Among the many voices that stood out at this week’s Sustainable Development Investment Summit, three were particularly poignant. Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, for his reassurance that climate change is the battle of our lifetime; Jesper Brodin of Ikea, for pointing out that only 3% of people felt able to contribute to a solution; and 18-year old Melati Wisjen, for her timely reminder that her generation’s demand for change is unstoppable.
The message is clear. We may be approaching a tipping point in terms of recognition that the time for talk is over, but people do not feel empowered to join in the struggle. Frustration, as a result of this feeling of mass helplessness, is boiling over. It doesn’t need to be this way.
Before we discuss this in more detail, let’s focus on the positives. This week, leaders from some of the most heavily polluting industries on the planet – shipping, aviation, iron and steel to name a few - stepped forward with public commitments to make each sector carbon neutral by 2050. Others in the private sector committed themselves to advancing universal healthcare, improving air quality, halting deforestation and tackling child labour, all key elements in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
The SDI Summit, as we call it, is only in its third year, yet already more business leaders are coming to this meeting than any other organized by the World Economic Forum outside of our Annual Meeting in Davos. A back-of-the envelope calculation based on the CEOs and chairs that joined us suggested the combined annual turnover of companies they represent was nearly $1 trillion.
This is a movement of sorts. Each week, more companies commit to publicly reporting their carbon emissions while others adopt science-based targets. Governments, too, are slowly stepping up. Chile may have been only one of six countries to initially sign up to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, but that number now stands at over 70. President Piñera will use all his powers of diplomacy to grow this figure more at the COP 25 meeting in Santiago in December, just as he is putting all his energy into meeting his own country’s goals ahead of schedule.
Real movements require mass participation. Consumers, who control 60% of global GDP, have contributed hugely already by voting for more sustainable products and services with their wallets. Yet their creativity and resourcefulness remains overlooked.
Unless this imbalance is addressed, the 2030 SDGs will not be met. Today, in response to this, the World Economic Forum announces the launch of UpLink, a new digital platform aimed at enabling mass participation in solving the countless barriers and bottlenecks standing in the way of progress.
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Together with our partners the United Nations, Salesforce, Deloitte and Microsoft, UpLink will bring together communities in the pursuit of shared goals. Imagine a meeting place where anyone interested in solving a development challenge can interact freely with experts, leaders and others. A meeting place combining the expertise and insights of Davos with the energy and curiosity of Silicon Valley.
This is not an intellectual exercise, this is about crowd engagement. We want to spark the ideas needed for sustainable development, but we also want action. In addition to the platform, a fund will be set up to incubate and deploy the most creative and impactful solutions.
UpLink will first focus on the health of our oceans. It will quickly be ramped up to include all 17 SDGs by early 2021. Our future is unfolding rapidly before us: it’s time for all of us to do our best to ensure it is a happy, secure and sustainable one.