About the Conference

Climate Action and Human Wellbeing at a Crossroads:
Historical Transformation or Backlash?

4-5 November 2017 in Bonn

Venue: Maritim Hotel Königswinter

The historic moment

In 2015 two historic agreements on how to fight poverty and inequality, create jobs and conduct the 21st century global economy within planetary boundaries were achieved: The Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The message is clear: the fights against poverty, inequality, and the ecological crisis need to go hand in hand. Our existing growth patterns cannot continue, because this will trigger dangerous tipping points in the Earth system. Two years after signing the global agreements, we can be sure that the transformation to sustainability is possible. The great ambitions of stakeholders around the world have proven this.

But at the same time, the sustainability transformation is under serious threat, because global cooperation is being challenged by nationalism, populism, and post-factual thinking. Human wellbeing, peace, security, and the stability of the Earth system are at a crossroads.

Where we stand: The transformation towards sustainability is achievable

Worldwide, crucial cornerstones of the transformation are already being laid, providing a solid basis for the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement and 2030 Agenda. Today, we have both, the knowledge of what needs to be done to stay within the planetary boundaries, as well as the necessary technologies, business models, and policy tools to put this knowledge into transformative practices. Renewable energy, zero carbon mobility systems, and other decarbonisation technologies are becoming competitive drivers of employment, innovation, growth, and wellbeing.

Beyond that, the support for transformative action from within societies and the private sector has reached an irreversible dynamic in many countries. Companies are realigning their business models and investment strategies towards sustainability and demand coherent and stable political frameworks. Many governments, cities, communities, science networks, civil society actors, faith groups, and international organisations have become pioneers of the transformation towards sustainability. Humanity has a unique chance: the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement could become a global social contract for inclusive human development in an interconnected world economy.

We need to accelerate the transformation.

Despite these promising developments, time is running out to avert dangerous and irreversible changes to the Earth system. In order to limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius, we need to reach zero emissions by mid-century. Hence, the already existing dynamics towards sustainability need to be accelerated in both speed and scale. In doing so, we must keep in mind that the decarbonisation of the world economy and the stabilisation of ecosystems and biodiversity are only feasible if the basic pillars of human development, such as reducing poverty and inequalities, and investing in inclusive human wellbeing, are consequently pursued in parallel.

Global cooperation is at stake – we are concerned: We need to build strong partnerships!

A strengthened and upgraded multilateralism in which states and all non-state actors multiply their efforts to develop a culture of global cooperation is a central prerequisite for a transformation towards sustainability. However, the global order is under stress: nationalism and “our country first” strategies are growing within many societies and governments. Institutions of multilateral cooperation have to navigate increasingly troubled waters. The US government is considering withdrawing from the Paris Agreement and radically reducing its contributions to the United Nations. Brexit and nationalist movements all over Europe challenge the European Union as flagship project regarding cooperation beyond and among nation states.

The renationalisation trend often comes along with populism as another hazard for rule- and fact-based global cooperation. Besides the meaning of cooperation beyond national borders, those forces pursue a kind of “counter-transformation”, questioning the scientific and ethical basis for climate and wider sustainability action. To a large extent the success of populist and nationalist movements reflects that globalisation has created growth, but also inequalities and dynamics of social, political, and cultural exclusion. This underlines two important things: First, the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda must combine bold climate action with strategies to reduce social vulnerabilities, poverty, and inequalities – within and across nations. Second, we must invest in institutions and cultures of global cooperation and build up strong partnerships as key requisites of a prosperous human civilisation.

The time is now

We have a clear choice – will we let this unique opportunity for a global transformation towards sustainability slip through our hands, or will we take action towards ensuring a future in which we live within our planetary boundaries? In In November 2017, the world will look to Bonn during the COP23, where the details for implementing the Paris Agreement will be negotiated.

Back to back with COP23, the conference “Climate Action and Human Wellbeing at a Crossroads: Historical Transformation or Backlash?” will issue a strong call for decisive steps to accelerate the implementation of climate and sustainability commitments. In this spirit, the conference will bring together influential high-level participants from academia, civil society, business, international organizations, national and subnational governments, as well as media and the arts from around the globe. The conference will:

Venue: Maritim Hotel Königswinter
(Participation in the conference is only by invitation.)

The Conference Programme.

Find out more about the Organisers.

Get informed: The Conference´s Narratives.