culture and worldview of the indigenous community, it represents par excellence the space for transmission of knowledge through orality —from the origins of each living being, the relationship between man and the creatures around him, as well as the relationship with creative entities who live in other spaces healing rituals and traditional dances are performed in this space—; third, as a political space, it is also a space for discussion on issues that affect the community organization and lifestyle.

Regarding communication, it is worth mentioning that the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, although they present particularities in their worldview, also present common elements. One of them is that in order to communicate among themselves and with others, the first thing that must be done is to “order one’ s thoughts” in order to be able to transmit words that have real content, life content.

How can indigenous communities contribute to communication in the face of the current pandemic crisis? The first thing we should mention is that, in the worldview of indigenous peoples, the land and the living beings and other elements that constitute it are intimately related. In the beginning, when the Creator Being assigned each element a function, it was up to man to “administer” those elements in a harmonious manner in order to maintain the order that was given to him. Diseases are a consequence of the human transgression to those principles: when men look at nature as resources and resources as commodities that can be exploited, this rationality disturbs the indigenous world’s principles of life, and therefore changes are produced, along with its consequences.

In this sense, what indigenous peoples can contribute in terms of communication is linked to life itself, and refers to the principles of life, to retake the channels of communication with nature and other elements that compose it, in a holistic manner and under the principle of responsibility on behalf of the preservation of humanity. This is based on the principle that the earth and its entire composition was given to us by the Creator Being to be “managed” in a responsible manner, without altering its natural cycles.

ALLCOT, which aims to contribute through environmentally responsible projects to the reduction of GHGs, is expected to explore channels of communication with local communities, aware of the challenges involved in carrying out projects with diverse local actors, in a country whose territorial realities make up what Uribe de Hincapié (1999) calls “mixed sovereignty”, that is, the practice of local governance as a confluence of different actors.

Approaching indigenous peoples will allow us to explore other forms of organizations specific to each people, other ways of understanding the world, of understanding nature and, above all, other ways of communicating and relating to the land, to life itself. Understanding the principles of the life of each society is the unavoidable step to assume the challenge of assertive communication.

The invitation is to learn these “other” forms of understanding life, to seek this knowledge in the “other” that will enable spaces for discussion and decision-making regarding the environmental aspects. For indigenous communities, “what is not in the indigenous knowledge is in the other knowledge” (Palma, 2019), the other knowledge is outside the indigenous world, but it is not beyond their understanding, the discoveries should be complementary, not excluded. Exploring and comprehending these “other” ways of understanding life can contribute a great deal to the environmental agenda, national and global.

The path to a sustainable future


Written by Ginna Castillo, Climate Change Mitigation Consultant


Historically speaking, cities emerged as places of encounter and agglomeration. Nowadays, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 55% of the world’s population lives in those places, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68% by 2050. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the most effective strategy to avoid exposure to the virus has been social distancing which means that 55% of the population must rethink their way of living in order to avoid Coronavirus. In terms of transportation, new questions are arising on how to move through the city while remaining healthy or even if it is necessary to move on a daily basis at all. 

So far, even under strict lockdown people working in essential occupations had to commute every day. Now, as some sectors of the economy are gradually re-opening in some countries, the possibility of social contact is getting higher, thus citizens are drastically migrating to individual yet affordable means of transportation. Governments are also being part of this shift by encouraging the use of non-powered vehicles or walking. There are around 250 local actions around the world to support walking and cycling during social distancing (Dataset from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center).

There is no doubt cycling is rising as the most resilient mean of transportation during the pandemic since it allows longer distances than walking on a small or cero daily budget. According to the World Economic Forum, most of the local initiatives have to do with free rides on shared bicycle services and offering more kilometers of bike lanes by adapting space from local roads or even highways in cities like Bogota, Milan, Barcelona or Brussels, to name a few. Meanwhile, community collaboration efforts are also taking part in transforming urban mobility through projects such as Lend-A-Bike in Manila.

These governmental or community initiatives have the potential of keeping ongoing after the COVID 19 pandemic is over, even if most of them are only taking place as temporal measures during the confinement. The first step in this direction is being taken by the government of the Ile-de-France region who is now considering cycling as the main mean of transport after deconfinement (LeParisien). But that is just the tip of the iceberg, discussions about mobility are happening everywhere and new questions are arising on unnecessary car trips, home office and proximity to jobs and services, among others.

It is well known that climate change is one of the most urgent environmental challenges of our time, so if all cities were to pay attention to these new questions and initiatives instead of following the business as usual scenario before the pandemic, wonderful things would happen simply because we are now capable of changing habits on a global scale. For starters, and just by cycling, greenhouse gas emissions would drastically drop. According to the ranking of urban transport modes made by travelandmobility.tech, moving by a gasoline car generates around 96% more emissions than moving by bicycle (gram per passenger kilometers). That is during the whole life cycle of each vehicle: manufacture, operation, maintenance, and disposal.

Still, this seems to be the first step of a very long path. From this point forward, cities will have the challenge of redistributing public space and perhaps redefine street hierarchy by putting people before cars. Land use will have to be even more diverse in order to guarantee proximity between homes, services, and jobs so that the distances for commuting are either walkable or suitable for cycling. Last but not least, public transport will get more relevant on long distances and intermodality would have to become a reality. All these changes will ultimately lead to a more sustainable way of life and a more sustainable future.       

Sustainability must not be compromised

 


Written by Enrique Lendo, Business Development Mexico Advisor.


Back in January, 2020 promised to be the “Super Year” of sustainable development. A growing number of companies, with assets close to $40 trillion dollars, committed to transit towards low emission and sustainable production and financing systems. For the first time, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report ranked environmental and climate risk at the top of its tables, over economic and geopolitical risk. In the framework of the United Nations, fundamental decisions for the climate change, biodiversity and oceans agendas have been postponed due to the pandemic. 

COVID 19 has exposed our vulnerability, as human species, before biological and natural phenomena as well as how fragile our economic and political systems are to global emergencies. The irrational management of biodiversity and ecosystems has triggered the evolution of viruses as climate change boosts its geographical reach and hastens its spread with massive consequences to human lives.  

On the other hand, social distancing and isolation measures recommended to contain the pandemic fosters significant changes in the scale and the structure of the global economy. 2020 will face one of the largest recessions in modern history with contractions of 13% in trade and 1% of global GDP and impact to 1.6 billion jobs throughout the world. The GDP contraction in México will be the range of 6 to 10% by the end of 2020.

However, the current crisis also provides an unprecedented opportunity to restructure our economic system towards more sustainable consumption and production patterns in the framework of the environmental, financial and social agendas. At macro level, governments are able to decide whether incentives considered in their economic recovery policies will be directed to traditional, less competitive and more polluting industries or towards sectors that will create economic gains and social welfare in the long term.

For instance, investment in renewable energy would bring gains of $100 trillion dollars by 2050, or returns of $3 to $8 dollars per unit invested. Such investment could also create 42 million new jobs and reduce green house gas emissions in the energy sector by 70%. In contrast, fossil fuels are responsible for 70% of global CO2 emissions, receive subsidies up to $5 trillion dollars a year and, in the case of oil, have experienced negative returns in the last days. Today, Mexico’s Pemex costs 24 billion dollars in losses to taxpayers and the auctions to allocate clean energy certificates have been postponed

At the micro level, manufacturers will have to adapt to the new trends in the value chains of a less interconnected world and find input providers closer to their production centers. In the service sector, digitalization and virtualization has expanded like never before, fostering innovation and the development of new products and processes. Only these companies and sectors able to adapt with creativity and speed will survive in the post-Covid world. However, sustainable consumption and production patterns will only be attained if policies and incentives are crafted properly. In the framework of economic recovery plans, environmental standards should not be downgraded, and support tools must not be directed towards polluting industries over more sustainable ones, otherwise inefficiencies will prevail and opportunities to boost green and sustainable growth will be lost.

A Green Restart for the World


Written by Alexis Leroy, CEO ALLCOT


The coronavirus pandemic has been a huge wake-up call for the world. In one short month, large swathes of the economy have either closed or been forced to scale back significantly. Air travel is virtually non-existent, private transport has shrunk to a shadow of its former self, and retail has almost entirely closed its doors.

And while we have been self-isolating at home, it’s given us all a chance to consider what we’re giving up, what choices we can’t make, and even whether we’d choose the same things again whenever restrictions are lifted. The lockdown has also turned into a fountain of ideas; ideas on how we can take this opportunity to rebuild our economies in a more sustainable way.

To be fair, some blueprints for a sustainable future are already on the table. In the US, the Green New Deal harkened back to President Roosevelt’s plan to bring the country back from the Great Depression of the 1920s. The 21st century version focused on climate change, the biggest challenge of our times, as well as social and economic inequality.

In Europe, the newly-elected Commission brought forward its own Green Deal last year, which is even more ambitious than its US counterpart. The EU plan seeks to turn the bloc’s entire economy upside down, refocusing on sustainability, climate, transitional measures to diversify and modernize the economy and offer opportunities for all. The proposals on both sides of the Atlantic are fortunate in their timing, as we grapple with “the fastest, deepest economic shock in history”. A lot of thinking has already been done.

For Asia, too, the pandemic represents an opportunity to embark upon the same shift, away from mimicking the West and towards a more sustainable, self-reliant economic model. Indeed, it may be the east’s only hope, if the kind of proposals that we read today are put into action elsewhere.

The liberal market-based economic model has been around for around 300 years. Globalization was the last great leap forward for the neoliberal interpretation, and coronavirus’ rapid expansion around the world is the warning that we cannot continue as we have done. The economy that evolved in the 18th century took the world as it saw it. It did not experience, as we do today, the immense impact of industry and business on our earth and our climate. 

Pollution and resource scarcity were not considered problems 300 years ago, and all our efforts since then have been too modest, too piecemeal, and have been largely shrugged aside by the interests of old-world business models.

Yet today, we understand how our economic model impacts our health, our well-being. We can quantify the harmful effects of air pollution, just as we can quantify the cost of natural disasters.

With all this knowledge and understanding, gained through the immense technological advances of just the last 50 years, we have an opportunity to set a new course for the coming decades.

What must be done?

At a macroeconomic level, the world needs to commit, again and with greater force, to the purpose of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. We need governments to line up behind these aims, to make pledges that are ambitious, believable and achievable, and develop the pathway towards achieving the ultimate prize.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have a simple target: “a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. They consist of 17 ambitions including reducing inequality, clean water and sanitation, climate action, responsible consumption and production, and zero hunger. All of these goals can be achieved with a thoughtful approach to re-building our shared economy.

And thanks to technology and understanding, progress towards the SDGs can now be quantified. Health, education, economic opportunity, stable societies, and even gender equality can be measured and assessed. And this quantification of achievement can now be rewarded. For the first time in our economic history, intangible impacts are now becoming tangible items on balance sheets. Efforts such as the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure are slowly moving the needle on bringing externalities like greenhouse gases into the realm of real costs. And in the same way, improving our collective health, safety and prosperity can also be rewarded, in lower external costs (like carbon emissions and businesses losses) as well as in lower human costs.

The Paris Agreement has one, just one, simple goal: to ensure that by the middle of the century all our emissions of greenhouse gases are balanced by sinks that absorb those same gases. Again, this is a target that we can achieve if we plan carefully and put in the work, the investment, and the research to make it happen.

What will we gain? We will begin to return our climate to a state where catastrophic weather events are not “normal”, where deforestation does not rob peoples and species of their home, where water stress does not force mass migrations.

At a national or even multinational level, how can we make the changes that the future requires of us?

A Green Rebuilding

As we eventually emerge from the shadow of Covid-19, economies will need government help to re-start. Already we have seen billions of dollars, or euros, of pounds, spent to assist businesses and people to get through the lockdown. And we will see billions more spent to assist businesses to rebuild and restart their operations. We should make sure that we do not focus on short-term survival but on long term sustainability.

While we defend the independence of the private sector, when it comes to receiving publicly-financed assistance, the private sector should be required to follow public policy. Instead of spending 90% of the assistance on propping up existing business models, shouldn’t our leaders be looking at making our economy more resilient?

Financial assistance should come with conditions. Industrial companies should be required to make improvements and changes to their processes that match the SDGs. Where a factory now buys power from a gas-fired plant, any government assistance should require that it buys renewable power – a simple and achievable solution that comes at no additional cost.

Manufacturers should be required to use recyclable packaging, ensure the products are recyclable or reusable, and that their processes are as clean as possible. Regulations could be stiffened to require those producers to take legal responsibility for all lifetime waste associated with their products.

Commercial businesses should re-examine their practices and see what flexibility they can build into their operations. During the pandemic, we have seen an explosion in the use of video conferencing to maintain social links. Millions of people have been working effectively from home, rather than commuting to offices. Do we all, as employers *and* employees, need to commute to offices that use even more resources?

Instead of global supply chains, the business should be encouraged to look locally for materials and supplies, thereby reducing transportation emissions and pollution, and supporting the local community and its economy. And do we need to travel quite so much for business or for pleasure? There already is a growing awareness of the impact our travel habits have on the environment and climate, but the recovery from this global shutdown offers a real opportunity to wean ourselves off needless travel. 

Personal Greening

Lastly, how can you and I as individuals translate these goals into action on the ground? 

As consumers, we can make more responsible choices and look after our outputs. When we buy, we should buy responsibly: are products reusable, recyclable and re-purposeable? Do our products even need packaging?

When we do consume, are we consuming more than we need? Are the electricity, gas, and resources that we use going from renewable sources or are we drawing on finite resources like oil or coal? Do we need to drive all the kilometers that we do? Is our flight necessary? Are we lighting and heating our houses responsibly?

Alternative products already exist for many of us, as we all know. But, critically, alternative choices exist too. It’s time we began to exercise more robustly our power of choice and, as individuals and consumers, ramp up pressure on business, on policy-makers, and on each other to think about the impact we have on our home.

Conclusion

The free-market economic model that was born in the heart of the Industrial Revolution, and which has lasted 300 years, is not fit for the 21st Century and the challenges it presents. We must not insist on a return to business-as-usual.

We, therefore, call on business around the world to acknowledge that the rebuilding of our economies in the wake of this pandemic cannot merely return us to the way things were before. The private sector must accept its historic role in bringing us to this point, and take on both the responsibility as well as the opportunity to fix our problems, even where the government is slow to act.