October 7-9 2013: The Club of Rome was partner of the World Resources Forum in Davos, where the new Reports “Plundering the Planet” and “Bankrupting Nature” were presented. Speakers included the author Ugo Bardi as well as the Co-Presidents of the Club of Rome Anders Wijkman and Ernst-Ulrich von Weizsäcker. Click here for more information on the program at the WRF in Davos.
European Parliament, United Nations, Club of Rome, scientists, business and NGO’s working together for a future without limits
Countries should annually report on how their economies are developing with respect to resource efficiency. Engagement of not only UN institutions but also the civil society is necessary for achieving transparency and accountable monitoring.
Reforms in the financial sector – which is seen as disconnected from the real economy – and fiscal and behavioural policies targeted at company and household level were recommended. Taxes should shift away from renewable resources and labour to fossil fuels. A tenfold increase of resource productivity was regarded as feasible by fiscal reforms and other financial incentives.
These are the main conclusions of the draft chair’s summary of the World Resources Forum (WRF), the Swiss based multi stakeholder platform on global resource management. Members of the European Parliament, UNEP’s International Resource Panel, government and non-governmental delegates from over 50 countries, including leading scientists of engineering and social sciences, were among the experts who debated on international resource governance during the annual 3-day conference in Davos. [Read more...]
The draft chairman’s summary is under review by the participants and will be finalised and published before the end of the month.
For more information about WRF 2013 and WRF 2014 write to firstname.lastname@example.org
The role of behavioral change in the governance of the commons
by Ugo Bardi, Club of Rome – World Resource Forum, Davos 2013
We are facing today an unprecedented global challenge: that of the overexploitation of the world’s resources. Not only most natural resources are exploited faster than they can reform, but we are saturating the capability of the atmosphere to absorb the products of the combustion of fossil fuels; with the result of potentially catastrophic climate change. The situation can be described in terms of the concept of “the tragedy of the commons” where the very efficiency of individual agents acting in a free market leads to the irreversible destruction of the resource being exploited. Avoiding the tragedy of the commons means slowing down the exploitation rate, but this contrasts with the structure of the present economic system, which is designed for exactly the opposite purpose. So, we have problem of “governance of the commons.”
How to attain this governance? The question is related to the behavior of complex systems, of which the global economic system is an example. These systems are highly resilient, in the sense that they tend to oppose change. For instance, the world’s economic system has reacted to the increasing costs generated by the progressive depletion of fossil hydrocarbons by allocating more and more resources to extraction. This effort has been partially successful, but it has exacerbated both the problem of depletion and that of climate change in a classic example of ongoing tragedy of the commons.
To avoid this problem, we can think of a bottom-up approach (behavioral change of individuals and groups) or of a top-down approach (taxation, legislation and the like). But we must remember that complex and they are not not governed by simple cause-effect relationships; complex systems often react in counter-intuitive ways to attempts to steer them in specific directions. For instance, well intentioned bottom-up attempts to nudge consumers to reduce their consumption can lead to a redistribution where the reduction in consumption by some sectors of society is compensated by an increase in another. This is known as the “Jevons’ paradox”, but is a simple and necessary consequence of the complex structure of the present economic system. Top-down approaches to the governance of the commons, such as a carbon tax, are being experimented, but it is not at all obvious that the results will be those expected.
Despite these difficulties, it is not impossible to develop governance methods able to steer complex systems toward avoiding overexploitation and the consequent tragedy of the commons. We need, however, to understand the dynamic behavior of these systems using models that take into account the interplay of the various parameters in play; climate, resources, population, pollution and more. There are various ways to create dynamic models of complex systems, from using computer models to simple mental models. It is anyway a method based on common sense and it takes into account the long range consequences of what is done (and what is NOT done) to the system. No simple and already written solution exists: there exists the good will of the world’s institutions and the world’s citizens to operate in a concerted effort to slow down and eventually stop the deadly economic growth machine that is leading us straight into a worldwide tragedy of the commons.