This year's G20 summit in Toronto won't come close to solving the world's economic problems since it ignores too many critical issues. Here are some that should be addressed.
Early this June, Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced that the “number one issue” at the G20 summit in Toronto is Europe’s increasing debt and overspending. Now hold on a minute, Jim: what about the other two thirds of the world that have suffered crippling international debt, environmental catastrophes, hunger, disease, and economic trouble this past century? The European crisis is a red herring, steering the conversation away from what it should really be about: creating a just, environmentally and socially sustainable economy for all. Unfortunately, the crucial discussions of climate change, water scarcity, food security, renewable energy, international aid, and human rights will be relegated into peripheral obscurity at the G20. If we had it our way, there would be a different order of business. Corporate Knights looked to international thought leaders to gain insights on what needs to change. The consensus is that the modern world’s agenda needs a redesign. We need a new model for growth, a new model for value, and a new list of priorities that take into account the neglected issues that are far more powerful and permanent than the almighty dollar. How do we reconcile the economy with the environment? Here’s what they had to say.
"If we are going to preach globalization in this new wonder world then democracy should have an ultimate concern for people. Right now people are starving while these corporations are making a profit by hijacking the market with cartel price-fixing. How can the world leaders ignore that?"
Eugene Whelan, former Minister of Agriculture for Canada and former President of the UN World
"You can make a lot of money by taking action [against climate change], but what good are the bags of money going to do you when the climate begins to change fiercely. It would be wise to take action on adaptation, not on trying vainly to stop something that we can’t."
Dr James Lovelock, scientist and author of The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning
"We need to bring architects, environmental engineers, scientists, clean water specialists, bio-engineers, disaster mitigation specialists, and other experts to the decision-making table by encouraging them to step away from their computers and hold public office. We can no longer rely on lay expertise alone. Having a few more problem-solving professionals in politics will have positive side-effects."
Kate Stohr, Co-founder and Managing Director, Architecture for Humanity
"Give up the idea of growth and stop using it as the yardstick of economic policy. Changing paradigms is now an imperative, no matter which way you look at it."
Dr Vandana Shiva, Indian philosopher, ecofeminist, environmental activist, and co-leader of the International Forum on Globalization
"The sea, the last part of the world where man acts as a hunter-gatherer—as well as bather, miner, dumper, and general polluter—needs management, just as the land does. Economics demands it as much as environmentalism, for the world squanders money through its poor stewardship of the oceans."
Canadian Marine Research Ecologist and Conservation Biologist Dr Boris Worm
"Our environment, our economies, and our communities are all connected. The Inuit hunter falling through the melting ice in the Arctic is connected to our actions far to the South: the cars we drive, the policies we create, and the disposable world we have become. So too is that Inuit hunter connected to the small islander fighting to save his home from the rising tides on the far side of the earth. Losing the frozen Arctic, the air conditioner for the planet, is simply too expensive."
Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Inuit Circumpolar Council Chair, 2002-2006
"You have to deal both with environmental effectiveness and the fact that people who can't afford [energy and food] will need some help."
Dr. Stephen H. Schneider, climatologist, Stanford University; Coordinating Lead Author in Working Group II, Third Assessment Report, IPCC
"We should begin shifting the burden of tax systems from things we need to encourage such as income, savings, and investment, to things we must discourage, such as fossil fuels and resources and products with a high environmental impact."
Jim MacNeill, Secretary General of the Brundtland Commission on Environment and Development