World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2010

  • Connecting a Carbon- and Time-constrained World

    Saturday 30th January 2010 - 2:00pm - 4:00pm

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  • Connecting a Carbon- and Time-constrained World

    Every year 1 billion people and 10 billion tons of cargo travel around the world; every day people spend an average 80 minutes commuting.

    What institutions and business models will be needed to connect a carbon- and time-constrained world?

    Key Points

    • New business models and technologies are required to reduce carbon emissions from air travel, keeping in mind the differences between developing and developed countries; some innovation in business models has already taken off; New carbon-efficient technologies in the telecommunications industry are expected to become mainstream in the near future
    • Design of cities should minimize commuting, while taking into account that denser cities promote less commuting than sparsely populated ones
    • Focusing on reducing the carbon footprint in emerging markets is essential, especially as it might be possible for developing countries to leapfrog into the latest technologies and business models
    • The challenge is to enable trade while reducing the carbon footprint
    • Movement of goods around the planet is currently more efficient than movement of people
    • While progress has been achieved to make the supply chain of goods more efficient, the removal chain – or what happens after the product is discarded – is still being overlooked


    Businesses have succeeded in shrinking the carbon footprint for the transport of goods, but still face major challenges when it comes to the transport of people. In fact, over the past 20 years, new technology in the aviation industry only managed to reduce fuel emissions at the rate of 1.5% per year, while traffic growth – mainly from travellers – was increasing at the rate of about 4.5% per year.

    At this rate, the aviation industry alone will be contributing nearly 30% of the total allowable volume of carbon emissions. Certainly action is needed, and a two-pronged approach was suggested, targeting a redesign in business models as well as the introduction of new, more efficient technologies.

    Telepresence, which is the latest generation of videoconferencing technologies, offers a realistic 3D experience and is about to become mainstream. When it does, business travel will be pared down. Capping aviation emissions and creating tradable travel mile credits will prompt consumers to use their share wisely, while maintaining the overall volume of travel steady.

    In the design of cities, planners are veering towards eliminating the “big box” effect – large shopping centres – in favour of smaller, local shops that will significantly cut commutes. Moreover, the future will see more online shopping, rather than physical displacement of shoppers. However, this means that couriers will play a bigger role, and hence the need for redesigning their business models arises.

    Success in that sector has already been registered with companies proposing innovative models that offer better routing of goods as well as stocking up on goods in anticipation of demand in a certain destination. With the development of new technologies in various sectors, the demand for transport of goods will be reduced. For instance, e-books have curtailed the need for delivering printed copies.

    Sometimes splitting a product and transporting parts by ship and others by plane both reduces cost and the carbon foot print. In other cases, a simple change of location will work wonders. For instance, moving orange groves from an area that requires a lot of carbon-heavy fertilizers to another where oranges grow naturally without any fertilizers will reduce the carbon footprint significantly.

    While the supply chain of goods is often on the minds of businesses, the removal chain – or what happens after the product is discarded – should not be overlooked. A study tracking discarded products in the United States has shown that different parts of a product end up all over the country and sometimes well beyond its borders, thus expanding its carbon footprint.

    In parallel to all the work done in developed countries, emerging markets should receive a special focus as they are expected to contribute greatly to the world’s carbon footprint in the next decades, in reflection of their growth. However, the world will have to confront the challenge of overcoming the misperception that the US model of development should be emulated.

    In fact, studies have shown that the denser the city, the lower its carbon footprint and, interestingly, the lower the obesity rate. Sprawling developments that are common in the US tend to contribute the most to carbon emissions. Such knowledge is not readily available to the public. For this reason, providing carbon footprint measures to consumers for every action they are about to take will help them make wiser decisions.

    Discussion Leaders

    Daniel J. Brutto

    , President, UPS International, UPS, USA

    Geoffrey Cape

    , Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Evergreen Foundation, Canada; Social Entrepreneur

    Julia King

    , Vice-Chancellor, Aston University, United Kingdom; Global Agenda Council on the Future of Transportation

    Jim Leape

    , Director-General, WWF International, World Wide Fund for Nature, Switzerland; Global Agenda Council on Climate Change

    Christopher Logan

    , Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, Agility, Hong Kong SAR; Young Global Leader

    Nkosana D. Moyo

    , Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, African Development Bank (ADB), Tunis; Global Agenda Council on the Future of Africa

    Carlo Ratti

    , Director, SENSEable City Laboratory, MIT - Departments of Urban Studies and Planning, USA; Global Agenda Council on Urban Management

    Facilitated by

    David King

    , Director, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

    This summary was prepared by Maha Al-Azar. The views expressed are those of certain participants in the discussion and do not necessarily reflect the views of all participants or the World Economic Forum.

    Copyright 2010 World Economic Forum
    No part of this material may be copied, photocopied or duplicated in any form by any means or redistributed without the prior written consent of the World Economic Forum.

    Saturday 30 January

    Keywords: carbon footprint, transport, aviation, goods, people

    Recommended reading for: sustainable consumption initiative, climate change initiative, NGOs. Civil Society Leaders, transport sector, aviation, automotive

Facilitated by

  • Sir David King Sir David King
    Professor and Director, Cambridge Kaspakas, United Kingdom

    Current: the UK's Foreign Secretary's Special Representative for Climate Change Formerly: Head, Depa...


  • Julia King Julia King
    Vice-Chancellor, Aston University, United Kingdom

    Formerly: over 16 years as academic researcher and university lecturer, Cambridge and Nottingham uni...

  • Daniel J. Brutto Daniel J. Brutto

  • Jim Leape Jim Leape
    Consulting Professor, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, USA

    A.B, Harvard College and J.D., Harvard Law School. Over 30 years' experience in nature conservation....

  • Geoffrey Cape Geoffrey Cape
    Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Evergreen, Canada

    BA, Trinity College School, Queen's University: Master's in Management, McGill University. Since 199...

  • Christopher Logan Christopher Logan
    President, Livingston USA, Livingston International, USA

    Degree in Business Admin., Ivey School of Business, Univ. of Western Ontario, Canada. Formerly, Chie...

  • Nkosana D. Moyo Nkosana D. Moyo
    Founder and Executive Chair, Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS), South Africa

    PhD in Physics, Imperial College, University of London; MBA and Eisenhower Fellow, Cranfield School ...

  • Carlo Ratti Carlo Ratti
    Director, SENSEable City Laboratory, MIT - Department of Urban Studies and Planning, USA

    Architect and engineer by training. Teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and directs...