Dear Members of the SDSN,

Welcome to the second edition of the SDSN Members’ Bulletin, which includes a spotlight on climate change.

  • SDSN Blog: Warsaw, a Springboard to Paris
  • This Month’s Spotlight: Climate Change
    • Key messages from IPCC 5
    • The importance of a global agreement
    • Milestones towards UNFCCC agreement
    • SDSN contribution to the COP21 process
  • Recent SDSN Updates
  • News from SDSN Members
  • SDSN in the Media
  • Upcoming Events

We hope you will find this Bulletin of interest. Please also share with us any information you would like to see included in the next edition, which will focus on the SDSN’s work on cities and the importance of addressing urbanization as part of the post-2015 agenda.

With best wishes,

GST signature



Guido Schmidt-Traub
Executive Director

SDSN Blog: Warsaw, a Springboard to Paris
By Laurence Tubiana

The Warsaw Conference, which opened on 11 November, will set the stage for the next two years leading up to 2015, when a global climate agreement will be sought in Paris. Two years to build a framework equal to the scale of the climate change problem; two years to ensure a complete success, whereas Copenhagen only outlined a solution.

Since 2009, work has continued, but hope has diminished. Firstly because global greenhouse gas emissions have considerably increased, reaching a record level of 400 parts per million (ppm) in 2013. Secondly because the economic crisis has made fossil fuel advocates increase-ingly vocal. Finally, because the discovery of new fossil energy sources supports the belief that the world economy can continue its progress without any major change, or could even gain new momentum. Against this backdrop, the search for low-carbon development paths is seen as a costly distraction from the foundational principals of the economy we have espoused for more than a century.

Can a global climate agreement emerge in such a context? The answer is yes, because the arguments of climate change denial are not convincing. The only countries that remain hesitant are those whose economies depend primarily on fossil resources. Since Copen-hagen, most governments of major countries have become aware of the risks and have opened the debate, looking for new development strategies to reduce emissions and ensure climate resilience. Originally geopolitical, the issue has become national, technical and economic: today, the focus is on transport policy, urban planning, energy efficiency, clean energy, and the deployment of technological innovations.

The 2015 agreement will depend on the maturity of national talks, which varies from country to country. This agreement should therefore involve several different timescales: binding national commitments for the post-2020 period (2025 and 2030), but also targets and pathways for economic transformation by 2050. These should be rolling targets, with the furthest (2040 & 2050) becoming commitments as time goes on. Finally, they should be integrated into coherent development strategies, with the overall objective of reducing emissions by 50-75% in the long term.

Targets are needed in order to provide guidelines, create obligations, and ensure multiple views converge. But first and foremost, implementation must be credible. This depends on the instruments that will be used: financial components like the Green Climate Fund and technology transfer. It also depends chiefly on public action at the national level and on the capacity of governments to pursue effective taxation, investment and sectoral policies. It also depends on decisions made by other stakeholders: investment decisions made by private firms, and choices made by local authorities, cities or countries concerning transport, infrastructure, energy, and urban planning regulations.

The 2015 Agreement should therefore include several components: the agreement of governments, which is the core of the central mechanism, but also the initiatives that are complementary to the UN section and the commitments of non-governmental stakeholders, who are beginning to organize themselves. The number and scope of these different components will help to determine whether the fight against climate change is truly collective and is becoming a realistic policy horizon, albeit an ambitious one. This will be the real test, over and above the quantified commitments made by governments.

It is now necessary to establish the form of these commitments outside countries, and to determine which ones will have real impact. Which will have the power to transform economies, and which will have downstream effects on international standards, investment levels, control of emissions along the chain of subcontractors, and integration of climate risks and of the risk of portfolios that are too tied to the use of fossil fuels by financial markets. To ensure these commitments find a place in the 2015 agreement, it will be necessary to create the conditions for a “deal” in which the proposals of local authorities and companies are coherent with government actions.

The clock is ticking: the substance of these agreements needs to be largely defined by 2014, for the summit organized by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to ensure negotiations are possible in 2015, taking both a top-down and bottom-up approach. The Warsaw Conference is important: it must urge governments to prepare their proposals in time so that they can be compared with other proposals and with what science tells us, and also so that all resources possible can be mobilized in Paris.

Laurence Tubiana is a Professor at Sciences Po and Director of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI). She co-chairs the SDSN Leadership Council.

This Month’s Spotlight: Climate Change

Each SDSN Members’ Bulletin will focus on a major element of the SDSN’s work. Today’s topic is climate change.

Key messages from IPCC 5

According to the recently released contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I (WGI, on the physical science basis of climate change), the warming of the climate system is unequivocal. The report also underscores that the evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. Evidence is strong for the warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, changes in the global water cycle, reductions in snow and ice, global mean sea level rise, and for changes in some climate extremes.

Cumulative emissions of CO2 will largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond. The con-sequences of unabated emissions would be catastrophic. The contribution of the IPCC WG2 (on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability) to the AR5 has not yet been published. But the AR4 WG2 report already provided a compelling assessment of the risks of uncontrolled climate change: the frequency of heat waves would increase, as would the frequency of heavy precipitation events, storms, and cyclones; areas affected by droughts would expand; sea level would rise; etc.

All of this will have dramatic negative impacts on agricultural productivity, water availability, biodiversity, human health, human settlements, and more. Without strong mitigation actions climate change may cause mass migration of hundreds of millions of people and lead to severe conflict across the globe.

It is therefore more urgent than ever that we implement deep and sustained GHG emission cuts. Energy systems, industry, housing, trans-port, land use, and other sectors must undergo profound changes if global per capita emissions are fall to less than 2tCO2e by 2050, as required by the 2°C global carbon budget. Meeting the challenges of deep decarbonization requires unprecedented problem solving on all fronts: technology, infrastructure, finance, policy, and governance.

This problem solving in turn requires the development of detailed and practical deep decarbonization pathways through to 2050.

The importance of a global agreement

According to the WGI contribution to the IPCC AR5, the world can only emit another 269GtC – the equivalent of 987GtCO2 – if we are to retain a 66% chance of limiting the global temperature increase to 2°C. This carbon budget only increases to 309GtC – 1134GtCO2 – if we accept to lower this likelihood to a mere 50%.

Based on the scientific evidence included in the IPCC AR4, governments decided at the 16th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to reduce GHG emissions with a view to holding average global temperature increases below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Yet, the 2012 UNEP Emission Gap Report calculates that existing country pledges, even if they were fully implemented, are 8 to 13 GtCO2e below the minimum needed to retain a 66% chance of staying below 2°C.

What the world needs is a new global climate change agreement to raise the level of ambition and to close the emissions gap. This would also enable stronger action on adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building, and other key issues. Finally, an effective global agreement needs to shift the focus of international negotiations from burden sharing to problem solving.

Milestones towards UNFCCC agreement

At the COP17 in Durban parties agreed to launch a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties. It was resolved that the new global climate agreement be adopted during COP21 in Paris (France), and that it come into effect from 2020 onwards.

France will most likely host COP21 in Paris in November 2015 – the final decision will be made during COP19 in Warsaw – while COP20 will take place in Lima in November 2014.

As part of a global effort to mobilize action and increase ambition, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will bring together heads of state and leaders from business, finance, and civil society for a Climate Summit in September 2014 in New York. Although the 2014 Climate Summit is not a formal part of the UNFCCC negotiating process, it will be key milestone in the run up to COP21. The Summit will also help ensure coherence between the climate negotia-tions and the post-2015 development agenda.

The United Nations remains the most legitimate and authoritative forum to adopt a global deal on climate change. Yet, other inter-governmental processes can also contribute to a successful outcome of the UNFCCC negotiations by 2015, including the G20, which may help break the deadlock on climate finance; the Clean Energy Ministerial to share best practices and promote the adoption of policies on energy efficiency and clean energy; and the Major Economies Forum and the Petersburg and Cartagena dialogues to discuss important issues of the negotiations. In addition there are many initiatives mobilizing cities and local govern-ments, civil society organizations, business, academia, and other stakeholders.

SDSN contribution to the COP21 process

In the fall of 2013, the SDSN launched the Deep Decarbonization Pathway Project (DDPP), con-vening over 30 leading research institutions from Australia, Brazil, China, European Union, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, the United States of America at a meeting in Seoul. Together the countries participating in the DDPP cover more than 70% of global C02 emissions. The DDPP has three aims:

1. Prepare credible and transparent national deep decarbonization path-ways to 2050 to help countries adopt and implement policies to achieve deep decarbonization.

2. Support positive outcomes at the 2014 World Leaders Climate Summit con-vened by the UN Secretary General and the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris in 2015.

3. Build a global network to facilitate learning and promote problem solving in the implementation of deep de-carbonization strategies after 2015.

The national deep decarbonization pathways will map out the required changes across several key dimensions: (i) reduction of energy consumption; (ii) decarbonization of power generation; (iii) electrification of transport and residential energy use; and (iv) reductions in non-energy GHG emissions in industry, agriculture, and forestry. The DDPs will demonstrate the technical feasibility of achiev-ing GHG emission trajectories that are consistent with the 2°C target.

The DDPP is complementary to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate and its New Climate Economy Report. The interim results of the DDPP will be summarized in a report for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in preparation for the 2014 World Leaders Climate Summit.

The final results will published in a report for the French Presidency of COP21 ahead of the 2015 climate conference. They will detail how these pathways can be implemented, through domestic and globally coordinated policies, and how they can be financed.

 Recent SDSN Updates

Launch of SDSN SE Asia and Indonesia

SDSN Indonesia launch eventThe SDSN Southeast Asia Regional Network was launched by the President of Indonesia, Susilo  Bambang Yudhyono, on Oct 6, 2013, in Bali, Indonesia, during the APEC Summit. The Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy for Indonesia, Mari Pangestu, also a member of the SDSN Leadership Council, and Prof. Jeffrey D. Sachs were present along with high level officials and researchers from across the region. Also launched by the President was a National SDSN for Indonesia. The theme of the International Conference was Tri Hita Karana, signifying the Balinese philosophy of achieving harmony and balance between nature, humans, and god. Click here to read more.

Launch of SDSN Malaysia 

The SDSN Malaysia chapter was launched on Oct 10th, 2013 by Mr. P. Kamalanathan, Deputy Minister of Education, Government of Malaysia. His speech has been made available online. Prof. Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the SDSN and Director of The Earth Institute, Columbia University and Prof. Zakri Abdul Hamid, Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia were also present. Click here to read more.

Malaysia SDSN launch event

Launch of SDSN Korea Forum (SDSN-Korea) 

The SDSN Korea Forum (SDSN-Korea) was launched in Seoul on 7 October 2013 with strong participation by senior officials and researchers. During the public launch a congratulatory message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was delivered. The SDSN-Korea is chaired by Prof. Soogil Young, a member of the SDSN Leadership Council, and will focus on Solutions Initiatives for Korea and educational programs. Click here to read more.

SDSN Launches Campaign for an Urban SDG

There is widespread agreement that urbanization will play a central role in sustainable development over the coming decades, but no consensus exists on how to address urban issues in the design of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDSN report “An Action Agenda for Sustainable Development” proposes a stand-alone urban goal. Together with many partner organizations the SDSN has launched a Campaign for an Urban SDG and prepared a brief document outlining the rationale for such a goal.

SDSN Deep Decarbonization Pathway Project Launched

The SDSN Korea Forum hosted the kick-off meeting of the Deep Decarbonization Pathway Project in Seoul on October 12 and 13, 2013. The project mobilizes energy and climate modeling experts from 11 countries or regions (Australia, Brazil, China, European Union, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, the United States of America), covering more than 70% of global CO2 emissions to prepare long-term, transparent decarbonization pathways that in aggregate will be consistent with the 2°C goal.  The project will issue a preliminary report to the UN Secretary General in preparation for the September 2014 World Leaders Climate Summit. A final report will be submitted to the French government to support a successful outcome of the 2015 UNFCCC COP21 in Paris. Click here to read more.

Technology Platform Initiative – Thematic Group for Education 

The SDSN Education Group has started the feasibility study for a Technology Platform Initiative in India. This SDSN Solution Initiative aims to use ICT to develop a model for the large-scale provision of quality secondary level education in remote rural areas. The feasibility study is being conducted with help from Pratham, India’s largest education NGO.

SDSN Supports Future Earth 

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network is supporting Future Earth, the global research program for science for sustainability. The SDSN will be represented by Guido Schmidt-Traub on the Future Earth Interim Engagement Committee, which will advise Future Earth on its research agenda. The recently released Future Earth Design Report outlines the research agenda and structure of Future Earth.

Rio Sustainability Initiative 

The Rio Sustainability Initiative, based at the Brazilian Foundation for Sustainable Development (FBDS), held its second workshop on October 24, 2013. Click here to read more.

SDSN at the Rio+20 to 2015 Conference

On November 1 and 2, 2013, several SDSN members participated in a conference jointly hosted by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies entitled Rio+20 to 2015: A New Architecture for a Sustainable New World. Frances Beinecke (NRDC), Christiana Figueres (UNFCCC), Emmanuel Guerin (SDSN), Amina Mohamed (UN), Pavan Sukhdev (GIST Advisory), Jeffrey Sachs (SDSN), and Laurence Tubiana (IDDRI) shared thoughts on how to integrate commitments and partnerships into the architecture of both the next climate change agreement and the SDGs.

News from SDSN Members

On October 25, 2013, the Brazilian Foundation for Sustainable Development (FBDS) hosted the launch of the Brazilian Panel on Climate Change’s most recent publication: “Executive Summary of GT2: Impacts, Vulnerabilities, and Adaptation in the Face of Climate Change”.

The Sahel SDSN hosted a meeting on October 30th at UCAD in Dakar. The 25 representatives of UCAD and the MDG Center discussed the goals, membership, and thematic focus of the network. They will hold a follow up meeting on November 16th to being planning for a launch event to be held in early 2014.

The MED Solutions Network hosted by the University of Siena organized a meeting with H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco in Siena, Italy, on October 10, 2013. This event, focused on biodiversity and sustainability. H.S.H. Prince Albert is a member of the SDSN Leadership Council.

A regional workshop to explore key sustainable development priorities for the region and how these could be captured in the SDGs was held in Kuala Lumpur on November 7-8. It was hosted by SDSN Malaysia and the SDSN Regional Centre for Australia/Pacific. The workshop brought together senior leaders from government, business, civil society, and acad-emia in the Southeast Asia and Australia region. It was led by internationally renowned sustain-ability leaders Professor Zakri Abdul Hamid, Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of Malaysia and member of the SDSN Leadership Council, and Sir Robert Watson, Professor at Monash University.

SDSN Leadership Council member Christiana Figueres is featured in an article in The Guardian titled “IPCC’s ‘carbon budget’ will not drive Warsaw talks, says Christiana Figueres.”

SDSN Leadership Council member James Hansen and colleagues wrote an open letter on the role of nuclear energy that is featured on CNN.

SDSN Leadership Council member RK Pachuri has a piece in the Economic Times entitled “Business Must Innovate for Sustainability of Our Planet”.

SDSN Leadership Council member Paul Polman published a piece in the Huffington Post called “Sustainable Business: Where Our Moral Compass Meets the Bottom Line

SDSN in the Media

Upcoming Events

  • COP19 of the UNFCCC: Warsaw, Poland. November 11-22.
  • Ford-Tellus Meeting: New York. November 22.
  • Open Working Group:
    • Sustained and inclusive economic growth, macroeconomic policy, infrastructure and industrialization: November 25-27.
    • Means of implementation, global partnership, needs of countries in special situations, human rights: December 9-13.
    • Science and Technology for Sustainable Development: December 16 – event organized by the SDSN.
    • Meeting on Sustainable Cities: January 6.
  • Gaidar Forum: Moscow. January 16-18.
  • World Future Energy Summit: Abu Dhabi. January 20-22.
  • World Economic Forum: Davos, Switzerland. January 22-25.
  • 22nd African Union Summit: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. January 24-31.