"The last few days have been a great personal learning experience for me and have given me the opportunity to do some personal reflection.
It was refreshing to listen to all the good work that is being done towards the sustainable development goals, and at the same time very worrying. The words from the National Geographic video during the opening day event really struck home for me:
“We are the first generation to feel the sting of global warming, and the last generation who can do something about it.”
This is based on the concept that there is a lot of negative inertia in the system and things will get worse before they get better.
Ernest Moniz, the United States Secretary of Energy, said that he is an optimistic physicist in his approach to climate change. I am a physicist too, or at least I was one when I studied. I am a big fan of this discipline and I believe a bit of physics can help us in boiling down the issues and identifying the real constraints we need to address.
So let´s start with the definition of sustainability. In reading a sustainability report and asking people what they think sustainability is, words like the “triple bottom line” and all sorts of complicated language come up. I think it is helpful to bring it down to the core and be clear on what we mean.
The British sustainability scholar, John Blewitt defines sustainable development as “the idea that the future should be a better and healthier place than the present” Another subject matter expert, William Adams, defined it as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
So our job in this room is to ensure we leave a better place than the one we found when we arrived and at the moment I am not sure we can say that we do.
So let´s get back to physics and try to define the constraints and the real core issues we need to address. From my perspective there are two main objectives:
- Courageous and smart public private partnerships
- Partnering with the consumer
Jens Birgersson, CEO at the ROCKWOOL Group, closing keynote speaker at the Conference 'Urban Innovation for Liveable Cities', Track 1 'Promoting Innovative Energy Partnerships' during Climate Week New York 2016.