EDF statement from Ruben Lubowski, Associate VP for Climate & Forests and Chief Natural Resource Economist
November 20, 2020
This week, the governing Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) — the United Nations agency that sets standards for global aviation — took an important step forward on climate progress: it approved select tropical forest protection programs for airlines’ use in offsetting carbon dioxide emissions of international flights. ICAO’s decision means that reductions in emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, known as REDD+, certified by these programs are now eligible credits for airlines to use in accounting for their emissions in ICAO’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
“ICAO’s decision connects limits on aviation carbon pollution with investments in tropical forest protection and restoration, and is a win for nature, countries, companies and communities. After more than a decade of work on REDD+ frameworks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and other fora, this marks the first time that REDD+ credits have been approved for use within a global compliance carbon market system.
“ICAO’s decision to include large, jurisdictional-scale REDD+ programs in CORSIA sends a critical signal to companies and policymakers about the value of tropical forest protection to meet climate goals. It shows forest countries that there is tangible demand for emissions reductions of the highest environmental and social integrity. Approval of these programs will drive progress in reducing emissions at the scale needed to achieve the climate goals set by the aviation industry and in the Paris Agreement.”
Ruben Lubowski, Associate Vice President for Climate and Forests and Chief Natural Resource Economist
Background Ending tropical forest loss, along with restoration and reforestation efforts, can reduce overall global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 percent and is indispensable for meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Jurisdictional-scale forest protection and restoration programs can provide highest quality emissions reductions, at scale.
As EDF analysis shows, global climate cooperation through carbon markets can enable double the emissions reductions under current Paris pledges for the same cost as countries acting alone. REDD+ accounts for a majority of this potential to increase global climate ambition in the coming decades.
The inclusion of jurisdictional REDD+ credits in CORSIA will provide a secure supply of high-quality offsets to help the global aviation sector achieve its goals. It will also catalyze critical finance flows for forest protection and restoration and, in doing so, help protect biodiversity and support local livelihoods.
The forest-carbon credits approved by the ICAO Council are based on emissions reductions measured at the level of entire countries or subnational jurisdictions, rather than of stand-alone projects, with some exceptions made for the smallest projects. “Jurisdictional” scale frameworks provide incentives for national and subnational governments to work alongside the private sector, communities, producers, and civil society to protect forests across entire landscapes. The approved jurisdictional programs include the Architecture for REDD+ Transactions (ART) and the Verified Carbon Standard’s Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+ (JNR) methodology.
ART uses as its standard The REDD+ Environmental Excellency Standard (TREES), which sets a high bar for environmental and social integrity for credits from REDD+ at a jurisdictional and national scale. EDF has helped to establish the Emergent Forest Finance Accelerator, a non-profit finance intermediary to facilitate large-scale REDD+ transactions, using the ART framework, and is collaborating with ART, Emergent, the UN REDD Programme, and Forest Trends on the Green Gigaton Challenge: Bringing REDD+ to Scale. This initiative seeks to set a demand signal that can scale up to at least a billion tons per year in emissions reductions transacted from high-integrity jurisdictional REDD+ by 2025.
ICAO has clearly moved forward on accounting, as well. The focus of the Technical Advisory Body and ICAO Council on ensuring that programs obtain from host countries written attestations that the host countries will properly account for the transferred reductions, should put wings to the efforts of Parties in the climate treaty talks to finalize clear guidance to assure environmental integrity and prevent double counting of emission reductions, so that carbon markets can do what they do best: catalyze ambitious action to achieve environmental goals.
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Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook.
On 30 November, IGES will hold the Plenary Session of its annual “International Forum for Sustainable Asia and the Pacific” (ISAP2020), in an online format. This year’s theme is “Just Transitions Toward Sustainable Societies in Asia and the Pacific: Building Forward Better for Our Future Beyond COVID-19”.
The distinguished guest speakers include: Achim Steiner (UNDP Administrator), who will give a Keynote Speech, following Opening Remarks by KOIZUMI Shinjiro (Minister of the Environment of Japan) and Yuji Kuroiwa (Governor of Kanagawa Prefecture). In the first Plenary session, Kazuhiko Takeuchi (IGES President) will hold a discussion about biodiversity, climate, and the SDGs with representatives from leading environmental organizations, For the following sessions, IGES researchers and additional invitees will provide perspectives from Asia, and explore topics of international science, policy and implementation, as well as knowledge on SDG actions by business. The final session is a debate hosted by Yasuo Takahashi (IGES Executive Director), before closing remarks by Nobutoshi Miyoshi (IGES Managing Director).
The Plenary day is also an occasion to reflect on what was discussed during the Thematic Tracks held from 9 to 13 November. A wide range of topics were covered that week, and all were streamed for guests, and recorded to make them accessible to a broader audience. The Thematic Track archives are available here, and please check some of them out, in order to make the 30 November plenary even more meaningful! https://isap.iges.or.jp/2020/en/index.html
This year’s forum also features a virtual exhibition, where participants can see publications, watch videos, and chat with other avatars (automatically generated for visitors upon entering the forum via this link) in the venue. The virtual venue can be accessed here: https://hub.link/Fcaud4M
With the need for a swift response and recovery from COVID-19, as well as the chance to think about how we can redesign our societies and transform them to be more sustainable, resilient, just and inclusive, ISAP2020 showcases IGES’ position on current and future risks, and makes a call for stronger partnerships with relevant stakeholders. ——————————————————–
The IISD Community Lists are changing over to a new system hosted by Google Groups. Starting 1 December 2020, list submissions will no longer be sent through the old system. For more information and links to join the new Community Lists, please visit�http://enb.iisd.org/email/
Learning and Development has been a very essential unit to build the human capital capacity, to make the companies grow and sustain. However, the facts that many companies still collapse despite their costly and extravagant programs in L&D got us thinking. Have these companies been doing the right thing?
Introducing the L&D Four
Corporate training and development is an essential part of human resources, to develop their human capital capacity, to gain profit, and to keep the company going. They spend an extensive amount of money to conduct courses that merely focus on improving skills on using the most recent technology, applying marketing approaches, analysing big data, to gain as high profit as possible.
As stated by Bryan Casey, Growth Strategist at Ironpaper, in 2018, the trends of corporate eLearning from 2018 are around Reporting, Big Data Analysis, User-generated content (UCG), Work-Life Skills, and Leadership and Management Training. All of those types of focus points in learning and development in corporate contexts revolve around knowledge and skills and are intended to grow and strengthen the companies mostly from inside/within.
However, what companies cannot ignore is the fact that all industries also involve people from outside the companies and relationships with people and that is why the induction of values and attitude should be a part of the learning and development core elements. Therefore, an ideal learning and development program should cover VSAK (Values, Skills, Attitude, and Knowledge).
Incorporating values and attitude along with skills and knowledge matters because companies, people/society, and surroundings/environment should create good synergy in order to sustain. This article would give some contexts on how VSAK would be taken into action in learning and development.
VSAK: Too Cool for (Only) School
Most companies’ goals are to maximise profit, but upholding/to uphold values and principles is also as important. James Franklin, the 16th head football coach in the storied 127-year history of the Nittany Lion program, in his talk, stated that the sustainability of companies and corporates lie in relationships with people.
“We should hold values and respect others’ and act upon them in forms of attitude.”
However, being knowledgeable with values should somehow be learned and nurtured in the learning environment and must be further ingrained culturally and professionally. Therefore, the concept of VSAK (Values, Skills, Attitude, and Knowledge must be taken into account to empower and build relationships that happen within the company and between company and society to create beautiful synergy that leads to sustainability and profitability.
The framework of VSAK was first formulated by NIE (National Institution of Education) in Singapore, whose desired outcome is to generate/shape the child-centred teacher – one who is accustomed to the child’s needs as a learner corresponding to their individuality, improvement and diversity. This goal can be achieved by creating a role-modelling environment which goes beyond a classroom setting and embraces the teacher as a facilitator of learning, a mediator of the knowledge milieu and a designer of learning environments.
The highlights of the concept are evolved around skills that nurtures ones’ potential to become active contributors to the community, including company and society. The term VSAK can be perceived with other names like value education, or social learning that leads to a fruitful community with social literacy; a community which is socially conscious and is knowledgeable of social skills and human values that reinforce people’s capacity to act positively and responsibly in their social and professional roles; as family member, worker, citizen and lifelong learner.
This invaluable concept seems to be challenging to be applied in a corporate context, but by identifying the culture and core values of a company and by examining the existing learning and development in a company, incorporating VSAK would not be as effortful.
The Divergence between L&D and Corporate Culture
In order to incorporate VSAK in a corporate eLearning context, one should revisit the core of corporate culture. In his article in Investopedia, Evan Tarver defines corporate culture as the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. The essential points of any corporate cultures should cover the following things: beliefs and behaviors of the employees and management, company size, culture and traditions, economic trends, international trade, and products, as well as ideology and practice.
Those elements highlight collective mentality, that depends upon the quality of relationships among people, because good relationships will definitely lead to positive mentality and would create a positive atmosphere in the company, which will result in company/corporate sustainability.
However, the big question remains on how VSAK can be incorporated in corporate learning and development programs.
LSA Global released an article that highlighted the facts that there has been some disconnection and gaps between existing training and on-the-job behavior and performance. The article quoted the facts given by Gartner, 24×7 Learning, and McKinsey that (1) almost three-quarters of employees do not believe they have mastered the skills they need to do their jobs; (2) only 12% of learners apply the skills from corporate training back on-the-job; and (3) only 25% feel that the training they receive makes a measurable difference in the on-the-job performance.
Most learning and development programs rely merely on transferring skills and knowledge that are expected to be effectively used when the learners are giving their on-the-job performances and generating profit for the company, yet participants are unable to consistently apply the new skills and knowledge on-the-job.
The article also stated the facts that many Learning and Development practitioners often flounder in communication, problem-solving, decision making, time management, delegation, workload management, goal setting, coaching, and giving feedback. In short, the programs have not created enough opportunities to maximize both individual and group experiences; how the employees conduct themselves in a community, how they practice their values and beliefs, how they compete, how they build relationships with others.
The gaps are caused by the fact that what they value and what they do are not in line and the companies somehow forget that those values, which would shape the collective mentality, can be used to guide a company, to be the compass to guide co-workers, and customers, to create innovation, integrity, profitability, in the ways that the employees understand since they use their values.
Therefore, inserting VSAK in learning and development programs of a company is essential, since it would certainly lead to expanding network and gaining public trust as well as improving social cautious initiatives like programs in CSR.
VSAK for CSR
Injecting values and attitudes in a corporate context is often directed to the Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) programs, but actually it is much more than that, but CRS can be the perfect platform to “inject” the elements of values and attitude after the transfer of skills and knowledge and also build brand value to the target market.
Since CSR usually aims to be socially accountable and aims at building brand value and spurging positive/beneficial social changes and one favorable way to do both is by building stronger relationships with others.
Take an example on how The Coca Cola company perceives a value of “Believing that all people can grow and contribute” and has observed that in some developing countries, women have not had as many opportunities as men have. Therefore, using the tagline that “Women are key to the world’s shared success”, they focus on empowering women both in the workplace and throughout the world and created an initiative called 5by20, aiming to economically empower 5 million women across our value chain by the end of 2020.
What The Coca Cola Company has done to act on this initiative is by providing business skills training, access to financial services and assets, and connections with peers and mentors and as from 2018, 5by20 has empowered more than 3.2 million women across 92 countries. However, The Coca Cola company is aware of the fact that achieving the women’s empowerment vision depends on building adaptable models and powerful partnerships. They collaborate with hundreds of partners and organizations around the world to develop local programs and then scale the most successful programs to make the initiative last, and to make a positive and locally relevant impact.
By looking at the example of The Coca Cola Company, it can be drawn conclusion that CSR programs should be able to engage people by having awareness of the cultural, social, and environmental issues, observing and identifying the values that are embraced by society and adhering them with company’s core values so they are able to build good relationships with as many people as possible. VSAK should be a part of the framework for a company’s CSR model, and should be carefully acted on.
Not only limited to CRS programs, Learning and Development Unit can implant VSAK in other types of training by highlighting social literacy skills and implementing some of VSAK elements like empathy, belief that all people can grow and contribute, commitment to nurturing the potentials of self and others, embrace and power of diversity, passion, strive to improve, collaboration and communication, mentorship and social responsibility.
For this reason, as an effort to build social literacy skills, incorporating VSAK in corporate eLearning modules must be taken into high consideration. The modules can involve task-based or project-based strategies in their social learning as a part of their training.
When properly implemented, the elements of social literacy should be ingrained in the values and culture of a company, and positively affect the way the company does business and those certainly lead to public trust gain, good branding, good publicity, overall profitability and success of a company.
Aerial view of Tongass National Forest. Credit: Alan Wu
In a speech in September Joe Biden described the “the undeniable, accelerating, and punishing reality of climate change.” He has promised that his administration will take on the problem. To get started, a Biden administration will have to undo many of President Trump’s deregulatory efforts over the past four years.
As promised, when Trump took office he quickly got to work aggressively dismantling Obama-era climate regulation. Over the past four years his administration has taken a dizzying spectrum of actions, large and small, to put business ahead of the environment.
President-elect Biden will undoubtedly begin reversing some of these actions as soon as he takes office. Some of Trump’s damage can be undone right away, but getting climate action fully back on track will take years.
Course correction. Climate change, in particular, has seemed to be a favorite target for the president’s scorn. His decision to leave the Paris Agreement took effect Wednesday, further confirming for the world that, so long as Trump remains in office, the United States will not take action—much less lead the way—to address climate change. A panoply of other steps taken at every level of federal government has made climate action a low priority at best and, in many instances, off-limits altogether.
For example, the Trump administration has undone federal regulations that limited the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. The White House has weakened rules mandating significant increases in fuel efficiency for motor vehicles, rules limiting short-lived climate “super-pollutants,” and rules that would have cut methane emissions from new power plants. At the same time, the administration has worked hard at propping up domestic fossil fuel production by expediting permits for pipelines, streamlining approvals for natural gas exports, and tweaking the way fossil fuel companies quantify the value of fuels extracted from public lands.
Alongside deregulatory actions with a direct impact on greenhouse gas emissions, the administration has sacrificed protections for natural places. Many of these actions plainly contradict Trump’s recent comment that “while I’m President, we will . . . preserve the stunning beauty of the American and the Americas and this nation.” In fact, his administration has opened roadless areas in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest (the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest) to logging, exposed vast and fragile parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development, relaxed protections for sage grouse habitat, and stymied agencies’ ability to address climate-change-driven threats to endangered species and their habitats.RELATED:The case for climate reparations
The good news for the climate is that there is a lot that Biden can do to rebuild federal climate regulation. Earlier this fall my colleagues and I published a report outlining over 50 items a Biden administration can quickly get to work re-regulating.
A four-year plan. After his January 20 inauguration, Biden would likely take tangible steps immediately to reset federal policy on climate regulation. For starters, he can bring the United States back into the Paris Agreement—a stark reversal from Trump’s departure, but one that international observers are expecting.
He can also issue an Executive Order on Addressing the Climate Crisis revoking Trump’s own climate-denying orders and confirming that climate action is a priority for the federal government. Even though executive orders are usually not legally binding, they powerfully convey federal policy in way that sets expectations for business and can make it harder for states to push back. And by eliminating executive orders that were explicitly designed to prop up fossil-fuel interests and undermine climate regulation, Biden would give federal agencies a new set of priorities for enforcement actions, permitting decisions, resource allocation, and much more.
In the longer term, Biden administration officials would almost certainly get to work reinstating climate regulations that Trump removed and halting any ongoing work the departing administration does not finish. Rules governing fuel efficiency, power plant emissions, and super-pollutants are all likely targets for reregulation. Steps to restore protections for wilderness areas from oil and gas development are similarly good bets for prompt action by a Biden administration. But reversing agency actions is harder than revoking executive orders, and Biden may not be able to undo everything Trump has done—at least not in just four years.
Like Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump on their first days in office, Biden would almost certainly put a freeze on agencies finalizing any then-pending rulemakings. Biden can direct his newly appointed heads of agencies to immediately withdraw Trump administration rules that were proposed but not finalized by January 20. Withdrawing those rules would not require Congressional approval.
Agency rules and regulations finalized under the Trump administration would take years to unwind. Repealing those rules requires the new administration to start over with the administrative process. Restoring the prior protections for the Tongass National Forest, for example, would begin by announcing the proposed change in the Federal Register. The Forest Service must then allow time for meaningful public comment, which is likely to produce a massive record of letters, emails, and petitions in favor of and opposed to the change. (In just 60 days of public comment Trump’s deregulation garnered about 267,000 comments and 11 petitions containing around 117,000 signatures.) Once those comments are received, the agency has to consider them, respond to any significant comments, and finally publish a new rule replacing or repealing what Trump put in place.RELATED:Climate change: Meet the generation gap
Such rollbacks would undoubtedly be challenged in court. And whether Biden’s efforts would hold up in court remains to be seen; the Supreme Court’s newly minted 6-3 conservative majority casts some doubt on how durable his reregulatory actions may be.
In one key respect Biden probably would not reverse course: fostering domestic natural gas production, at least for a while longer. Biden has indicated that he would not ban all fracking, only new permits and leases on federal land. In some states Biden’s partial ban would almost completely stop new fracking; in others it would do virtually nothing.
Back on track. Given everything that Trump has done to dismantle climate regulation, restoring the status quo before he took office would be a great success for Biden. The Obama administration did not have a perfect record on climate, but undoing Trump’s deregulatory efforts would be a significant and necessary step toward mitigating against the worse impacts of climate change.
Still, Biden could go further than just retreading Obama-era regulations. Even if a still-divided Congress makes it impossible to pass new legislation, Biden can take major steps forward under the existing laws.
Among the myriad potential actions his administration could take, Biden could adopt subsidy and crop insurance policies that encourage storing more carbon in soils, issue stricter energy efficiency standards across many sectors of the economy, fund research into negative carbon technologies, and take back a leading role in international efforts to combat climate change. And if passing new legislation were to become possible in the event of an evenly split Senate after runoff elections in Georgia, or with a reconstituted Congress after the 2022 election, a spectacular array of sensible and ambitious climate measures might be within reach.
Whenever a boss acts like a dictator – shutting down, embarrassing, or firing anyone who dares to challenge the status quo – you’ve got a toxic workplace problem. And that’s not just because of the boss’ bad behavior, but because that behavior creates an environment in which everyone is scared, intimidated and often willing to throw their colleagues under the bus, just to stay on the good side of the such bosses.
A toxic company culture will erode an organization by paralyzing its workforce, diminishing its productivity and stifling creativity and innovation. Now more than ever business leaders need to be addressing issues of workplace toxicity. It makes the difference in retaining good staff and also whether your company fails or succeeds. Employees aren’t afraid to jump ship when faced with a toxic workplace—and it’s usually your high performers who will go first.
The biggest concern for any organization should be when their most passionate people become quiet.
10 Signs your workplace culture is Toxic
Company core values do not serve as the basis for how the organization functions.
Employee suggestions are discarded. People are afraid to give honest feedback.
Micromanaging -Little to no autonomy is given to employees in performing their jobs.
Blaming and punishment from management is the norm.
Excessive absenteeism, illness and high employee turn over.
Overworking is a badge of honor and is expected.
Little or strained interaction between employees and management.
Gossiping and/or social cliques.
Favoritism and office politics.
Aggressive or bullying behavior.
What’s the cure for a toxic work culture?
While toxic work cultures are the end result of many factors, it’s generally a combination of poor leadership and individuals who perpetuate the culture. It starts with those at the top. Leaders must show – Respect, Integrity, Authenticity, Appreciation, Empathy and Trust.
Toxicity in the workplace is costly. Unhappy or disengaged employees cost companies billions of dollars each year in lost revenues, settlements and other damages. Once you identify the major problems by gathering information. Develop a plan and follow through. It may mean training, moving or simply getting rid of bad bosses who are the root cause of toxicity in the work place. Show employees you care and are committed to improving their workplace environment. Your employees can be your greatest asset but it all depends on how you treat them.
Ten years after the term was coined, the field of behavioral insights is at a pivotal point. Its first decade saw the approach attract significant resources, generate attention globally, and expand rapidly into a dynamic ecosystem. But a clear-eyed look around shows that governments mainly still rely on economists for their core policy decisions; every day, people experience services that are far from easy, attractive, social, or timely; and experimentation often feeds into marginal decisions only.
After this period of rapid expansion, some reflection is needed. The approach has proven to be more than a fad, but the movement is still in flux; its legacy is unclear. One common criticism is that applied behavioral science often falls into the trap of being quite mechanistic: experts apply a theory to a practical problem, a change is made, and prespecified outcomes of behavior are measured. While this is a powerful process, it can also be linear and static, with one active party nudging and a passive one being nudged. There can be limited opportunities for people to provide feedback on interventions to improve them. In the eyes of critics, this setup creates a “psychocracy” of control.
We think a priority is for the behavioral insights approach to incorporate new thinking on more reflexive, more dynamic and nuanced forms of change. One promising way of doing so is to adapt principles from human-centered design, as others have suggested, but take them in some new directions.
After this period of rapid expansion, some reflection is needed. The approach has proven to be more than a fad, but the movement is still in flux; its legacy is unclear.
In its most basic definition, design is about how elements are arranged to achieve a particular purpose. Design always deals with things that are tangible, experienced, and present, rather than with abstractions or theories. Objects or services can be designed to create certain feelings or thoughts, or to invite certain behaviors. In this sense, the use of behavioral insights has always incorporated aspects of design: it is concerned with practical problems (like choice architecture) and is sensitive to how the wording of a letter or layout of a waiting room can have a big impact.
However, the behavioral insights approach to design has often been quite top-down: principles of behavior have been used to embed certain ways of acting into the local environment or context. Designing from principles in this way can be successful (see the iPod), but it has also been criticized for not paying enough attention to users. However, there has been increasing interest in “human-centered design” (or the closely-related concept of “design thinking”), which focuses more on trying to understand a user’s needs, map their experiences, and actively prototype solutions with them. Behavioral insights projects could draw on human-centered design more in three main ways: explore people’s needs, understand their experiences, and prompt them to undertake new activities.
First, human-centered design focuses on exploring people’s needs and goals, rather than starting from a target behavior. Of course, when dealing with policy there are instances where active steps should be taken to prevent people’s needs being fulfilled (e.g., people’s need to commit certain crimes). But we think the goal for behavioral insights is to pay more attention to people’s needs while also using its tools to understand the strategies people are using to try to fulfill these needs.
A simple example concerns “desire lines.” These are the informal paths, created by footfall erosion, that show the shortest or most desirable routes taken by people—which may not be the ones provided by an official design. Some designers have started to see these paths as an opportunity, rather than a nuisance. For example, universities such as UC Berkeley and Virginia Tech have waited to see which routes people were taking to cross grass areas before paving the routes.
We think a priority is for the behavioral insights approach to incorporate new thinking on more reflexive, more dynamic and nuanced forms of change. One promising way of doing so is to adapt principles from human-centered design.
The same principle applies in more complex situations. For example, in the early 2010s policymakers in the United Kingdom became concerned about capacity problems in the country’s hospital emergency departments. These problems were perceived to be caused by people visiting emergency facilities with only minor ailments. The system planners created alternative options (like urgent care centers) to deal with such ailments in a more efficient way. However, these options were not very popular.
In this situation, policymakers could use behavioral science to persuade or nudge people to use the “correct” facilities. But a more human-centered approach would look at the desire lines, and see that attending emergency departments is completely reasonable. People were confused by the role of the urgent care centers, which are also not prominent and not always open (unlike the emergency department). Therefore, they are using a heuristic for navigating the system—“go to the emergency department”—which is working for them, and which means behavior will be difficult to change.
This insight points toward instead adapting the service so people don’t have to change their behavior—perhaps by colocating the emergency and nonemergency care. In other words, there could be a greater recognition of people’s agency and more attempts to design around existing behaviors, rather than attempting to change them.
There could be a greater recognition of people’s agency and more attempts to design around existing behaviors, rather than attempting to change them.
Second, human-centered design places greater emphasis on people’s own interpretations of their beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. The behavioral insights approach does emphasize the need for immersive techniques like in-depth observation, as well as trying to use services oneself. But it has tended to be more skeptical of self-reports, given the importance of nonconscious drivers of behavior and the prevalence of cognitive blind spots. (However, one of the most famous books on human-centered design admits that “people themselves are often unaware of their true needs, even unaware of the difficulties they are encountering.”) We think there is room to give more weight to how people view their own experience, and to broaden out from the focus on revealed behavior.
Finally, human-centered design encourages active participation from users (and staff members). There are some applications of behavioral insights that work by disrupting the Automatic System, making people pause and engage their Reflective System. For example, the Becoming a Man program for crime reduction appears to work by “helping youth slow down and reflect whether their automatic thoughts and behaviors are well suited to the situation they are in, and whether the situation could be construed differently.” The program, based in Chicago, reduced arrest rates by 28 to 35 percent and increased graduation rates by 12 to 19 percent.
The obvious next priority is to combine these kinds of approaches with human-centered design to help people design or redesign their own environments. This relates to Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s vision in Nudge that nudging can be used widely by “workplaces, corporate boards, universities, religious organizations, clubs, and even families.” But it also taps into the facet of behavioral science that claims individuals usually use heuristics effectively and can be empowered to use them better.
Of course, there are many environments that individuals struggle to change on their own, indicating that a change in politics or policy is needed. There is a particularly strong case for using the tools of deliberative democracy to discuss policies that draw on behavioral science. But this kind of engagement has wider potential benefits than just debating or approving certain policies—it is also important for a healthy democracy and civic agency. And, unlike what critics allege, the use of behavioral insights can actually help build that agency.
Human-centered design can go a long way toward engaging behavioral insights with human agency more deeply, moving it further away from a mechanistic worldview, and opening up new frontiers.
At the most basic level, behavioral insights can be used to nudge people to take part in civic activities in the first place. Although this nudge may be operating on the Automatic System, the goal is to ensure that someone takes part in an activity that engages their Reflective System. Then, behavioral insights can be used to design better deliberative mechanisms. Many of these activities take place in groups, but behavioral science shows that groups are vulnerable to issues like group polarization, availability cascades, and self-censorship. We can’t just assume that good reasoning prevails in deliberative settings—but evidence-based design makes it more likely.
Finally, behavioral insights can spark wider engagement. Let’s take the example of how much people eat and why. If people actively engage with the evidence that our eating is heavily influenced by features in our immediate environment, they may start requesting policies that address those forces. Indeed, there were signs that this happened in a deliberative forum on obesity that the Behavioural Insights Team supported in Victoria, Australia, which produced fairly radical proposals. Behavioral insights could have an additional role here, by finding new ways to nudge governments or legislators themselves—and there is evidence that these attempts can actually produce results.
This potential is not restricted to the public sector: People could also try to nudge companies. For example, the United Kingdom saw the creation of a Fair Tax Mark, which was awarded by a not-for-profit organization to businesses that did not practice any form of tax avoidance. The Fair Tax Mark is a classic nudge, in that it provides a prominent signal to consumers that can shape both consumer and business behavior, without mandating change. But this nudge was created through self-organization to achieve a particular policy goal.
Human-centered design can go a long way toward engaging behavioral insights with human agency more deeply, moving it further away from a mechanistic worldview, and opening up new frontiers. Indeed, as we sketch out above, the concept of design can be expanded out into the broader idea of redesigning one’s environment, and from there into the kinds of structural and political change that some people say behavioral science neglects. In that way, design can be a key that unlocks the potential that may otherwise go unfulfilled.
Michael Hallsworth is managing director, North America at the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), a social-purpose company that was created as the first government institution dedicated to applying behavioral sciences to policy. He is the co-author of Behavioral Insights (with Elspeth Kirkman).
Elspeth is the co-author of Behavioral Insights (with Michael Hallsworth). She has held a number of roles at the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT). Most recently, she was the Senior Director responsible for BIT’s work on health, education, and local government in the UK. She is currently on secondment at Nesta; an innovation charity that part-owns BIT.
Climate smart agriculture (CSA) consists of more than 70 technological and behavioural changes that can help farmers mitigate and build resilience to climate change while generating sustainable yields. Despite this wealth of alternatives, CSA has not been adopted at large enough scales to realise its considerable promise. Studies explaining the lack of progress often cite difficulties farmers face in acquiring information and knowledge as a key barrier to adopting CSA. Others point to policies and institutions that favour resource-intensive agriculture over more sustainable farming practices. Recent work on transforming food systems suggests policies and institutional reforms as well as integration of technical information and experiential knowledge can help overcome these barriers. However, this work sheds limited light on precisely which policy and institutional changes can help farmers convert information and knowledge into acceptable CSA practices. This brief presents four concrete recommendations on which policy and institutional reforms can help farmers translate technical information and experiential knowledge into context-appropriate mixes of CSA options in developing countries.
By Cornis van der Lugt (USB) and Peter Paul van de Wijs (GRI)
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosure has never been more pervasive around the world — and it is now firmly in the mainstream of policies requiring reporting on organizational performance. This was a key conclusion of the fifth edition of Carrots & Sticks, the flagship publication and online resource assessing the regulatory landscape for non-financial reporting.
An initiative of Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), Carrots & Sticks (C&S) offers a comprehensive overview of the latest trends in reporting provisions world-wide, covering more than 600 requirements and resources. The 2020 edition, published in July, provides a substantial increase in scope on the 2016 report, covering more than 80 countries — including the world’s 60 largest economies.
As the annual UN General Assembly gets underway, it’s timely to explore five highlights from C&S 2020. These insights are important as we address the role of policies on ESG disclosure, corporate reporting and transparency, in the context of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
1.The SDGs and consequences of COVID-19
As a global shortlist of the crucial material topics for our planet, the SDGs have become a reference point for non-financial and sustainability reporting policy. While explicit reference to the SDGs in disclosure requirements targeting companies remain limited, they are often implied through the themes addressed. Links to responsible business, employment and accountable institutions (SDGs 12, 16 and 8) are widespread. However, references to public health and education (SDGs 3 and 4) are low, something we can expect to change following the pandemic.
As COVID-19 focuses the attention of policymakers on better ways to achieve healthy societies and climate-resilient economies, the importance of measuring the impacts of companies and encouraging sustainable practices increases. Looking ahead, the systemic implications of public health and infrastructure weaknesses is likely to receive more attention. Health and education will likely require more sector-specific guidance, while being mindful of the ripple effect of the pandemic across sectors.
What does this mean for the health and education reporting related response in the longer term? Addressing gaps and improving coordination will be needed. As a recent GRI webinar series uncovered, organizations and their stakeholders are already focusing on the changes in reporting practices in a post COVID-19 world.
2.The materiality process
The regulatory landscape both reflects and drives perceptions of key material themes. Related is the question of target audience. The landscape continues to display confusion about what information is relevant for which audience — and where best to disclose. Greater clarity may, among others, be enhanced by formalizing the processes through which companies determine topics most material and relevant to them.
The expansion in the disclosure themes companies are expected to report on is converging around the 34 topics addressed by the GRI Standards. Yet unexpected developments, such as COVID-19, always raise interest in new topics and display event-driven materiality. Similarly, changing societal expectations influence what topics are material. As materiality assessments are temporal and may change quickly, determining a set of core metrics today might not represent the appropriate disclosures of tomorrow.
Rather than a ‘tick-box’ exercise, companies must identify relevant disclosures through regular and robust, multi-stakeholder assessments. By applying a single core set of ESG metrics — which is universally applicable to all organizations regardless of their size, location or sector — companies might lose the nuances that inform the reporting process and subsequent business decisions. It can also camouflage the most significant impacts, positive or negative, on sustainable development.
3.The role of financial regulators
Our research found that most reporting provisions are issued by governmental bodies, rising by 74% since 2016 to almost 400, while engagement by market regulators has also grown significantly. This shows how the economic and market implications of diverse ESG topics are becoming more evident.
Attention is often focused on requirements and guidance from governments and stock exchanges, but more prominent has become a third group, namely financial market regulators. These include central banks, financial supervisory authorities, banking commissions and financial reporting councils. As sustainability topics become more mature and market mechanisms are created to deal with them, these institutions are more likely to step in and take on a role in ensuring reliable information and data is reported. A clear example is climate and greenhouse gas reporting requirements, as a follow up to the recommendations by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
In response to greater regulatory interest in the climate theme, GRI has worked with securities market regulators in many jurisdictions to support the development of disclosure regulation. GRI has also undertaken capacity building at the regulator, exchange and issuing company levels to support work on climate-related measurement, reporting and verification.
C&S 2020 demonstrates that Europe continues to drive the ESG agenda, accounting for 245 reporting instruments, while the Asian markets (174) are increasingly active. North America has a low number of provisions (47) — partly due to a lower number of national jurisdictions. At the country level, higher numbers of reporting provisions, including requirements and resources, were found in the UK, Spain, USA, Canada, Brazil, Colombia and China.
These findings leave some questions open, as research suggests that countries and industry sectors with a greater volume of reporting provisions and numbers of reporters tend to be ones where higher quality reports emerge from. It appears from the C&S 2020 data that bigger economies tend to have larger numbers of reporting provisions. Yet more provisions alone do not necessarily represent a sign of a more sustainable economy.
Looking at the EU, the large volume of provisions in Spain and Portugal can be contrasted against a relatively low volume in advanced economies such as Germany and Ireland. The total picture is likely to change in coming years as the EU is pursuing a revision of its Non-Financial Reporting Directive, which will mandate reporting for a large group of companies throughout Europe. Some governments will be more challenged than others to rationalize, align and modernize existing regulations.
Alignment in the sustainability reporting field is still falling short, with greater collaboration needed between standard setters, reporters, information users, regulators and policymakers, to streamline requirements and improve quality. Related to the reliability of data, C&S 2020 illustrates that, among reporting provision issuers, there is still divergence about how and where to disclose. Some refer to annual reports, others to sustainability reports, while many leave this unspecified. Furthermore, there is still variation between issuers around mandating reporting and emphasizing substance or form.
We acknowledge the advantage of integrating non-financial information into the management report, to help ensure align non-financial and financial disclosures. Digital advances are also enabling data users to have direct access to non-financial information from diverse sources, of which the annual report is only one. Aggregating the information into recognized and comparable reporting formats can help ensure that disclosures are subject to the same level of rigor. Mainstreaming and integration will also enable companies to more clearly define the relationship of non-financial disclosure with their operations, elevating ESG matters into corporate-wide decisions.
How to enable greater corporate transparency, and the encouragement and direction that policy setting facilitates, is a question for countries and markets around the world. And as we reflect on the changes needed to ensure that the global economy can survive and sustainably thrive in the aftermath of the pandemic, it’s an increasingly important one.
The ‘report card’ provided by C&S 2020 signals that good progress is being made, as demonstrated by the widespread increases in reporting provisions. However, the journey is far from complete and some regions are still lagging. We cannot afford ill-informed markets and unsubstantiated claims of societal legitimacy. That is why we need governments, policymakers, stock exchanges, financial regulators, standard setters and companies themselves to continue the momentum towards embracing ESG disclosure as an underpinning mechanism for more sustainable and responsible business practices around the world.
This paper assesses the importance of a strategic legal framework for action against climate change, using the UK Climate Change Act as an example. Passed in 2008, the Climate Change Act is one of the earliest and most prominent examples of framework legislation on climate change. It contains several innovative features that have since been replicated in other framework laws. We use stakeholder interviews to assess the strengths of the Act and whether it has succeeded in creating an integrated, informed and forward-looking policy process. Respondents felt that the Act had established a firm long-term framework with a clear direction of travel. However, they differed on whether the Act provided sufficient policy certainty and protection against political backsliding. Most respondents felt that the Act had changed the institutional context and the processes through which climate change is addressed. As a result, interviewees believe that the Act has helped UK climate policy to become better informed, more forward looking and better guided by statutory routines.
Key policy insights
A strong legal framework with statutory targets, processes and institutions can be an important tool for effective climate change governance.
A broad-based framework law can make action on climate change more predictable, more structured and more evidence-based.
The UK Climate Change Act is a model for such framework legislation, with important institutional features that have already been emulated in other framework laws.
The main such features are statutory short-term and long-term emissions targets, a new independent advisory body (the Committee on Climate Change), clear accountability and an iterative approach to adaptation planning.
Climate Policy is a leading international peer-reviewed academic journal, publishing high quality research and analysis on all aspects of climate change policy, including adaptation and mitigation, governance and negotiations, policy design, implementation and impact, and the full range of economic, social and political issues at stake in responding to climate change. It provides a platform for new ideas, innovative approaches and research-based insights that can help advance climate policy in practice.
Millions of years ago, fire swept across the planet, fueled by an oxygen-rich atmosphere in which even wet forests burned, according to new research by CU Boulder scientists.
The study, published today in Nature Geoscience, provides geochemical evidence showing that forest fires expanded dramatically, potentially burning up to 30 or 40 percent of global forests during a 100,000 year interval more than 90 million years ago. While today’s fires are exacerbated by dry conditions, they found that forest fires during this period increased even in wet regions due to changes in global climate.
“Studying this period in Earth’s history can shine light on how the modern and future Earth might behave under global change,” said F. Garrett Boudinot, lead author and recent Ph.D. graduate in the Department of Geological Sciences.
Boudinot analyzed samples from a rock core that spans what is known as the Oceanic Anoxic Event 2 (OAE2) in the Cretaceous period, about 94 million years ago. He found that an increased amount of carbon buried in the oceans at the start of this event was associated with indications for the occurrence of wildfires, which might have been caused by an increase in oxygen in the atmosphere.
“One of the consequences of having more oxygen in the atmosphere is that it’s easier to burn fires,” said Boudinot. “It’s the same reason you blow on embers to stoke a fire.”
Large amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—much like what Earth is projected to experience by 2100—kick-started this cycle.
For 50,000 years before the OAE2 began, algae and land plants drew down this carbon into the oceans through photosynthesis, causing microbial respiration to increase, which led parts of the oceans to become low in or even devoid of oxygen, known as anoxia. This same process exists today in waters where too many nutrients end up in one place, like the mouth of the Mississippi River, where excess fertilizer runoff accumulates and feeds algae—which are then eaten up by microbes that consume oxygen, creating a dead zone. In these kinds of anoxic waters, the organic carbon that is stored from the atmosphere is buried in sediments, while the oxygen that was part of the carbon dioxide (CO2) is released to the atmosphere.
After 100,000 years of this ocean anoxia event—which was intensified by warming temperatures—oceans sediments around the globe had stored enough organic carbon that the atmosphere became rich in oxygen, so much so that it might have facilitated the burning of up to 40 percent of forests across the planet, even in wet and humid regions.
The planet is undergoing a similar transformation today as it did at the beginning of this cycle, with carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere and nutrients building up in the ocean. If these same patterns continue, history could repeat itself in the future, only centuries to millennia from today.
“It highlights that putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and nutrients into the ocean doesn’t just potentially increase global temperatures. It has significant impacts on the fundamental biogeochemistry or ecology of the planet, like how forests respond to fire,” said Boudinot, who now works in outreach at the Colorado Wildlife Council.
A mystery in Earth’s history
Boudinot never intended to analyze the rock core, drilled in Utah, for remnants of forest fires. It was drilled to better understand other various elements of OAE2, including how marine ecosystems responded to global change at that time in Earth’s history.
But he was also running another experiment at the same time, using an analytical method to identify molecular tracers of forest fires in rock samples from other times and locations. These tracers are called polycyclic, aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs—sometimes known as “pyro PAHs.”
Within the Utah rock core were black shales laden with organic matter preserved from almost 94 million years ago, when that part of the country was covered with sea. So Boudinot thought why not? And ran these same tests on the OAE2 rock core, finding there were a significant amount of these pyro PAHs in it.
“These organic molecules basically serve as molecular fossils,” said Julio Sepúlveda, senior author on the study, professor of geological sciences and fellow in the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.
These molecules are also related to the temperature of the fire itself. They indicated high temperature fires, created by forest fires.
The interval of OAE2 with more fires has also been something of a mystery to geologists. Not only is this new geochemical data rock solid, but it also represents a detailed evolution of the event—with each data point representing a smaller period of time. This gives scientists a clearer understanding of how carbon storage in the oceans is related to oxygen levels in the atmosphere and global temperatures, and the pace at which these climate feedbacks can occur.
While scientists suspect volcanic activity as the reason there was so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before this event in Earth’s history began, Boudinot sees parallels to how much carbon dioxide humans are emitting today.
“This finding highlights the prolonged impacts of climate change. The climate change that we’re causing now, it’s not something where if we don’t fix it, only our grandkids will have to deal with it,” said Boudinot. “The history of climate change in Earth history tells us that the impacts are really long lasting.”