Sustainable living by 2050 will require "fundamental changes in governance structures, economic frameworks, business and human behaviour," notes a report presented last week at the World CEO Forum in New Delhi.
The Vision 2050 - The new agenda for business report, published by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), argues that the changes are attainable and "offer tremendous business opportunities for companies to turn sustainability into strategy". They are convinced that some nine billion people can live well within the resource limits of the planet by 2050.
Growth, urbanisation, scarcity and environmental change will trigger construction of new infrastructure for transport, energy, water and waste, as well as helping to develop smarter mobility and eco-housing and restore nature.
The challenges are even expected to "spur a green race," with countries and business both working together and competing to get ahead.
The vision was developed by 29 global companies representing 14 industries. The companies ranged from Arcelor Mittal, E.ON and Sony to Syngenta, Volkswagen and Procter & Gamble.
The "must-haves" of the upcoming decade to achieve the 2050 sustainable vision include:
- Addressing the development needs of billions of people and boosting education and economic empowerment, particularly of women, and developing radically more eco-efficient solutions, lifestyles and behaviours.
- Incorporating the costs of externalities into the structure of the marketplace, starting with carbon, ecosystem services and water.
- Doubling agricultural output without increasing the amount of land or water used;
- Halting deforestation and increasing yields from planted forests.
- Delivering a four-to-tenfold improvement in the use of resources and materials.
- Halving carbon emissions worldwide (based on 2005 levels) by 2050 through a shift to low-carbon energy systems and improved demand-side energy efficiency, and;
- Providing universal access to low-carbon mobility.
The authors note that traditional financing models will not suffice and that "more innovation is needed" to create robust and affordable instruments that are suitable for mass replication. The report also foresees the emergence of "new forms of risk sharing and transfer (beyond traditional insurance models)".
The life insurance and pensions industries could play a role in bridging the financing gap for large infrastructure projects, provided that the right regulatory and risk assessment frameworks are put in place, the report suggests.
According to the authors, European life insurance and pension providers currently manage 40% of the assets in the global insurance market, with around €5,750 billion of investment in corporate shares, bonds and other assets. Some 2-5% of these assets - representing billions of euros - could be allocated to infrastructure projects, the businesses suggest.