UNEP-convened Global SCP Clearinghouse: obliging the Consumer Generation with Alternatives

By Dave Armstrong - 09 Oct 2014 8:17:16 GMT
UNEP-convened Global SCP Clearinghouse: obliging the Consumer Generation with Alternatives

Conspicuous consumption belongs in the ancient worlds of absolute monarchy and personal greed. Sustainability for all of us simply means care with expenditure of energy and resources — if, that is, we all take part. The photograph represents both over-consumption of energy and efficient recycling-make your mind up where YOU come in the league table of sustainability. Your children would appreciate that ! image; Credit: © Shutterstock

We have gone very intellectual in the cause of sustainability. The United Nations Environment Programme has convened the Global SCP Clearinghouse, hence, an epistle on real-time “sustainable consumption and production”, reaching topics as far removed as recycling waste school meals food and saving energy in modular homes. Our own record on a whole variety of subjects may be quite unfamiliar- see here: Green and Healthy Projects Worldwide.

A tipping point we need to reach: Mainstreaming Sustainable Consumption and Production

“Rethinking the future: It is a profound challenge, at the end of an era of cheap oil and materials to rethink and redesign how we produce and consume; to reshape how we live and work, or even to imagine the jobs that will be needed for transition”.

This observation by Ellen MacArthur, creator of the eponymous foundation in 2010, goes to the core of a very fundamental issue. How can we, meaning our global society, break away from deeply ingrained patterns of resource inefficiency in order to construct a sustainable, long-lasting and ultimately enjoyable future?

No one who studies these matters seriously is under the illusion that these changes will come over night, or without growing pains. The transformation must hinge on action both from the top and from the base. In recent months, the concept of Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) has become a hot topic in international discussions, even earning a stand-alone goal in the current permutation of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) next year.

SCP means doing more with less, and decoupling economic growth from increasing resource depletion and degradation. At the Rio+20 Conference in 2012, governments recognized the importance of SCP by adopting the Ten Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP), a global framework to accelerate the shift to SCP in both the developed and developing world.

A multi-stakeholder platform, the 10YFP will provide focused and sustained support for the shift to SCP patterns, by concentrating on specific programme areas. The current list of programmes includes public procurement, consumer information, lifestyles and education, buildings and construction, tourism, and food systems.

Hindering past efforts for a global shift towards SCP has been a palpable lack of coherence. As the above (partial!) list of SCP domains can attest, the subject is vast, and information is too often scattered. To help overcome these coordination problems, The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), acting as the Secretariat of the 10YFP, has developed an online platform designed to be a one-stop hub for SCP.

The Global SCP Clearinghouse brings together stakeholders from all levels of society - from those involved with the smallest NGOs to actors at Ministries of Environment - into a common space where they can share information, search for collaboration opportunities, and showcase the work they are performing in all sectors of SCP.

The transversal nature of this platform is perhaps it’s strongest asset: ‘Communities’ of practice divide the Clearinghouse by both sector and region, so that vast amounts of potentially convoluted information can simultaneously share a platform, and yet remain partitioned into manageable pieces.

Thus, a rice farmer in Laos can search a database to see if the fertilizing techniques he or she is using have been replicated in the region, or across the world, and with what results. At the same time, a railroad company looking to make a switch to more efficient lighting across their supply chains can see where this has been tried before, and by whom.

The Global SCP Clearinghouse allows for these exchanges, between and among actors from the international down to the local level to establish a global collective impact. The shift away from business as usual will not be possible if this dichotomy is broken, as substantive change will not come only from the top down or vice versa.

Shifting away from inefficient resource use is a monumental challenge, which goes against established practices and many established interests. The case for doing so, however, from an environmental, economic and social perspective has been made. The current system is unsustainable, and technological advances have given us the opportunity to break away from linear modes of consumption and production to a circular, resource efficient economy.

Frameworks such as the 10YFP and its information platform, the Global SCP Clearinghouse, provide tools and concrete means of implementation for this transformation. And yet, they are hollow without actively engaged stakeholders.

The urgency for such engagement is manifest, and momentum is increasing. The 10YFP framework stands ready to take a leading role in the global shift to SCP. The question that remains, however, is whether enough individuals and organizations from around the world will push forward until a tipping point is reached.