Global Agenda Council on Measuring Sustainability 2012-2013
Since the 1970s, complexity and uncertainty surrounding the global environment have increased manifold in light of resource scarcity, significant environmental degradation, and the growing impact and frequency of climate extremes. This is making policy choices, investment and management decisions very difficult to develop in a rational and integrated manner. Climate extremes, exposure and vulnerability materially affect both the demand and supply side of resource systems like water, food and energy. In some places, these resources are competing against regional and local constraints, creating increased uncertainty surrounding how best to deal with trade-offs and risks across different resource classes.
Against this backdrop, risk management capabilities and spatial characterization of the risks associated with energy systems and water, as well as logistics and supply chain infrastructure, are critical for public authorities, businesses and communities alike. To act, decision-makers require access to quality, verifiable and readily available context-specific knowledge and information.
A more effective, participatory and open system than that which presently exists could potentially transform international agreements through the inclusion of a mechanism for reviewing and reporting on their implementation; provide national governments with accurate assessments of the status of their resources and the environment; offer communities secure pathways for sustained development; and enable the private sector to accurately grasp the state of world resources, plan and execute its investments, and understand and manage business risks. Although most of the data needed to manage this complexity and associated risks already exist, they are not in a readily available or usable format. The data are largely in silos, distributed across a range of public, private and academic institutions around the world. Making this data readily available in a format that is usable is essential to better manage global environmental issues and sustain productivity and growth in the face of environmental risks.
Twenty-five years ago, the 1987 World Commission on Environment and Development had already raised concern about the absence of comprehensive data on sustainable development to guide decision-making. Since then, various approaches have been proposed; examples include:
The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) tracks performance and progress on environmental health and ecosystem vitality.
UNDP’s Human Development Report Office developed the Human Development Index (HDI), a composite measure of health, education and income for assessing countries’ progress.
The UN Statistical Office’s System of Environmental-Economic Accounting, the World Bank’s partnership for Wealth Accounting for Valuation of Ecosystem Services, and the Inclusive Wealth Index, newly released by the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations University are among other recent multilateral initiatives incorporating environmental factors into economic assessments of national and global progress.
“Over time, the complexity to address interlocking resource-related constraints and associated risks has increased manifold around the world making policy choices, investment and management decisions very difficult to develop in an integrated way to enable collective problem-solving and action at scale. There is an urgent need for decision-makers to have access to open, good quality, integrated and verifiable biophysical, economic and social data to develop the local knowledge required to unlock sustainable pathways.”
Juan-Carlos Castilla Rubio, Chief Executive Officer, Planetary Skin Institute, Brazil
“If successful, it will increase the odds that society will find attractive outcomes to systemic risk posed by environmental harms. We all know more than we think we do. If we can pool this information, encourage radical cooperation and accelerate the learning process, the effect will be extraordinary. It's an exciting prospect and work has begun."
James Cameron, Chairman, Climate Change Capital, United Kingdom.
Climate Disclosure Standards Board, Climate Change Reporting Framework, Edition 1.0
European Environment Agency, Environmental Indicator Report 2012: Ecosystem resilience and resource efficiency in a green economy
Aqueduct, a software tool to measure and map indicators of water risk
Miradi, a software tool designed by Benetech specifically for the management of complex environmental projects
Sustainable Innovation Forum (alongside UNFCCC COP 18)
6 December 2012
Global Conference on Sustainability and Reporting, hosted by the Global Reporting Initiative
22-24 May 2012
UNESCO sponsored conference: 8th Conference on Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environment Systems
22-27 September 2013
During its last term, the Global Agenda Council on Climate Change concluded that to achieve risk-resilient and resource-efficient economic growth, the world requires new decision-support capabilities for mapping geospatial risk and integrated resource management at several spatial scales (local, regional, national and global), as a global public good. Accordingly, the Council mobilized stakeholders from government, science, business and civil society in an initiative aimed at co-developing such capabilities and bundling them into a new open platform. The result has been the creation of the Global Agenda Council on Measuring Sustainability and its Environment Big Open Data Initiative (EBODI).
The EBODI programme plans to put together a network of stakeholders to gather context-specific data and information necessary for decision-making and risk assessment. This information will be integrated and made available on an open access platform. It will then be made available to governments, business and civil society, including communities, who will be able to use it to improve risk management in the environmental field. For example, the data could be used to develop early warning systems for natural disasters.
The EBODI programme will be hosted by the World Economic Forum under the umbrella of the Network of Global Agenda Councils. It will be led by the new Global Agenda Council on Measuring Sustainability. Starting in 2014, the plan is for the programme to be devolved from the Forum as an independent entity. Global expert organizations and individuals will then be invited to join the Environment Big Open Data Initiative programme.
Research Analyst: Vanessa Lecerf, Senior Associate, Global Agenda Councils, firstname.lastname@example.org
Council Manager: Cecilia Serin, Team Coordinator, Global Benchmarking Network, email@example.com
Forum Lead: Brindusa Fidanza, Associate Director, Environmental Initiatives, firstname.lastname@example.org