There is a pressing need to redress the balance between our ecological footprint and the biocapacity of our finite planet, and we need a new kind of compass to lead the transformation to competitive sustainability. Key ingredients are to be planned for future-proof utility infrastructure, and solutions to be provided for solving bigger societal goals.
I was born at start of the 1970s, at a time when our global ecological footprint was more or less in balance with the Earth’s biocapacity. Unfortunately, we have been going in the wrong direction ever since. A good indicator of this is the fact that Earth overshoot day – the day of the year when our global footprint exceeds the Earth’s biocapacity – is getting earlier every year.
The future is doughnut-shaped
In 2017 Kate Raworth introduced a holistic model called doughnut economics. In this model, rather than aiming for “single-minded” perpetual economic growth, economic activity aims to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet. The model acts as a compass to guide us in the ecological level that makes sense for our planet to prosper and be fair for all.
The doughnut’s outer ring is the ecological ceiling, below which we must remain if we are to have a chance of maintaining a stable and safe planet, while the inner ring is a social foundation that we must aim to raise everyone above to enable a fair and just world. In the undeveloped parts of the world too many people still sit below this foundation. However, based on United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals the vast majority of the people are targeted to reach the inner ring by 2030.
The dire consequences of our insatiable appetite for growth
What have been the consequences of our desire for perpetual growth? The answers do not make pleasant reading. We have lost 50% of the world’s rainforests and our farmlands are overloaded. Overfishing has led to 90% of all large fish being lost from our oceans.
To have any chance of limiting the global temperature increase to below 2°C in line with the 2015 Paris Accord on Climate Change, CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions need to be kept well below 450 ppm. Drastic action is needed now to reduce CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions globally, supported by a new kind of growth thinking. Achieving this target will require us to reduce emissions four times faster this decade than we managed between 2010 and 2020.
Steps in leading the transformation of industrial infrastructure
Industries´ share of energy use and CO2 emissions today is evident. How to turn the role from causing emissions to providing solutions to the ecological challenge? The leaders of this equation can be called the winners in the industry.
Utility infrastructure transformation means closing the loop of energy and material streams in industrial production. It means building a future proof infrastructure that is flexible to changes and adapting to needs upon technology development. Future proof infrastructure is built on three ingredients.
First, planning energy and material flows as a circular economy, minimising waste and reducing emissions. Second, using the opportunities of digitalisation and automation to optimise processes and take smarter decisions. Third, building a smart cooperation model to acquire relevant expertise, utilising economies of scale and enabling relevant commercial models.
At Nevel, we are a technology neutral utility infrastructure partner with our compass calibrated towards a sustainable future. We are there to help you discover how to accelerate sustainable growth in your respective industries.
Kate Raworth and Christian Guthier. CC-BY-SA 4.0. Raworth, K. (2017), Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st century economist. London: Penguin Random House.
National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts, 2021 Edition data.footprintnetwork.org
Attenborough, D with Hughes J.(2020), Life on our planet. London: Penguin Random House.