Tackling tough trade-offs while leaving no one behind: on fossil fuels and pandemics

Tackling tough trade-offs while leaving no one behind: on fossil fuels and pandemics

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm University and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) are proud to present the Gordon Goodman Memorial Lecture 2020, which will be delivered on 2 September by Professor Joyeeta Gupta.

Joyeeta Gupta is professor of Environment and Development in the Global South at the University of Amsterdam, and IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in Delft. She is the co-chair of UN Environment’s Global Environmental Outlook-6, and is chair of the Earth Commission set up by Future Earth. Among many of her notable achievements, she was lead author in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. She has also just been named as co-chair of the Earth Commission (2019-2021), set up by Future Earth.

The Lecture: Tackling Tough Trade-offs While Leaving No One Behind: On fossil fuel and pandemics

The rush towards win-win solutions often leaves out the discussion on the tough trade-offs and the big externalities. This postpones the less popular debates for the future and these non-decisions then become apparently insurmountable. For example, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change does not mention fossil fuels! But how can the Paris Agreement’s long-term goals be achieved without phasing out fossil fuels? Leaving fossil fuels underground can cost the global economy between 12-185 USD trillion depending on how you calculate. But there are big policy dilemmas in trying to organize a phase out. Similarly, the bulk of the measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic focus on reducing vulnerability and finding cures; but it does not address the underlying problems of biodiversity loss that has contributed to the problem.

What are the challenges in tackling tough trade-offs while leaving no one behind?

Building on the recent Global Environment Outlook-6: Health Planet, Healthy People, the lecture will focus on two issues – energy and health (COVID -19). In each of these areas it will focus on the tough trade-offs – leaving fossil fuels underground and addressing global pandemics and what this does to development as we currently understand it. Thinking about development as the well-being of the masses as opposed to the wealth of the upper classes may be one way to live within planetary boundaries. But it will meet strong opposition from vested interests.