London panel: Driving change from below

The Opportunity Panel on Tuesday 9th 2015 in London identified opportunities focusing on decentralization of power and bottom-up initiatives to drive change.

The decentralized economy is emerging where individuals and communities link up to create change. An example of this trend is the emergence of cities as driver for sustainable development. While national governments are often caught up in partisan politics, city governments have emerged as drivers of innovative public policy and sustainable solutions. In the words of Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs: “A wise political doctrine known as subsidiarity holds that public-policy challenges should be assigned to the lowest level of government able to address them, thereby ensuring maximum democratic participation in problem solving and the greatest opportunity to tailor solutions to genuine local needs”.

Cities are collaborating across national borders in networks like C40 and the European Green Capital Award. New technologies like smart power grids and smart transport solutions empower citizens to make sustainable choices. Decision power is traveling downwards, in some cases to the smallest entity, the individual person.

At the London panel we observe a shift in mindset from seeing decentralized action as shouting on the sidelines to counting on it as an effective driver of change.

Divest antibiotics

Inspired by the Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign, the London panelists developed a global opportunity to address the excessive use of antibiotics in agriculture. The idea: Overuse of antibiotics and unsustainable meat production are a risk for investors and the planet. The current price for meat does not factor in the externalities of life stock production, e.g. growing resistance to antibiotics with overuse and the resulting costs to the health system. Increasing negative effects of conventional life stock production on societies, makes holding shares of companies that produce meat unsustainably more risky – they become “stranded” assets. People all around the world should ask their governments, public institutions and companies to divest stocks and bonds supporting unsustainable meat production.

Confidence in bottom-up mobilization

In the UK, the “Keep it in the ground” campaign by The Guardian has created great awareness for the fossil fuel divestment movement. The campaign was launched in March 2015 by The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, asking the Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to divest from the top 200 oil, coal and gas companies within five years. In only 2 month, the campaign has attracted over 200,000 supporters and many key institutions in the UK have made commitments to divest.

We believe that the campaign has triggered a mindset change. At the panel in London we saw great confidence in opportunities relying on bottom-up mobilization. Decentralization and public mobilization can be a powerful tool to push the world on a more sustainable development path.

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