Year 2017 will be crucial for our Common Home, because of new geopolitical balances, natural resources exploitation, climate change, food security and migrations. The effectiveness of infrastructures will be determinant for our future, in order to balance the needs for mobility with growth and sustainable development. The must will be to improve the usability of existing hubs instead of building new ones.
In the last year several events were a “catch the eye” strategy about sustainability: the last COPs in Paris and in Marrakech were in the spotlight of global media. In 2015 the engagement of diverse players reinforced the awareness, generating a popular topic: Pope Francis releasing the encyclical “Laudato Sì”, the World Bank, the civil society and philanthropists from all over the world creating the Connect4Climate initiative of illuminating the façade of St Peter’s for the opening of the Jubilee, Leonardo Di Caprio and other celebrities endorsing the cause of taking care of the fragility of Planet Earth.
Policy makers from different cultures and geographical areas echoed the concept during their speeches and in their political campaigns. The American elections were the huge dark area: Donald Trump scepticism regarding climate change was a threat for all the environmentalists; but soon after the polls the new President declared he has an “open mind” on the Paris deal and that there is “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change.
China confirmed they’ll peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 or sooner, culminating in even more ambitious goals in the 13th Five-Year Plans, which runs from 2015 to 2020.
Social stability, migrations, wars determined by environmental disasters are the drivers for a concrete implementation of sustainable development principles: the definition “Sustainable Development” was created during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, following years of debates and research on human activity negative impacts on the planet.
The concept that growth would have been unsustainable if unchecked was already an argument for several associations during the 60s; after the Club of Rome's Limits to Growth report (1972) the idea started to spread, and in 1995 the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) organized the first Conference of Parties in Berlin: the COP1. The COP3 was held in Kyoto: a protocol was signed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, where industrialized countries and some economies in transition approved to legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of an average of 6 to 8% below 1990 levels between the years 2008–2012, starting to implement the resolution in 2005.
The USA disallowed the agreement in 2001; decades of negotiations brought to the Paris agreement, exactly one year ago, when the problem became a popular topic for the masses. The personal responsibility of every human being starts to be a shared vision, while the private sector is shifting from exploiting natural resources to transforming sustainability into profits.
Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) are becoming a growing percentage of the total population; people are willing to spend more for sustainable products and services. Corporates are anticipating the changes and are using the concept of sustainability as a tool to conquer their customers ad establish a win - win relation with them.
Corporate communication is reinforced by the halo effect produced by media, international organizations, associations and political movements: finance and the financial markets are developing in the same direction.
Exactly when the United Nations organized the first Conference of parties to tackle Climate Change, some investors started to dedicate a specific effort to sustainability investments: in 1995 SAM was founded in Zurich. SAM launched the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes in 1999, and other stocks exchanges started to exploit the trend: FTSE Global Sustainable Yield Index Series was the second, followed by the NASDAQ, the NYSE, the guidelines on Listed Companies’ Environmental Information Disclosure of the Shanghai Stock Exchange and so on.
Climate change is nowadays a meme: an idea that spreads from person to person becoming a basic value for humankind. The concept is disseminating through diverse segments of the markets and through different cultures and countries: in a while considering effects that our behaviour will have on climate change will become normality. Bankers, investors, politicians, not for profit associations, the education systems and every corporate will deal with sustainability goals in their daily activities. Infrastructures will be the unavoidable support that every player will need in this new context.
Informed and responsible consumers will ask for effective infrastructure to connect each other and access a clean mobility, sharing transportation systems and using renewable energies. Linking smart cites, intelligent farming, the Internet of Things, autonomous driving vehicles, sharing economy consequences, from Blablacar to Uber and “Bitcoins”, early all business will be conducted on a radically decentralized peer-to-peer level, where hubs, connections and sustainable infrastructure will be inescapable pillars.
Sustainable development will be the driver, while dramatic technological disruption will be the vehicle.