Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Op-ed China Daily: Two questions for those earning over 70 yuan a day

Below is my article from today's China Daily. It was inspired by all the "innovation" events that I have been attending lately and was triggered by the news from FAO the 19th of June that 2009 will be the first year in human history when more than one billion people will go hungry. An alternative heading could be "A billion reasons to innovate".

China Daily is allowing a lot of space to 21st Century thinking and todays reader could also read the following article from Noleen Heyzer called "Riding high on low-carbon economy"

Two questions for those earning over 70 yuan a day
By Dennis Pamlin (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-30 07:55

The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization issued a press release recently saying this year will be the first time when more than 1 billion people face undernourishment, that is, 1 billion people won't get enough to eat. We share the same vulnerable planet and, because of globalization, we are closer neighbors than ever before. Hence, we should not allow any neighbor to starve without doing everything we can to help.

Poverty is a complex issue, and the current situation can be explained by a number of factors, ranging from structural global issues such as unfair trade rules to capital flight from poor to rich countries because of non-transparent tax havens. There are no simple ways to address these challenges, but we must keep looking for solutions.

Over the past few weeks, I have attended a number of conferences on how innovative individuals and companies develop new products. After listening to participants, it has become obvious that almost the entire focus is on the small minority of rich people.

The innovations include things like tracking devices for pets, automatic watering gadgets for flowers and plants, games on mobile phones and dull nail polish. None of this is necessarily bad, but in times of such a huge crisis we should take a step backward and rethink our priorities.

We should ask ourselves how much time we spend on addressing the basic needs of those that need help the most compared with that spent on trying to give those who already lead a good life an even better life, or even create needs where there might be none.

The focus on people with more money is not surprising because all companies look for possible ways to increase their revenues and know the poor have weak purchasing power. But it is time we discussed how poverty can become a driver for innovation.

Alleviating poverty is not about charity, it is about justice and about the kind of people we want to look at when we see ourselves in the mirror. It is also about the kind of companies we have and what they do.

It is time to act and take some small steps to tap into the resources and creativity that exists in all companies. The CEOs of all companies with creative staff should gather their employees and ask two questions: "How can positive contributions be reported, and can the things we produce meet the needs of 9 billion people?"

Many companies are already helping the poor, some knowingly and others unwittingly. If we make the positive contributions of such companies well known, it will increase their prestige in society. On the other hand, it can raise questions over the companies that make a lot of money but do not contribute anything in the fight against poverty.

Companies could start formulating "planet and people positive target" plans. The existing system of companies reporting non-economic issues, for example, social and environmental issues, focus on how companies can reduce their negative impacts. This is of course important, but it is equally important that companies contribute positively and report these in a credible way.

If companies had to write in their quarterly and annual reports how they helped alleviate poverty it would help employees, clients and policymakers to better understand their contribution to society. Discussions on "the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid" have shown there are many opportunities out there.

As far as the second question is concerned, to eradicate poverty we have to think in the long term on how we can create a more resource-efficient society.

In just a few decades, there will be 9 billion people on the planet. If we are serious about alleviating poverty we have to accept the fact that much of what we are producing now can fulfill the need of only a small group of people. The simple reason is that our planet does not have enough resources to fulfill human need if everyone starts copying the wasteful lifestyle of the rich.

The Hummer car is probably one of the best examples of a wasteful lifestyle. Even if one out of every 10 or 20 people were to buy a Hummer car each it would cause an environmental catastrophe. We need to ask ourselves whether such products should be allowed to be used at all, and what kind of PR campaigns companies should be allowed to run to try to convince us to buy things that are quite unnecessary and use huge amounts of natural resources.

On the other hand, most smart IT solutions, which make use of laptops and mobile devices, are examples of products that could be used by 9 billion people. Solutions like e-education and teleworking should be supported increasingly because they can be used by everyone and help build 21st century's real infrastructure. This infrastructure is already in a position today to help the poor by creating channels like mobile micro-lending and those that give information on agricultural products' prices.

The government can help unleash a wave of poverty alleviation programs by supporting companies that want to use their innovation to help. It can, for example, ask for transparency when it comes to the positive impacts of companies. More involved companies will help address some of the more complex and structural issues, too, because those working to alleviate poverty would see the need for more fair trade rules, and pricing and other mechanisms.

We are the first generation in history to face mass poverty, hence this is a historical time for companies and politicians to take innovative steps, and those doing so will be remembered forever.

The author is adviser to various companies, governments and NGOs.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

World Business Summit on Climate Change (WBSCC) present summary report of the Summit: More pictures that content

Yesterday the “World Business Summit on Climate Change team” sent out the summary of the summit. With all the pictures, snappy quotes and lack of concrete message it looks very much like the kind of greenwash CSR report that companies with focus on PR used to publish before standards like GRI came along.

It is surprising that a document that focus more on photos and short quotes from different people than content, is published in 2009. We have a climate crisis where radical action is needed and business usually, rightfully, ask for clarity. In this situation a document is put together, that is meant to reflect business perspective, that say nothing important. I hope people will read the document, will not take long as it might be 44 pages, but the text without all the quotes and pictures could fit on about 17 pages. The whole process is very strange and I’m sure future researchers that study the lack of action will study the WBSCC process in order to find out why.

Not sure why the full text submitted to them did not make it into the catalogue (see below for the full text). The price would have been a slightly smaller picture on the page (page 29), the gain would have been a few more concrete suggestions. Even if the suggestions are in the back of the report, and detailed suggestions where not allowed, hopefully a few policy makers could find inspiration.

Even if the WBSCC process so far is a disappointment (I still hope that follow-up events will be more specific and contribute to a more opportunity based agenda that present new ideas the really can deliver) Gordon Brown did what all serious world leaders (including business) should do, he became specific and put money behind it. Obviously it is not perfect, but it is far better than anything else out there now. It is the kind of statement that WBSCC and other business initiative can look at and see how they can support or even challenge by taking it even further. Have a look at Brown’s “Roadmap to Copenhagen” Speech here.

Below the full text submitted to WBSCC about the side event (a shorter version can be found on page 29 in the summary).

‘Creation of a low carbon economy - an opportunity’
Hosted by Novozymes /Ericsson/Suntech/WWF

• In discussing possible solutions leading up to the COP15 meeting we too often focus on incremental change of the existing industrial landscape. In other words, we talk about the size of relatively modest emission cuts for emitting companies. The focus is also almost exclusively on high carbon emitters and not on possible solution industries.
• Incremental reductions are obviously important, but it is essential to go beyond that. It is not possible to “reduce” our way to the 80 % or even 90 % reductions of GHG emissions required by 2050
• In order to reach substantial emission cuts we must create a whole new industrial landscape and not only focus on what we must do less of, but also what we need to do more of. This will require a technological shift to provide smarter ways of doing things
• Several companies and sectors are already providing low carbon solutions, which create transformational solutions that encourage further and deeper emission cuts.

Key messages
• At COP15, governments must make sure to focus on solutions based on transformative technologies such as those offered by the ICT, biotech, smart building- and renewable energy generation industries as they have a huge potential in terms of mitigating climate changes.
• Climate policy must shift from the strong focus on the high carbon emitters, to also include solution industries, and companies that can offer services and solutions which have a net positive impact on global CO2 emissions, in other words are “climate positive.”
• Businesses should be encouraged to report not only their own direct emissions but also their contribution to reductions in other parts of the economy. This would allow for climate positive reporting by solution providing companies that through the sale of their products help reducing GHG emissions significantly (such as many ICT, biotech and renewable energy companies).
• Governments should shift from a product to a services perspective, applying life cycle approaches that support cradle-to-cradle strategies in business along all value chains and using ecosystem services sustainably.
• Governments must support a shift from investment in “20th century infrastructure” such as roads, airports, transmission lines and old buildings to investments that enable mass deployment of low-carbon broadband networks and smart services, or a “21st century infrastructure.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

From the cold war to the coal war: Eight principles that can guide us out of the fossil era

Are there lessons to be learnt from the Cold War for those engaged in the Coal War? I think so.

This year it is twenty years ago since the cold war ended (in practice even if the formal declaration took a few years more). The political wave of change during 1989 began in Poland when Solidarity was legalized and allowed to participate in parliamentary election. It continued in Hungary where the parliament adopted legislation providing for multi-party parliamentary elections and a direct presidential election at the end of 1989 and Czechoslovakia experienced peaceful student demonstrations. The pictures from the wall might be the most famous from 1989, but the events in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary can easily be seen as the sparks that changed one of the most serious polarizations in modern time.

Twenty years later I visit Warsaw, Budapest and Prague during three days on the low carbon innovation tour. It was impossible for me to avoid reflecting on the similarities (and differences) between our current “war” on coal/climate change and the cold war.

Many have described the climate challenge as a war this time with outdated economic models/ideas, influential individuals and powerful companies on the one side and the planet, future generations and new smart solutions on the other side) and that we need a similar focus in order to avoid a climate catastrophe. There is a lot of truth in this, but we should also ask how the cold war was won and why the actual outcome was less positive than most people hoped for. After discussing with students and experts during the trip I have identified the following principles that might inspire those involved in the “coal war”.

1. Don’t let the people with marginal thinking and marginal solutions dominate
Today many so called “environmentalists”, researchers and climate experts are engaging on marginal issues in relation to climate change. This is not always bad, but in many cases it can actually be counter productive. By spending time on incremental issues resources are spent in field that are actually do not matter very much. Obviously certain processes are not suitable for a transformative agenda, but if that is not the case these should be avoided as much as possible. A lot of time and opportunities was lost during the cold war as many (especially in the “west”) focused on incremental improvements, as an end to repression seemed impossible and na├»ve. This principle is true for everyone, but environmental NGOs could probably benefit extra from reflection in this area. I’m working on a graph that provides an overview of how different groups have moved since Kyoto 1997 and will publish that in August/September.

2. Don’t see all the people on the other side as evil
Too much time is spent on demonizing the “Coal/fossil forces” in the same way as a “communists” was painted a collective evil. Instead of sweeping generalizations it is better to be very focused and talk about the individuals that are responsible for the agenda (in the coal war the CEOs, board members and ministers). These are people that have a responsibility and it is when their friends and families no longer will accept that they are destroying the planet that they will change (or cling less desperate to the power they have today). Within the fossil companies many people exist that see the need for a low carbon future and that are doing important work to promote this (my feeling is that many of these “intrapreneurs” are doing some of the most important work in preparing for a rapid shift towards a low carbon economy) or even more clear as they have more knowledge both about the problem and solutions than most people.

3. Dare to publish results that are challenging business as usual
Many experts and thinkers through time have hesitated to challenge the accepted “truths” of their time (people used to be afraid of the Church, now it is big corporations that many are afraid of criticize). The “fact” that growth is needed, that coal will be with us for many years so we need CCS, all climate measures must create new jobs, etc is nothing more than fossil thinking that assumes a “business as usual scenario”. Many organizations need to be better to separate strategy from tactics. Since Kyoto there has been too many examples where key people in NGOs have fiercely opposed a bad policy, then trying to mitigate the consequences of the policy when they have been introduced, then after a while promoting the new mitigated policy and push for damage controls as “solutions”. Necessary tactics should not be turned into strategy.

4. Realize that the war is not over when the rhetoric change and symbols disappear
Looking at the cold war from a security perspective the war did not really end. We still live under a nuclear threat (“Fog of war” is a fantastic movie about this and one of the best documentaries made). If it was about personal freedom and human rights some significant gains were made, but we should not forgot that some were lost as well when one set or rulers took over after the other. So now when old companies start talking about a “low carbon future” and don’t use old industrial symbols in their marketing it is important to look at the actual investments and emissions.

5. Don’t try to win tomorrows battles with yesterdays weapons
Using simple macroeconomic models, growth targets and industrial job creation as tools to show the benefits of a post carbon economy can not be the dominating strategy. They can be used for tactical reasons, but a well thought though strategy must exist. The opportunities are enormous and the positive impacts of a decentralized smart energy and transport system is much bigger than just the reduced carbon. When even the Chinese government, the European commissions and Al Gore are talking about the problem with a GDP focus many people in NGOs are pushing harder than ever for Growth models (like the McKinsey abatement curve) and payment for environmental services (as a way of putting “value” on things that can not be measured). Using the web to build networks of low carbon innovators, applying non-linear models to understand different change scenarios, illustrating the transformation through interactive tools, implement new business models using a low carbon development as a driver for innovation/profit and build net producing buildings that demonstrate that the future is here are just a few of the tools at our disposal.

6. When winning, make sure you don’t lose
The collapse of the wall was the beginning of one of the least thoughtful and most narrow-minded reform projects ever. Experts without any understanding of the countries they where sent to “liberalize” the economies in a way that created some of the most corrupt and environmentally destructive countries on the planet. It also created instability that we still are suffering from. It is important that time is spent on developing the strategy for a post coal economy.

7. Put the challenge into context
Even if media have a problem to deal with complexities and focus on a few issues at the time that should not push those working with important questions in the same direction. Climate change has become a mainstream word (I remember being told that “climate change”, “CO2”, “transformative solutions”, etc would never make it into mass media as they where to technical and difficult for people outside the academia to understand. I get the same reaction when I ten years later try to push for “integrated solutions”, “planet positive”, “beyond happiness” and “innovation surfing” as key concepts. This Friday FAO estimated that 2009, for the first time in human history, more than one billion people will go hungry.

The climate challenge is related to the burning of fossil fuel, but it must be seen in the context of a society that it depending on wasteful consumption, the idea that everything has a price, a culture that lost connection with nature, an ethics that put people in the centre and the rest of the planet that is at our disposal, etc. Unless we do this we will win the battle, but lose the war.

8. Those claiming to be part of the solution can be part of the problem
Maybe the most controversial, but also one of the most important lessons, is that just because to engage in the issue and claim to be part of the solution that might not be true. Many of those claiming to support a low carbon development are not really doing so. The reason for this can be many, they can be so caught in internal power struggles that they focus on keeping their position regardless of direction, they might depend on funding sources that they are afraid to upset (often without ground); they might have a lack the intellectual capacity to understand both the challenges and the solutions, etc. The result is that they become more of problem than a solution. While formal education might not be the most important (but it does not hurt) experience, network and funding are things that are important, but more than anything transparency regarding, investments, goals and strategies.

The question is not if we will leave the fossil age, the question is when and how. A new generation will hopefully not do the same mistake as the old. And more than anything don’t think that a new generation will bring change just because of the fact that they are a new generation.

I end with two quotes.

First a quote from Time Magazine that dedicate their latest issue to 1989: “Americans today are consuming 2 million more barrels of oil a day than they did in 1989. ‘I was hoping for a huge shift in philosophy afterwards [Exxon Valdez],’ says Riki Ott, a biologist and fisherman from the sound who wrote a 2008 book on the spill entitled Not One Drop. ‘But it hasn't worked that way yet.’”

Second a quote from IHT (June 21st issue):
In the “In our pages” box, they reminded us of what happened 50 years ago by republishing an article that included this quote: “Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda, ordered that the vice-chancellor’s speech before the University of Marburg on Sunday [June 17] should not be reported in the press, because the man who by his own connection with President Von Hindenburg made it possible for Hitler to become chancellor was rash enough to stat publicly that ever critic was not necessarily a traitor”. When an organization is afraid of external criticism and new thoughts, it is time for those who don’t believe in authoritarianism to act.

Three innovation guidelines presented at the Lift conference in Marseille

Asked to present some ideas, based on the work I’ve done with large companies around the world, that could help innovators provide solutions that are needed, I presented the following three ideas at the lift conference in Marseille:

1. The 9 Billion Challenge
This is a challenge that I have been talking about with a lot of companies but am yet to develop into a working tool. The basic idea is to look at innovations/solutions/suggestions trough a “9 billion population lens” and ask the question: “Can everyone use the innovation/solution/suggestion, or is it only for a small exclusive group in the rich countries?”. The 9 billion challenge is meant to discuss the direction of innovations not produce a “yes or no”. It can also be used to ask about the relevance of the innovation. While it is fun to develop application for the iPhone it might be worth asking if this is helping the one billion people starving. If it does it is great, if not maybe it is an idea to reflect on how much time/resources that resources/time/imagination we spend on the already rich and how much time we spend on those who struggle to survive.

Both solutions and ways to measure a 9 billion solution are needed.

2. Planet Positive+
This is a further development of “Climate Positive” (that I’ve been working with Ericsson, China Mobile, Novozymes and others) as I think that neutral is not a suitable goal for companies. Innovators should not focus primarily on how they can make companies less destructive (but it is nothing wrong with that) but how they can help companies give a positive contribution to society.

We should set targets that are positive for companies, not zero as a target. (I liked what Gunter Pauli said: “We would not accept a bank robber who say that he will rob a little less and say that it is a great improvement, but for companies we often accept less destruction as a great step forward.” Almost as good as the question “Is it progress if a cannibal uses knife and fork?”)

Again, both solutions and ways to measure planet positive are needed.

3. Innovation surfing
It is obvious that most of the innovations are not directed towards those that needs it most (or the areas where innovation is most desperately needed). But instead of complaining we can map where innovations are taking place and try to see how we can “surf” on those innovations towards the areas where we need innovation. We can use the resources, ideas and network from areas where more activity is taking place today and ensure that as mush as possible is used to deliver the important innovations that we need.

A map to define innovations an outline for an innovation map for “hot-spots” is presented in the PPT below:

Friday, 19 June 2009

One sixth of humanity undernourished – Can a call for innovation become any louder?

The same day as the Lift France 09 Conference kicks off the FAO sends out a press release telling us that 2009 will most certainly the first time in human history when more than one billion people are undernourished … That is 1 000 000 000 people not having enough to eat in 2009. (but you know that already)

It is time to demand more of those who have the best opportunities to innovate and turn the innovations into projects that deliver results for those that cannot do anything. Looking forward to the discussions tomorrow and hope there will be some concrete outcomes that deliver results. Time for “Spime that delivers”. Bruce Sterling and Marc Giget probably had the most inspiring presentations the first day, but can their ideas be turned into action?

I really think a tool must be developed to track the deliverables from conferences. It will be difficult, but maybe that in itself could be one challenge for innovators? Looks like a perfect fit for Lift….

Goals for Lift:
• Turn change into opportunities
Change can be a threat if you do not anticipate it in time. By coming to Lift you will get a preview of the big changes that will impact you, your job, your organization, your life, so you can prepare and get ready.

• Inspire
Like some of the most creative organizations in the world, we believe that one of the best way to generate new ideas is via cross-polinization, an horrible word for a fundamental truth: you will get more inspiration from an event featuring speakers from diverse backgrounds that at a professional convention where everybody basically agrees on everything. Come and listen to ethnologists, entrepreneurs, artists, designers, or even the webmaster of the Vatican. They all have some ideas you will be able to reuse in your daily life!

• Connect
What's an idea without the persons behind? Usually not much. At Lift we focus on bringing together all the participants, whatever their background and role in the event. We treat everybody the same and that creates amazing networking so that you can meet the people behind an idea that interests you.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

TOWARDS GREEN ICT STRATEGIES: Assessing Policies and Programmes on ICT and the Environment. OECD study reveals a blind spot

OECD recently released a new study “TOWARDS GREEN ICT STRATEGIES: Assessing Policies and Programmes on ICT and the Environment”. There is a lot of interesting material in this and OECD should be congratulated for carrying out this task (not the least mapping the governments and industries focus with regards to ICT.

The focus on ICT as a problem “Green the ICT (2%)” is very dominating, while the more important area “Greening with ICT (98%)” is still very much ignored. (See the graph for governments here and the graph for industry here)

A closer look would most certainly reveal an even more unbalanced picture if the resources spent on 1st and 2nd effects (2%/98%) was presented. Most initiatives that I know of in the list that state “both” will spend 80-90% on “Green the ICT (2%)”. Some of the Government initiatives are not really in the “Greening with ICT (98%)” area even though they have said that this is their focus. Others such as Greenhouse Gas protocol have begun to look at the possibility, but their current standard have no real focus on the secondary order effects.

Maybe also interesting is that Governments seem slightly ahead of the whole ICT industry when it comes to “Greening with ICT (98%)”, unfortunately this is often only related to research and not so much actual initiatives that support accelerated uptake.

It is worth noting that no (zero) global initiative, neither business nor industry, is dedicated to the “Greening with ICT (98%)”. But very many are only looking at “Green the ICT (2%)”.

When will the first global initiative be launched that is dedicated to promote the uptake of low carbon ICT solutions, i.e a clear 98% focus?

Friday, 12 June 2009

China Daily OP-ED: Five ways to make the world a better place

From today's China Daily. Look forward to discuss these in more detail when I go to China next (end of July). Again a great illustration. Will we be able to see that companies can be both the main solution and the main problem to the Climate Challenge? Supporting the winners is now more important than hunting the bad.

Five ways to make the world a better place
By Dennis Pamlin (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-12 07:49

The first World Business Summit on Climate Change ended in Copenhagen recently, where the world's leading companies were supposed to send a clear message to politicians across the world, but they failed.

The idea was great, but the outcome was full of vague statements and shameless requests for money to continue with unsustainable business practices. This was in great contrast to parts of the actual conference where I saw some really interesting ideas and sustainable business examples, some of them from Chinese companies, but more about that later.

One of the ironies of the fight against climate change is that many of the companies, including Chinese, most vocal at climate discussions are part of the problem. Of course, we should listen to such companies, too. But we must realize that slavery would have probably existed today if politicians back then had listened to recommendations of firms that were making the chains the slaves were forced to carry. Even if such firms conceded the need to change they would still try to find excuses and delay action by presenting improved products - for example, chains for slaves or purportedly less-polluting goods.

The global market is changing fast and a naive market fundamentalism has not only been destroying the planet and widening the income gap, but also undermining the economic values of society. It is time we understood that companies come and go as society changes, and there's no need for us to go overboard to save a company once it has ceased to deliver what society needs. The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones.

Today's companies need to move away from fossil fuel before we burn up all the coal and oil. Technology has the power to bring to us the services that the polluting and dangerous fossil fuel has been providing by using clean energy.

China has the unique opportunity to support tomorrow's companies and ensure that those defending outdated business models do not get importance. This is especially important because China has some of the best and worst companies existing side by side. The worst are as greedy as the greediest Western companies. They are also non-transparent and unwilling to engage in dialogue with civil society. Many of them are active in the extractive industries, and have been driven outside China because of their development has been resource inefficient. On the other hand, China also has some of the most interesting and progressive companies, which can help reduce the need for natural resources.

During the World Business Summit two firms were especially striking: China Mobile and Suntech. They provided a breath of fresh air, and focused on their core business and what is needed for low-carbon solutions. The two belong to a group that can be called "climate positive" companies. The more these companies sell their products, the more they help the world reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emission.

The "climate-positive" contribution of solar-power firms is easy to understand because the more solar panels the world uses the less GHG it emits. But smart IT solutions from companies like China Mobile are a bit more complex. They are nonetheless no less important than renewable energy because low-carbon IT solutions can allow many people to live good lives without destroying the planet. Smart working solutions that allow people to reduce traveling by car, and smart control of lights and air-conditioning are just a few examples that can help build a harmonious society.

In order to support low-carbon economy and turn the need for reduced emissions into an opportunity, as well as to help the Copenhagen UN Climate Change Conference in December yield a good result, China could initiate a low-carbon innovation policy package. The package would require a significant change from existing climate policies, both in China and the world beyond. As a start, China could introduce five simple, but groundbreaking, policies.

The first and probably most important step would be to officially recognize a group of companies that is or could be "climate positive". These companies should be encouraged to report how much GHG the increased use of their products and services would reduce. Representatives from this group should be invited to comment on all policy developments. The government could even move this group to the forefront of the fight against global warming to redefine the way the problem is approached. It could also accord these firms a role in global negotiations.

The second step would be to pay special attention to transformative solutions that reduce GHG emissions by 90-99 percent. This would encourage innovative solutions such as smart buildings that produce the energy they need, video conferencing, e-paper and smart work solutions - for example, a person could work from home, if need be, instead of driving his or her car to office. The focus on transformative solutions will encourage smart nanotech solutions that would play a defining role in the 21st century, and thus China could lead the rest of the world in the fight against climate change.

The third step would be to announce a plan for 21st century infrastructure. Most of the infrastructure expenditure in China is still on environmentally inefficient structures, roads, airports, and oil and coal exploration. It's high time China shift its focus and ensure expenditures are diverted toward fiber optic cables, broadband, smart buildings that can produce their own electricity, electric cars, fast trains and renewable energy. The government could create an index to track such expenditures and help the companies collaborate to build the "new infrastructure".

Four, the country would require an eight-year fossil-free plan from all major companies because the pace of climate change is faster than thought earlier. The plan would indicate how ready companies are for a low-carbon economy. By asking for a plan that requires companies to be fossil-free in eight years the government would be encouraging innovation. This can be a climate stress test, similar to the test for banks that the US government carried out earlier this year. If it's possible to conduct a test to see if banks are in good economic shape, then it should also be possible to see whether companies are ready for one of the most important shifts in human history.

Five, China could become the first country in the world to set export targets both in yuan and GHG reduction value. This would require the government to develop a methodology to assess the GHG cuts from smart exports. In fact, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is already working on this.

China has the chance to approach a challenge in a way that could turn it into an opportunity. The five suggestions would propel it to the forefront of the fight against global warming. Many countries and groups would support it if the ideas were to become reality. The proposals fit well with current policies and would show that China is not following in the unsustainable footsteps of the West.

The author is advisor for various environmental organizations.
(China Daily 06/12/2009 page9)

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

From General Motors to General Mobility: Goodbye 20th century and hello 21st century when GM dies and Cisco emerge

Will 8th of June be seen as the day US shifted focus from a 20th century infrastructure to a 21st century infrastructure? Can the restructuring of GM and the increased role of IT companies crate a new industrial map in the US?

Just a week after Ericsson and China Mobile discussed the need for a stronger focus on the 21st century infrastructure (not just the 20th century) at the World Business Summit on Climate Change it became public that the Dow Jones Industrial Average will begin including Cisco Systems on its list of 30 major stocks selected to reflect the overall U.S. stock market. The date this will happen is June 8...

If the US government turns what is left of GM to a sustainable company this could be part of one of the biggest transitions in modern industrial history. For this to happen the US government must move beyond the incremental thinking that other countries have demonstrated (Sweden for example that only think about slightly better cars). General Motors must be turned into General Mobility. The company that is re-emerging must focus on service not products. It is not good enough to just make better cars, even if they are electric or fuel-cell cars. A company in the 21st century must focus on sustainable provision of services for a global market.

The transition from General Motors to General Mobility should:
- Include strategies the also allow for virtual mobility (don't see the 21st century infrastructure as a competitor, but one part of the offering to customers)
- Ensure that the solutions developed support sustainable cities of the future (The way cities develop will decide if we can move out of a high-carbon/resource intensive lock-in or not. By just putting more cars on the road we will not be able to create sustainable cities)
- Adopt a global market perspective. Don't only look at the short-term demand in the rich part of the work (that kind of perspective will result in SUV's and other non sustainable solutions). Ensure that the company can offer solutions that can be used all over the world.
- Create solutions in collaboration with other companies (IT, public transport, renewable energy providers, etc) to help move away from the "car" focus.
- Support a model where people don't own cars, but rent them as they need them (Smart car use)

This could be historic, or it can become a minor change that does not result in any significant change... The people at GM, providers of sustainable mobility solutions and the US government have the opportunity, all that is needed is leadership. It can be done...

The illustration is from a tool that soon will become public.