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"Parliamentarians, the future of our Earth is in your hands"
Bern, 12 June 2012. "Politicians are elected for only a few years, whereas business investment cycles are much longer. An electric power plant functions several decades. The life expectancy of a child born today reaches almost to the end of this century, and the impact of CO2 emissions on our climate, and the impact of radio active materials on our planet go well beyond the next century" said Mrs. Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel, former United Nations Environment Programme Director, in her keynote talk for a parliamentarian briefing on resources, organised by the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences (SATW) on behalf of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences (A+), and the WRF Secretariat, held in Bern yesterday.
"The future of our Earth is in your hands", she said, "business plays a key role, but you need to build the framework, promoting a decoupling of wellbeing and economic growth from environmental impacts. This can be achieved through innovation and innovative business models."
The solutions exist, she said, in particular ecological tax reform, removal of perverse subsidies, green public procurement, proper legislation, standards and transparency, but "you need to be brave, rethink old models, and work in partnership with business, scientists, and - to give a example from Switzerland - work with both the World Economic Forum as the World Resources Forum. Because there is no sustainable growth without proper resource management".
The parliamentarians, who represented various political parties, were welcomed by SATW president Ulrich Suter, and also listened to a presentation with facts and trends about the Swiss resources flows, in particular metals, by Rainer Kündig, Swiss Geotechnical Commission (SGTK) Director.
"The challenge of sustainable resource management reads better than any thriller", he said, "with raw materials as victim, being murdered by innocent citizens, just carrying a laptop and a cell phone. Laws are incomplete and have gaps that international companies feel comfortable in. Scientists know the solutions, in principle, but still hesitate to describe these in a crystal clear way.
An open and informal exchange of views followed on how to increase the political sense of urgency about the resources crisis, which on its turn was depending on the public awareness about the issue. Communication is key as one parliamentarian said, we would for instance in fact need a fourfold increase of the price of gasoline, but "who explains this to his voters?"
SATW/A+ and WRF published a flyer about resource efficiency, facts, challenges and policies for Switzerland, which can be downloaded from the links below (French and German versions).