“Finite Planet, Infinite Potential” — The Salzburg Statement on New Governance for Sustainability

I spent a good part of the past February to June period helping prepare a Salzburg Global Seminar (SGS) session entitled “A Climate for Change: New Thinking on Governance for Sustainability”. The seminar took place from 23 to 27 June 2013 in Salzburg, Austria, at the beautiful Schloss Leopoldskron. About 50 persons from 26 countries, with ages spanning 60 years and professions covering a wide range of sustainability-related fields, came together to consider some major global challenges of our times. From conceptualizing the interconnections between people, the environment and the economy, to rethinking economics, trade and finance, addressing climate change and the food-water-energy nexus, learning from local good practices and investing in knowledge sharing and education, engaging civil society and the private sector, and holding institutions and other actors accountable at all levels, this was a very rich exchange, with an impact on all those that participated and hopefully beyond.

I am reproducing below the Salzburg Statement issued at the end of the session under the title “Finite Planet, Infinite Potential”. It can also be found online at www.salzburgglobal.org/go/515 , where the session’s report will also be posted in the coming weeks. Happy reading and hopefully acting in response!

Georgios Kostakos

Brussels, 6 July 2013

Finite Planet, Infinite Potential

The Salzburg Statement on New Governance for Sustainability

We, citizens of many countries and of the world, share our one and only planet with more than seven billion others. We call for leadership, justice and imagination at all levels to find ways to preserve the Earth and enhance prosperity and wellbeing for all.

We face a daunting future. Unless we change course, we will condemn our children and grandchildren to an uninhabitable planet. We must act with urgency, inspired by individual and collective wisdom, to address critical challenges such as climate change, population growth and biodiversity loss. We have to support and sustain life, now and into the future.

We need innovative approaches to governance that reflect the complexity and interdependence of sustainability challenges and that safeguard human dignity, gender equity and the common good.

This Statement is addressed to leaders of governments and international organizations, business, religion, civil society, science, education and the media, and to individuals. Ten priority actions can transform life chances and opportunities for current and future generations throughout the world:

  1. Move beyond narrow short-term thinking and vested interests, especially in decisions concerning food, water and energy security.
  2. Encourage and reward social and technological innovation for a low-carbon economy that addresses the needs of all.
  3. Support and replicate, on a sound evidence basis, dynamic and inclusive initiatives by cities and local communities.
  4. Engage civil society, business, and sub-national authorities in decision-making and partnerships for action.
  5. Stop subsidies to polluters, put a price or tax on carbon, and ensure that markets value natural capital.
  6. Use economics, finance and trade systems in new ways that compound rather than discount future value, encourage sustainable lifestyles, and enhance global prosperity, equity and resilience.
  7. Integrate assessment of climate and disaster risks, and supply chain viability, in infrastructure and other investments.
  8. Agree on common goals and indicators to accelerate and measure progress.
  9. Invest in exchange of knowledge and best practices, and in education for sustainability at all levels.
  10. Embed the rule of law and accountability in all decision-making and implementation, nationally and internationally.

Together, women and men of all nations, races and creeds, we have the knowledge and means to avert the grave threats facing humanity. The global transformation required may not be fast, easy, simple or cheap – but it is perfectly possible. We offer two proposals for urgent consideration:

    • Establish innovative, independent and powerful representations for future generations to align today’s policies and actions with the long-term common good.
    • Convene open and inspiring exchanges at neutral fora, such as Salzburg Global Seminar, to build trust and confidence between high-level decision makers and stakeholder groups, and look for new thinking and breakthrough ideas.

Salzburg, June 2013

 

About Georgios Kostakos

Georgios Kostakos is Executive Director of the Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability (FOGGS) and an independent consultant on global challenges and sustainability, governance and UN affairs based in Brussels, Belgium. He holds an MA and a PhD in International Relations from the University of Kent at Canterbury (UK), and a Mechanical Engineering degree from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece. He served on the secretariat of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP) as Senior Adviser and Acting Deputy Executive Secretary, and on many other positions at UN Headquarters in New York, UN field missions, the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP) and the University of Athens. He is passionate about Europe and the World, and strives for human well-being in peace, prosperity and justice.
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