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Sustainability Events

Global Futures Special Seminar: Global Sustainability Challenges and Pathways

Olcay Ünver

  • Deputy Director, Land and Water Division, Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations

Since The Limits to Growth was published in 1972, the notion of global thresholds beyond which growth would be impossible has been highly discussed and disputed. Recently, lessons learned from the industrial revolutions and the “green revolution” led scientists to tackle Earth system complexities through the introduction of a “safe operating space for humanity,” rather than setting limits as stipulated in the planetary boundaries concept.

Today we know that we are not in the safe operating space in terms of carbon emissions, pollution in waterways, loss of biodiversity and conversion of land for agriculture. Furthermore, changes involving oceans, ozone depletion and freshwater consumption are nearing the unsafe zone.

The safe operating space is a pre-condition for sustainable development, which the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda addresses through its 17 goals and 169 targets. The interlinkages among the goals increase the complexity of monitoring, but allows decision-makers to establish custom-made “dashboards” to assess the consequences of their decisions on other sectors and domains. Coupled with forecasting and backcasting, multiple pathways to reach a goal can be evaluated, and investments and interventions can be fine tuned.

In this lecture, Olcay Ünver will provide examples incorporating natural resource management, food security, responsible consumption and development financing.

Besides his work with the Food and Agriculture Organization, Ünver serves as the vice chair of UN-Water, the interagency mechanism that coordinates the UN’s work on water and sanitation. Before joining FAO, Ünver was the coordinator of the UN World Water Assessment Programme and the director of the UNESCO Programme Office for Global Water Assessment.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019
2:00 - 3:00 p.m.