Europe is home to a substantial number of the world’s most sustainable cities: London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Berlin and Madrid being just a handful. It is thus no surprise that Europe is a leader in the methods and ideas that are currently driving sustainable policy and action all around the globe. In Taiwan, these models are promoted by the European Chamber of Commerce, whom the Tang Prize met with early this October to discuss first-priority SD goals, how urban development is crucial for a sustainable world, and how civil societies and non-governmental organizations like the Tang Prize can do their part to effect healthy development.
The meeting between the two organizations was after an ECCT-sponsored speech from the Minister Wei of Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration. Wei spoke on the new Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act, a plan that brings shared responsibilities, international cooperation, and energy efficiency to the forefront of the sustainable problem in Taiwan.
After the keynote from Minister Wei, members of the ECCT and its Low-Carbon Initiative met with Tang Prize representatives to discuss the importance of COP21 and sustainability. LCI Director Raoul Kubitschek said that the most pressing target to be solved after COP21 must be CO2 emissions. More efficient production and use of energy coupled with transference of power plants to cleaner producers are the primary ways this can be accomplished. Nevertheless, sustainable development is a multi-faceted issue, one that cannot be solved by focusing on one problem at a time, he added.
And that solution starts in the home. Reflecting Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals, ECCT Vice Chairman Giuseppe Izzo stressed the importance of good urban development and solid local leadership. Izzo noted that over half of the world’s population will live in cities ten years from now, making the metabolism of these super-metropolises a concentrated point for sustainable impact. In the context of these megacities, sustainability means not only access to energy and technology, it also means safety, health, and education, as well as the ability to absorb influxes of people.
What needs to be done is clear. The technology is there, waiting to be used. But what is lacking is action, execution, accountability—on this point the ECCT members were in consensus. “The cities need to lead and the people need to follow,” said LCI Best Practices Platform Head Dereck Devlin. People may be aware of these issues, but without appropriate models, they can only go so far as individuals.
Technology and policy are the tools, but motivation, education, and exemplification are what drive people to act. Penalties and subsidies can push companies to get on board with sustainable practices. For the general public, education at the most basic level can provide them with the knowledge upon which to make informed decisions.
That is where NGOs like the Tang Prize play a crucial role. The Tang Prize rewards and shares the success stories. As an international prize, it gives these issues resonance with people all over the world. The laureates chosen for the award, Devlin argued, have to be recognizable and exemplary in their field, and the public has to not only understand but also see why that person was awarded. Most importantly, in the words of Giuseppe Izzo, their characters and contributions have to “strike the mind of the people.”