Creative solutions for climate change challenges

Published: 17 May 2013 at 09:53

Inaugural GSI conference at Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge, hears the need for bold decisions

Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) held its first annual research conference in Cambridge on 15 May, on the theme of “Big Challenges, Creative Solutions”.

The event brought together academics, politicians, civil servants, not-for-profits and businesses to explore how individuals interact with and influence global systems.  

The day comprised of workshop discussions and 20 short “flash” presentations covering a diverse range of issues from hairdressers as social change agents to global trade policy, many of which were illustrated in real time by a cartoonist.

The speeches and discussions recognised the need to address the range of issues covering the environmental and social dimensions of sustainability whilst acknowledging that these have a number of trade-offs.  

Cooperation, not competition, was found to be critical, but many challenges still exist in breaking down the barriers between subjects, sectors and individuals.  

The conference opened with a keynote speech from Jane Davidson, ex-Minister in the Welsh Assembly Government and now director of the Institute of Sustainable Practice, Innovation and Resource Effectiveness at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and concluded with a Question Time panel discussion featuring Craig Bennett (Friends of the Earth), Professor Brett Day (University of East Anglia), Deborah Doane (World Development Movement), Eileen Donnelly (John Lewis) and Dr Sergio Fava (Anglia Ruskin).

Questions discussed included whether short-term capital accumulation was needed to allow investment in long-term solutions, and the need for political vision and leadership whilst acknowledging the challenge of extending the time politicians are in power.

Concern was expressed that the type of rapid change needed has, in the past, often been linked with human suffering.  The panel concluded that the role of technological innovation and regulation to unlock transformational change needs further investigation.

Craig Bennett, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Friends of the Earth, said:

“To find solutions to today’s sustainability challenges we need both action on the ground as well as bold political leadership.
“It was great to hear about some of the solutions being put in place as well as explore some of the challenges in creating political action at the GSI conference.”

Dr Aled Jones, Director of Anglia Ruskin’s GSI, said:

“It is always a challenge to bring together people from a range of backgrounds to find common ground around solutions.  
“However, by allowing space for creativity we hope that the GSI annual conference can provide a level playing field where economists, artists, scientists, business entrepreneurs and policy makers amongst others can work collaboratively and find a common language that will both challenge them but also enable them to take bold decisions as they return to their working lives."