WBCSD Report on Eco-efficient Leadership

wbcsd_logojpgThe World Business Council for Sustainable Development published a report in 1996 on Eco-efficient Leadership for Improved Economic and Environmental Performance. I have decided to review this report for my second book report.

The WBCSD describes eco-efficiency as linking “the goals of business excellence and environmental excellence, by creating the bridge through which corporate behavior can support sustainable development.”

In this report, the WBCSD makes claims that eco-efficiency makes for great business and is great for the environment. I would argue that although yes, eco-efficiency can make good business sense, it is hard for me to believe that eco-efficiency is really implemented with the environment in mind. Although the WBCSD does not deny that businesses are out there for a profit (which is to be expected, as that is the nature of business), they make it seem as though eco-efficiency is really just a great marketing strategy. I took away that the environment is being used to somehow claim that a company is a better business. However, it seems to be that becoming eco-efficient is really, first and foremost, best for the business and not so much for the environment. Continue reading

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Green Politics

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Green Politics by Anil Agarwal, Sunita Narain and Anju Sharma is perhaps one of those few books which talks about the stance of developing countries when it comes to global environmental negotiations. The developing countries have always come across as skeptics when it comes to global environmental negotiations and their reasons can be fairly justified. This book highlights the southern perspective of such negotiations and clearly shows how these environmental negotiations which are supposed to be based on the principle of good governance—equality, justice and democracy have often turned out to be business transactions where the rich crush the interests of the poor. Continue reading

It’s the economics stupid!

Sometime in the past few years the battle over the science of climate change was won. A few contrarian dead-enders remain but the world (read: the US) now accepts that climate change is real, is happening, and is a serious threat to the planet. Despite dire warnings from the scientific community there remains significant political resistance to climate action. Today, the debate over climate change policy is all about economics. Many industry leaders, academics, and politicians claim that the costs are simply too high, that economic logic can only support a minimum level of action.

In his sweeping 131-page work, Can We Afford the Future? Frank Ackerman pulls no punches attacking the use of traditional economic analysis for climate policy. The work reads like a handbook designed for policy-oriented climate change advocates and must be considered required reading for anyone remotely interested in climate change policy. From choosing an appropriate discount rate, accounting for risk and uncertainty, to calculating damages and costs, Ackerman argues that traditional economic analysis has no place in informing climate policy.

Ackerman neatly presents the various economic debates over climate change policy in an accessible and compelling format, breaking the most essential arguments down to bumper sticker slogans:

“Your grandchildren’s lives are important.”

“We need to buy insurance for the planet.”

“Climate Costs are too valuable to have prices.”

“Some costs are better than others.”

In economic parlance, we first must rethink how we calculate the discount rate for climate accounting – weighted toward intergenerational equality. Next, we must reconsider how we evaluate risks. Rather than basing climate policy on average likely outcomes we must use worst-case scenarios as the basis for climate policy. Also, we must distance ourselves from the economic obsession of quantifying costs and benefits – how much is a life worth? An ecosystem? A species? Many of the most important costs associated with climate change simply cannot be quantified. Finally, upfront costs such as constructing levees have initial benefits (job creation) and avoid future costs, much of which is unrecoverable (lives).

Although Ackerman’s argument against economics may border on the edge of academic discourse his ideas seem remarkably sensible, at least from a theoretical perspective. It remains to be seem if his arguments will carry much weight in policy circles closely tied to conventional wisdom. For example, Ackerman suggests that the US government should shift much of its’ military expenditures to pay for climate change action, but is this a likely prospect? Is it in the realm of possibility that the US would shift its’ entire economic focus to address climate change?

Global Environmental Diplomacy

9780262701228-f33Mostafa Tolba describes six instruments whose negotiations are representatives of an international environmental agenda that has evolved since the Stockholm Conference in 1972. The author was close associated with every step of the negotiations and the problems that set upon their establishment. Some lessons learned in earlier negotiations have been useful for the performance of the latest ones in several fields such as, economics, trades, policy, funding, technological regulations and the environment while new issues present new challenges.

 Through the book and the description of the stages of different negotiations the author let us be involved in the broader perception of environmental justice, realistic actions and common efforts that are emerging to protect the Earth, and to protect those who are more on risk  and who are least responsible for environmental deterioration. Continue reading

Earth in the Balance

al-gore-an-inconvenient-truthEarlier this semester, Nancy and I did a review of Al Gore’s book Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit. In his book, he really stressed the fact that people today are so detached from nature that we view ourselves as a separate entity altogether. He claims that humans are neglecting the idea of the future and only acting in the present, making short-term goals.

I thought it’d be useful to highlight some key points from this book as well as give some facts that I took away from it which I also found interesting. Continue reading

Cradle to Cradle

Cradle to CradleI have just finished a review for William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s book entitled Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things and wanted to share my thoughts and get some feedback! The main tenet of this book is that Waste=Food. That being said, I focused more on the argument they made in regards to the idea of eco-efficiency as a means of working toward a ‘greener’ society. The authors’ main goal is not only to create products themselves that are environmentally sustainable and have as close to a ‘zero impact’ as possible, but also to convince others that this is the way of the future. Continue reading

“The Global Deal”, A Need for Change

Global DealNicholas Stern’s, “The Global Deal” argues that we are facing the two greatest problems of our time, overcoming poverty and combating climate change. Therefore, it is essential that we find ways to increase the living standard across all nations while at the same time discovering ways to make living on this earth more sustainable over time. For the economists out there, Stern makes a commendable effort to create realistic targets to reduce global emissions and calculates the annual total cost of reaching the proposed targets. Continue reading