blog

Bending the curve toward a sustainable future

Every two years since 1970, WWF has been producing the Living Planet Index. This unique and comprehensive report measures two main metrics: the health of our biodiversity and the impact of humans on our planet.

The past 44 years have shown two clear trends: Biodiversity is showing a steady decline, and our ecological footprint, measured in terms of how many global hectares are required to sustain the lifestyle of each individual on the planet, is increasing

“What we see is clear: we are biting into our capital. We are rapidly reaching the point where we need the equivalent of two planets to sustain humans at the present level,” warns Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa.

“I know many people associate WWF with our work with animals, but if we don’t step up and do something at a scale that will change the ecological footprint trend, then all the WWF’s conservation efforts will have been for naught,” he says.

Small wonder then that WWF SA is looking at innovative ways to reduce carbon emissions. One such way is the Climate Solvers programme which falls under the auspices of the Living Planet Unit which is headed up by Saliem Fakier.

“Technology solutions are vital if we are to see a reduction in the carbon intensity of the economy and to mitigate the impacts of greenhouse gases,” Fakier says.  “At present, fossil fuels are the sinews and blood of our economy. Society wants sustainable solutions, but the economy will take a while to adjust.”

The Climate Solvers initiative which recently saw three South African companies named as the country’s first Climate Solvers, is designed to give an opportunity to innovative technologies to move out of relative obscurity and be developed on the kind of scale that will make a real difference.

The first three award winners were Rhino Modified Wood which transforms soft South African pine into a durable hardwood; AgriProten’s Magmeal which harvests fly larvae for animal feed, thereby reducing the pressure on our oceans; and the Solar Turtle which brings solar energy and entrepreneurship to rural communities.

The initiative was started six years ago in Sweden, and since then 53 companies in Sweden, India, China and South Africa have had the opportunity to showcase their innovative solutions.

“We are looking for a fundamental shift in the way the economy works,” Fakier says. “What is the scale at which we need to operate to maintain our lifestyles and make a meaningful investment in our sustainability – that’s what we are trying to respond to with the Climate Solvers programme.”

Science tells us that we need to operate with 100% renewable energy by 2050 in order to keep climate change impacts within manageable limits.

“So our challenge relates to the timescales over which these changes are played out. This is long view thinking: We are making changes for our children and grandchildren,” Du Plessis says. “Short-termism is the predominant mindset, but the WWF has to take the long view in order to change the direction in which we are heading.

“We need mass mobilisation. We need innovative ideas such as the ones offered by our Climate Solvers but we also need a groundswell of participation.”

Du Plessis is calling on all South Africans to take the first step towards change by registering their climate change promises on http://www.wwf.org.za/what_we_do/earth_hour_2014/.

“I have pledged to always use the stairs for anything less than seven stories in a building,” he says. “I’m hoping that all South Africans will make their own promises to make a difference in time for Earth Hour on March 29.”