Dresden Nexus Conference – at the science-policy interface

by Andrea Vera (Peru) & Fernanda Martinelli (Brazil)

During three days we had the opportunity to participate and be involved in the Dresden Nexus Conference (DNC). The conference was held at the Deutsches Hygiene Museum (a must see museum if you are in Dresden) from 17th to 19th May.

This biannual conference was focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Nexus Approach: Monitoring and Implementation. Major topics covered were ‘Wastewater Reuse in Nexus Perspective: Environmental, Economic and Societal Opportunities’, ‘Smart Green Cities: Adaptation and Urban Resilience’, ‘SDG Agenda: Achieving SDGs’, and ‘Resource Recovery and Reuse in Multifunctional Land-Use Systems’.

It was a great space for networking, discussion, lectures and sees the results from case studies around the world. DNC is a platform that brings all stakeholders and actors (researchers, implementers, decision makers) together implementing the Nexus Approach. But what does it mean to implement the ‘Nexus Approach’? This was the first question that some of us were wondering during the conference. First, this approach is focused on Water-Soil-Waste and that all natural resources are interconnected to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).  Amazing goal! But, it is a serious challenge as we look forward to reduce poverty and provide enough food and water for all. Second, this approach also aims to join scientist, implementers, decision-makers and donors to exchange experiences, discussions and close the gaps between actors. This was well addressed, but more involvement from the private sector is needed.  Finally, it seeks to improve governance and participation to implement the Nexus Approach outside the academic circle and intersect all efforts from individuals to governments.

One of the newest sections in the conference was the World Café. During 60 minutes, in a round-table, we dialogued about multifunctional land-use systems and resource management. Every person could choose on which table to participate according to their field of expertise or interest. An expert moderated the discussion and noted the main points of interest to be taken into account for the next conference. Questions like ‘What data is missing?’, ‘How can we monitor and what potentials indicators could we use?’, ‘Which stakeholders should be involved?’, ‘What are the next steps? Where are the information and knowledge gaps?’: among other were discussed and summarized into key points.

Some final remarks that we need to bear in mind: you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Management and monitoring is important in every work, so we can see where we are and how are we achieving the goals; we must work together, build bridges between all actors and stakeholders, make connections between governments and financial sector. Let’s move from laboratories and start field implementation. As the Agenda 2030 says: ‘let’s ensure that no one is left behind’.

Photos by Anna Görner

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Another knowledge-search excursion to the German Environment Agency (UBA)

by Ms. Kebaabetswe Keoagile (Botswana)

It all started with the admiration of the main building. One would have thought it’s a business building; it is a piece of architectural beauty indeed!

 

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Picture by Bendicto Kabiito, Uganda

That was on the 11 th and 12 th of May, 2017 when CIPSEM EM40 participants had an excursion to the German Environment Agency (UBA) in Dessau. The Agency is Germany’s central federal authority on environmental matters. According to their website and other websites, there have three main functions.

Its key statutory mandates are:

  • To provide scientific support to the Federal Government (e.g.. the Federal Ministries for Environment; Health; Research; Transport, Building and Urban Affairs);
  • Implementation of environmental laws (e.g. emissions trading, authorisation of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and plant protection agents)
  • Information of the public about environmental protection.
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Introduction to UBA (Photo by Andre Lindner)

 

Different topics were presented, graced questions and discussions from the participants. The agenda for sustainable development 2030 was of great importance to generate insights into topics such as Sustainable development, green economy, sustainable resource use, and resource efficiency. Presenters were insightful about the need for action regarding transitioning to green economy. Population growth, high economic growth in developing countries, increasing fluctuating energy resources prices were cited as reasons for action.

And with these actions they are benefits that can be derived and the presenter covered: business opportunities, job creation, less environmental change hence higher welfare and quality of life, less dependency on energy imports and less use of resources, to name a few.

In the discussions, green economy was being viewed an aspect of sustainable development.

It also emerged through the discussions that sustainable development is an overarching vision while green economy gives shape to sustainable development, however, it does not fully address social issues.

It was important for us to learn that Germany has sustainability strategies which include resource efficiency policy and national strategy for sustainable development which were updated in 2016 for alignment the Sustainable Development Goals.

As the day progressed, the Dr. Uwe Leprich, Head of Department under Climate Protection and Energy unit, welcomed us to the Agency and introduced the two alumni of the CIPSEM Programme: Ms Rachel Boti-Douayoua (a 2015 CIPSEM participant) and Prof. Dr. Bert Kohlmann (a 1981 participant). The two gave interesting presentations about their experiences during the course. The latter noted that environmental issues by that time included ecological change, soil pollution, ozone layer depletion and air pollution, as opposed to climate change. His valuable experiences included making friends who were resourceful for his subsequent collaborations and project work. His projects were more into what he studied during the course (renewable energy and bio monitoring) and currently embarking on renewable energy projects as part of the transition to green economy.

Ms Boti-Douayoua also gave insights into her current work of which she managed to integrate what she learnt from the course on carbon credits. This was evident that indeed the course reaches its objectives of skilling and enriching participants.

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Professor Dr Bert Kohlmann (CIPSEM Alumnus -1981, photo by Dr. André Lindner)
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Ms Rachel Boti-Douayoua (CIPSEM Alumna -2015, Photo by Dr. André Lindner)

The participants had a relaxed evening and informally continued discussions about the day’s events at a joint dinner at the NH-Hotel (courtesy of CIPSEM secretariat). Some participants had a night-walk within the city centre to appreciate its beauty thereafter. Thanks to CIPSEM invite!

Day 2 was the day to get the practical part of the issues previously identified, with aid of cases from Germany. The topics of the day ranged from climate change priorities, adaptation and institutionalisation, to waste electrical and electronic equipment management and the strategic and environmental impact assessments. Thanks to the presenters for the knowledge share with or imparted onto the participants on the above areas. The participants engaged the presenters through discussions.

At the end one will say it was still clear that the challenge is putting theory into action remains critical in many spheres. One example of such challenges was the comment from a participant on the amount of work done on the environmental issues especially climate change, the results of which are not yet realized.

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Ms Judith Voss-Stemping (presentation on international Climate Protection-Priorities and institutionalization in Germany, photo by Dr. Anna Görner).

Implementation! Implementation! Implementation!

PAGE Ministerial Conference 2017

– Relative Anxiety –

by Sean Townsend (Jamaica)

On March 27, 2017, the CIPSEM EM40 cohort travelled to Berlin, Germany to attend the second staging of the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) Ministerial Conference. Before exploring the activities of this 2-day conference, it is first important to reflect on the genesis of PAGE.

In 2012, Rio+20 (the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) was held in Brazil. The conference’s outcome document entitled “The Future we Want was a call to action for governments, businesses and the UN alike to support countries interested in the transition to a green economy in an inclusive manner (for people, the planet and prosperity). This call to action resulted in the creation of an action plan, which would use the window of opportunity identified for achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs), as well as laying a foundation for addressing climate change from 2015-2030. This plan would involve Ministers, heads of UN Agencies, business and thought leaders, representatives from civil society and development partners and so the PAGE was launched in 2013.

The focus of the 2017 conference was to explore how our investments, lifestyles and growth patterns can be “enablers” for the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. It also sought to answer questions such as:

  • What are the necessary ingredients for the transformational change required to deliver prosperity for all on a healthy planet?
  • How can the shift to the Green Economy be accelerated by widening existing partnerships and initiatives to build inclusive green economies?

It should be no surprise that the conference was well organised. It consisted of several main plenary sessions addressed by influential keynote speakers who took the opportunity to make jabs at the current USA administration, especially because of the denial of the existence of climate change which is quite clear to the rest of the world, but that is not the focus of this reflection. Parallel sessions ranged from fascinating case studies presented by state ministers, leaders of global companies as well as young entrepreneurs all working towards the smooth transition into the Green Economy. I should also mention the food provided was superb and dining with the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum was neo-historic.

At first, it was fascinating to observe the level of thinking which has been put in at the higher level by the PAGE partners and the myriad of factors under consideration. But I could not help but wonder how does this transition into reality? How does it accommodate John Public and those of us residing in the developing world?

With these questions, I decided to dialogue with my fellow participants to get feedback to these questions. Like myself, many were impressed with the organisation of the conference and the level of thinking put into the process by scholars and sector leaders. However, we could not help but feel left out of this people-centric process as there was no definitive plan of action and those that were illustrated seem to address stakeholders “who must be aliens from another planet,” as expressed by one of the participants. Many felt the transition to the green economy was imperative but the developing world is not ready, and there is no proper plan of action to address this. It seemed it was business as usual; providing aid to developing countries, instead of building capacity in the true sense to enable us and to put a stop to this dependency on developed countries. During one of the discussion forums, one participant expressed that PAGE 2017 was like “a ‘family wedding’ where one could be caught up with the global family;” I then wonder if the developing world was a distant cousin.

Nonetheless, it was a great opportunity to network, meet leaders of industry and state as well as meet fellow compatriots and especially the women working in this area. The EM40 cohort also took the opportunity to share with conference participants, information on the CIPSEM programme. Who knows, maybe in the near future the CIPSEM programme may include some high profile participants with deep governmental nepotic connections.

Perhaps transition into the Green Economy requires an action plan developed by the developing nations for implementation, influenced by the ideas of the youth and adapting those of the developed nations.

Excursion to the German Environment Agency (UBA)

Our CIPSEM journey continued from 18th to 19th of May 2016 in the city of Dessau. The visit to the German Environment Agency (UBA) began with an introduction and welcome speech by Mr. Ralph Wollmann, who gave background information about the history of the German Environment Agency and explained its participation and contribution to CIPSEM courses. Furthermore Mr. Wollmann talked about the role of UBA in the german society and the international community.

Following up were interactive sessions on several topics from the manifold portfolio of the agency. Among others there were talks on water resources management and climate change adaptation in Germany, transboundary movement of waste, environmental risk regulation of pesticides, green economy and much more.

The stay in Dessau was furthermore accompanied guided tours through the price winning main building of UBA and the world famous Bauhaus.

Report and photographs by Hisham Abdelgawad (Egypt)

Learning to communicate

Everybody can express him- or herself. However, being familiar with a few communication methods makes it much more likely that visions about good environmental management will become reality.

During a one-day workshop, Ursula Caser, an experienced mediator, has introduced participants to a range of concepts that will improve the exchange with decision makers and the public. In hands-on group work participants could practice what they have learned by facilitating a meeting.

Photos by Harald Schluttig

Excursion to Freiburg

1740 hours of sunshine per year make Freiburg to Germany’s sunniest city. And that is just one reason to pay a visit: In 2010 the city was awarded with the title ‘Federal capital in climate protection 2010’. This prize acknowledges the city’s comprehensive efforts and leading role in climate protection measures. On a ‘Green City Tour’ the group got an impression of some innovative approaches, such as the city’s integrated mobility strategy, urban gardening initiatives, renewable energies, and sustainable living. On the second day the group left the urban grounds and headed into the wild to discover a riparian wilderness trail within a flood retention area.

(Photos: A. Görner, A. Lindner)

Berlin calling

After the quiet of Vilm, the group plunged into the vivid urban life of Berlin: the first day started with a seminar on sustainable development goals at the Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) and a guided tour through the ministry. On day 2, climate negotiations at the Ecologic Institute, a visit to ECF Farm, Europe’s largest urban aquaponic farm, as well as a visit to a greywater recycling project were on the schedule.

(Photos: A. Lindner; A. Görner)