Breakthroughs for the 21st Century?

In July I was priviledged to be invited to a Sustainable Development Commission conference that shared the winning entries from their competition to find breakthrough ideas that could change society to be more sustainable in the 21st century.

The event was a big occasion, with Jonathan Dimbleby chairing, Anna Ford and Jonathan Porritt on hand, and even Prince Charles popping in in the afternoon to give us a rallying call on the need for sustainability (though no-one in the room really needed more oomph on this one!)

The ideas were grouped into fairly arbitrary categories about lives, places and economies, and there was lots of good stuff about sustainable food, low energy buildings, etc etc but here’s the few of the 21 that I thought most revolutionary and interesting:

Congress for the future: Setting up a people’s congress that works alongside parliament, but only has responsibility for recommending policy for the long term, over 10 years to 50 years from now – an advisory body not lawmaker

Allocating carbon permits at source (fossil fuel extraction) not at point of use (emissions): steeply reducing permits to create an economic incentive to drive renewables without involving end users, agriculture etc. Shockingly anarchic, yet seems simpler than the several carbon trading schemes that are currently underway, or personal carbon budgets

Personal carbon budgets: very complicated to run/manage in terms of the information required, even though the reco is for step one to only cover certain sectors (home energy, transport), to introduce equitability and personal decision making power – and they can be bought and sold so money making opportunity for lower-carbon users (generally the less well off). But who’d trust the government with such sensitive information? Perhaps if Tesco can run clubcard, maybe they could run this?!

Financial sector overhaul – green bonds to invest in green projects so doesn’t have to all be from the taxpayer, plus changing RBS to be the Royal Bank of Sustainability, so that as our nationalised bank it had a remit (like the BBC does) for public service investment. Radical! And of course I got them all excited by suggesting that all the current government money could be pulled back from Icelandic banks etc to be invested in either of these schemes rather than making foreign banks rich… apparently equally shocking, no-one had thought what happened to the billions of govt budgets sitting around each financial year before it gets spent…

Overall an exciting day, to actually be discussing tangible changes to the status quo rather than just taxes, fuel prices, and energy efficiency! Any comments welcome. For the full report, go to