Reflecting on ASI’s Conference Opening Plenary

ASI’s virtual Seventeenth International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic & Social Sustainability was a great success! It hosted a range of keynote speakers that brought fresh and interesting perspectives to the focus theme: ‘Accelerating the Transition to Sustainability: Policy Solutions for the Climate Emergency’.

03/08/2021 | 4:18 PM

The opening plenary was kicked off by Marjan Minnesma, founder of Urgenda. Minnesma spoke on her history with Urgenda and the transition theory in relation to sustainability. She touched on her work related to introducing electric cars in the Netherlands, promoting the first Dutch collective buying initiative for solar panels and going head-to-head with the Dutch government in court to argue that a lack to environmental action was unlawful hazardous negligence. Minnesma emphasized the importance of scientists and citizens working together to stimulate change by challenging those in authoritative positions. 

Our next speaker, Christian Felber, added an economic perspective on sustainability. He spoke about the concept of planetary boundaries and the need to fix them in order to avoid future environmental issues, including the prevention of additional pandemics. He proposed that granting everyone equal environmental consumption rights can help to create a sustainable threshold. In order for this to work, Felber stressed the precondition of an integrated economy in which economic activities serve a common good. He concluded that instead of choosing between two extremes, an ethical economy approach could be chosen to maximize sustainability. 

The opening plenary was concluded with a presentation by Diederik Samsom. In his talk, Samsom touched on the European Green Deal and the way in which it is different than previous policies. He argued that its ambitious nature, its multifaceted approach, and its branding as a growth strategy as opposed to an environmental policy makes it the ideal plan through which to overcome the current unsustainability of the EU. Samsom suggested that it is the time to go “green” instead of continuing with the pre-pandemic business as usual. Samsom wrapped up by highlighting the role of young people in promoting sustainability by continuing to ask stimulating questions and advocating for positive change.   

In case you missed the opening session, you can watch the recorded live stream here.