The GRIT - Issue # 1
Green, Resilient, Inclusive, and Technology-Driven Paths to Sustainability
Welcome to the first edition of the GRIT, where I will share interesting articles, book reviews, event reviews, and other news I have found interesting in the past weeks.
The path to sustainability requires courage, resolve, perseverance, and conscientiousness. It is also the acronym for this newsletter's themes: green, resilient, inclusive, and technology-based solutions to the most critical challenges the world is facing today: climate change, environmental degradation, inequality, exclusion, and poverty.
My Favorite Reports on Climate Adaptation and Resilience of 2020 - Part 1: The First Five. 2020 is coming to an end. It is time to put together "Top 10" lists and to reflect on a challenging year for all. I wanted to share my Top 10 favorite climate adaptation and resilience reports of 2020. In this note, I review five of them. Stay tuned for the second half.
Post-pandemic recovery and sustainability
I have been writing with colleagues from different technical disciplines a series of articles on "how to" design specific programs for a green, resilient, and inclusive economic recovery. With limited fiscal resources and the urgent needs for economic growth and jobs, sustainability may not be in many decision-makers' minds. These articles show how specific sectoral programs in areas that may not be obvious can achieve growth and jobs while advancing in the path towards sustainable development. In this edition, I want to share the first two:
A green, resilient, and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic: What does it really mean?
Land administration reform: part and parcel of an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable COVID-19 recovery
I have been going back to one of my favorite books and framework – Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth. You may know the concept of planetary boundaries – the limit to how much the Earth system can provide (in terms of biodiversity, climate variability, land, etc.) The concept was introduced by Johan Rockstrom in 2009. This approach's shortcoming is that it doesn't incorporate as clearly the needs for poverty elimination and prosperity. The doughnut economics adds an internal boundary to identify socially just parameters along the SDGs: access to services, gender parity, poverty elimination. By using simple parameters, the approach can be downscaled to cities. This is where I have seen some of the most exciting applications. If you want to get an appetizer of what the concept is about, take a look at this TED talk.
Project Syndicate organized a very interesting virtual event around the theme of The Green Recovery to discuss the possibilities of incorporating sustainability in the post-COVID recovery packages. The panels explored the need for more flexibility and experimentation in the recovery programs – much like the New Deal was designed – rather than just a pre-defined set of investments. They also discussed all the hard work ahead to get big businesses' good intentions into real actions. Finally, they discuss that with the current costs of renewables, the question is not of technology as much of political will. I particularly liked the interventions of Kevin Rudd, former PM of Australia, Abiy Ahmed, PM of Ethiopia, and Anne Lariguaderie, Executive Secretary of IPBES. If you only have a couple of minutes, watch the summary here.
The technology corner
One of the technology questions that has not been resolved in the fight against climate change is air conditioning. With the current technology mix used, energy demand from cooling will triple by 2050. Apart from a bit of gain in efficiency levels, AC units use the same technology from a century ago.
While policy incentives can help move the average unit's typical efficiency to the best technology available, which is twice as efficient, this is clearly not enough. AC energy demand will still be 70% higher by 2050. There are many technologies under development: geothermal heat pumps, solid-state components to avoid refrigerant gases, materials to deal with air humidity separately from air cooling, and different ways to tackle evaporative cooling. Some of the most exciting technologies are now finalists in the Global Cooling Prize.
The sad part? Only $350 million of capital invested last year – compare that to the investments in solar, batteries, and EVs. Much work ahead! You can read the full article from the MIT Technology Review here.
Leadership in international development and sustainability
If you do not feel that the typical articles and blogs on management and leadership speak to your work's challenges because they focus on Western for-profit corporations, you may find my newsletter interesting. My blog series focuses on the specific challenges faced by leaders and managers in not-for-profit organizations working in sustainable development. I share my personal tips and tricks in the newsletter. I also review and expand on leadership articles that are most relevant to international development. You can look at past issues and subscribe here: https://edeijjasz.substack.com/
+1 for Donut Economics. Really helps to reframe how we need to look at the world. Modern Monetary Theory is another book which challenges orthodoxy.
Thanks Ede for exciting insights for post COVID worlds. While the GRIT and green recovery offers to most of us convincing model for future growth, it would be good to hear your views on what is constraining the scale up - is it just the lack of progressive leadership or still an economic argument which focuses on quick and near term results rather than sustainability?