Final Report Summary - CONVERGE (Rethinking Globalisation in the light of Contraction and CONVERGEnce)
The CONVERGE project offers a philosophy, a vision, recommendations and guidelines, tools, and a research agenda in support of Convergent Globalisation - and this work will continue through the Convergence Alliance. The CONVERGE project suggests a framework for ‘equity within limits’ that is supported by sustainability science and is grounded in an ethic acceptable to progressive social movements, developed and developing nations, and across different global belief systems. The project coherently links the scales across the study in the policy context – from local, to national, to global-regional and global. This is vital for integration among policies at the different levels and to lead to more global policies that enable convergence and actions for sustainability at national and local levels – an inherent concept of subsidiarity.
The concept evolved from Contraction & Convergence™ (C&C) which was central to the Kyoto Protocol. C&C is possible for greenhouse gas emissions as these are fungible – it matters not where in the world you save emissions, the effect is the same. Implementing C&C, however, requires global agreement on the cap or limit for emissions, on allocations, and on mechanisms to police the processes. Utilising systems methodologies, and drawing on global sustainability sciences and policy commitments to sustainability, the CONVERGE project explored whether C&C was possible and appropriate for other resources on both the input side (raw materials) and the output (capacity of the environment to absorb wastes). Could C&C provide the basis for ‘rethinking globalisation’ - the question posed by the Framework 7 call?
The project stripped C&C back to its underlying values and the ethic that it embodies. This resulted in just two words: limits and equity. Limits are a combination of: (a) planetary boundaries, population levels, environmental degradation and pollution - the capacity of the Earth to cope with humanity, and (b) resource depletion, the finite nature of what we extract for our use and quickly transform into waste. Equity similarly has two components: (a) the issues of social justice following closely the political set of human rights and (b) the issues of quality of life, well-being, consumption and development, following the social and economic set of rights.
These two main dimensions of convergence are congruent with the division we see between the worlds of ‘Environment’ and ‘Development’. Convergence is about bringing these fields together. From the work on collecting case initiatives we produced the convergence Quadrant Model to map where organisations or policies fit into the ‘convergence space’ defined by these dimensions of environment and development or limits and equity.
We were charged to rethink globalisation in the light of Contraction and Convergence and this resulted in the idea of ‘Convergent Globalisation’ – supporting processes and structures towards the emergence of equity across and within all nations and generations, while remaining within the capacity of the planet. We have provided evidence and we have modeled resource depletion to support the arguments. We have discovered how community and social movements can work with convergence, we have reviewed policy making to see where convergence is included and developed methods to measure and compare degrees of convergence.
Project Context and Objectives:
The general scenario for the world, if divergent paths are followed, forms the background to the CONVERGE project and the urgency of Rethinking Globalisation for Equity within limits. The social breakdown, massive rises in inequality, rapidly deteriorating Earth System, resource wars, and loss of hope for humanity if we do not rapidly institute real system change (quoted from D43, Parker, 2013).
The CONVERGE project officially started in September 2009, but it is instructive to look at what was happening before that and also to consider events that are scheduled to occur after the project end (August 2013). The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005. Its first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. The protocol only weakly incorporates the concept of Contraction & Convergence™ (C&C) and after sixteen years it will be succeeded by a new treaty. It is unlikely that this will do more than acknowledge C&C as one guiding principle.
The capacity of the atmosphere to absorb and cope with greenhouse gas emissions (and other air pollutants) is a perfect example of a fungible resource. Global governance has failed to work fully with the concept of convergence for this resource – in the sense of basing international agreements on the principle of C&C. When considering other non-fungible resources (water, forests, minerals etc.) the prospect of a Contraction & Convergence™ based set of international agreements appears remote.
The CONVERGE project suggests an alternative approach, which is to motivate and advocate for convergence principles across the world in transactions and values. We recommend decision making processes guided by convergence which can help to generate emergent outcomes for sustainability and equity.
In the Anthropocene age of the Earth, humans have become the single biggest driving factor in earth system change. Support for the validity of this concept is being obtained all the time from a wide number of sources (Mazur, 2010; Lynas, 2011; Biermann et al, 2009). The early results from the research programme, set in motion by broad sustainability concerns, demonstrate the seriousness of our position. We have a crisis where reversal of certain dominant trends may be a greater priority than proceeding more directly to what could be a sustainable future. This is the relevance of ‘Transition’ concepts as they imply that we need strategies both to cope now, and to prepare for short, medium and long term change as well. In the global sustainability community we are not so well prepared as we might be - many areas of the sustainability research programme are under-developed and in need of urgent advancement. It is in this context that we are summarising our attempts to ‘Re-think Globalisation’ in the work of the CONVERGE project.
The concept of the global atmosphere as common ‘property’ of humanity was taken as a starting point for this original version 'Contraction and Convergence TM' informed by the state of climate science in the year 2002.
Since this point sustainability and Earth System Science have developed by leaps and bounds, changing the understanding of the possibilities of global per capita ‘allocation’ of resources and bio-capacity held in common (D10). For example, the findings of the QUEST programme (2012) and the TEEB report (2010) have shown how the complex Earth system is composed of multiple interdependencies and that human well-being depends upon these complex systems in often non-intuitive ways. Assumptions about population, demographics and current growth trajectories are also important in judging the feasibility of ‘equity within planetary boundaries’ where fair shares are insinuated. The issue of the global atmosphere has been analysed as one of ‘fungibility’ – where the issue or resource in question, has the same characteristics regardless of geography. (D16a).
Forecasts on human population, demographics, development and associated environmental degradation and resource depletion suggest a testing period for humanity – to which convergence responds.
Convergence, though, has to reconcile factors like population and equity with resources. In his book The Future of Life, E. O. Wilson (2002) describes the ‘Bottleneck’ through which we all have to pass - this burgeoning global population, the limited capacity of the planet and the repercussions for its supporting society and culture today and for future generations.
This bottleneck concept is important, we have mounting evidence to support projections of resource production peaks in the medium term (within this century) and for some resources peaking may occur much earlier. The underlying fabric of our existence such as the seas, soils, freshwater and atmosphere are deteriorating. The scenario of managing and conserving resources as the population continues upwards and then declines is probably the only one that will avoid tipping into various forms of collapse. Moderating population growth, particularly in developed countries (those with the highest ecological footprint), would lessen the pressures on resources and make fairness in provision easier to achieve (D 16, Roderick et al, 2013, p75).
There is a need to consider political, intellectual, cultural and moral feasibility in addition to the more scientific and technical computations of available planetary resources. The concepts of ‘equality’ and ‘equity’ have been discussed as the project progressed and the question of systems accounts of ethics has been raised.
In terms of the context of convergence there is a rising global debate about the extreme rises in inequality both between (de Vogli, 2013) and within countries (Pickett and Wilkinson, 2009). There is increasing debate about transparency and accountability with regard to governance, regulation and law. The financial crisis has opened up more spaces for discussion of the moral ends of the economy and the conduct and responsibility of financial institutions in a context where billions of people suffer the adverse consequences of out-of-control financial speculation and gambling.
Discussion of the ethics of discounting has also begun in earnest – particularly with regard to climate change and ecosystem services and the effects of discounting on future generations.
Contraction and Convergence™ was developed, and had influence, at a time when the creation of carbon markets was a dominant policy trend. The fungibility of carbon (the fact that it is the same everywhere) is the key reason that this seemed suited to a monetary and market calculation.
Some key problems of the market approach to the environmental commons and to sustainability as a whole have been addressed in the project by a specially commissioned discussion paper (Anderson, 2013).
The aim of the CONVERGE project was for a ‘new visionary concept’ for ‘Re-thinking Globalisation’. The ethical concepts of equity in ‘allocation’ of planetary resources held in common by humanity (the global commons) was the starting point for the CONVERGE project. The research has explored what it might mean to extend the fundamental ethical and practical ideas behind emission trading, clean development (CDM) and general cap-and-allocation mechanisms. In the process the project worked from sustainability science and from concepts of ethics that included attention to the rights of future generations – inter and intra- generational equity. The transdisciplinary ambition and inherent nature of the project meant that we inquired into how convergence might be brought about – and what a convergence approach might look like – across different areas of human knowledge and practice.
The project objectives were to:
• explore convergence across social, economic and ecological systems, in the context of globalisation
• test convergence as a platform for holistic, sustainability indicators
• evaluate how policies and agreements conflict with or support processes of convergence by testing the convergence platform with policy communities and stakeholders
• investigate how different methods of community engagement can contribute towards building sustainable communities, testing the convergence platform with local stakeholders
• identify processes of convergence through case initiatives
• recommend how to integrate convergence into the internal and external policies of the EU
• communicate and disseminate the findings to different end-users through a range of media
The CONVERGE project has addressed all these objectives and has produced as set of tools and resources that can support or create processes of convergence, assist policy makers, and indicate further developments with stakeholders that seem particularly promising. Over the course of the project we have:
• Demonstrated transdisciplinary approaches to synthesis bringing the project outputs into close relationship and providing thematic synthesis from different perspectives.
• Indicated the opportunities for knowledge transfer and development to different stakeholder groups.
• Deepened our understanding of the processes of convergence, including opportunities to create new or supporting processes of convergence (WP2 and WP3).
• Identified gaps in current policy, which limits or prevents the occurrence of convergence (WP4).
• Developed methodologies for engaging communities in convergence (WP5).
• Learnt many lessons from case studies that looked for convergence thinking (WP6).
• Produced interdisciplinary, multi stakeholder critique (WP7) to support convergence concepts.
• Written recommendations for convergence, these were made to the EU and national and global governance – but also relevant for social movements.
We have tested the convergence concept for acceptability by key stakeholders and assessed the perceived usefulness of convergence as a concept and approach across social movements and community sustainability projects, policy communities and stakeholders, and measurement and indicator regimes.
We propose that it is by changing the nature of action that we can effect a change in what emerges. Small actions, multiplied millions of times, towards equality and frugality will move the whole towards equity within the limits of the planet.
Our global society could contract and converge through a series of crises, such as economic failures, food shortages, warfare, dictatorial decision making, etc., that lead to an overall decline in human welfare and dignity. Conversely, with some forethought and a series of possibly difficult yet communally made decisions, we could pass through a period of contraction that leads to a converged global society where human welfare, dignity, compassion, and democratic processes are developed and maintained. We refer to this sustainable-development pathway framed by 'equity within limits' as convergence (Quote: D30, Callaghan, 2013).
The CONVERGE projects demonstrates research achievements in a number of areas: system approaches and patterns, methodologies, worldviews, policy, measurement, participation and engagement, a mapping tool, other tools, recommendations.
These are all covered below in this summary of the project’s outputs and impact. However, it is important to appreciate first the context in which convergence is offered as a visionary concept. The concepts of ‘equality’ and ‘equity’ have been discussed as the CONVERGE project progressed and the question of systems accounts of ethics has been raised.
Proof of concept across different stakeholder groups
Many case studies have indicated that equity, environmental sustainability and well-being are mutually dependent and act synergistically to provide co-benefits. The deep transformation of behaviours, institutions and policies that needs to be effected in order for immediate and future social and environmental challenges to be overcome indicates the need for socially transformative (‘eco-social’) policy-making which can rejuvenate the development project and overcome the silo effect which has developed (Quote: Background paper to D33, Vadovics, p21).
‘Proof of concept’ is appropriate where the nature and scale of the task is extremely wide-ranging given the time and resources available. ‘Proof of concept’ requires justification of the fertility and usefulness of the frame or approach to be tested. This often involves testing in the process of development – a recognised part of action research.
Practitioner input to synthesis: this is provided by the research and reports carried out engaging practitioners – primarily reported in the D38b. The summary of the research results for practitioner responses to the convergence framework are provided here.
In order to test the extended convergence concept, one of the key tasks was to develop criteria for what would count as ‘proof of concept’. It was determined that one measure was to test the acceptability and the perceived usefulness of convergence as a concept across the three key areas of application in the project: (a) social movements and community sustainability projects, (b) policy communities and stakeholders, and (c) measurement and indicator regimes.
Proof of concept in the case of the first two sets of stakeholders has been demonstrated in the form of positive participant feedback from key project events – outlined further below.
It should of course be remembered that all stakeholders directly engaged in the project were a self-selected group. It was not part of the project to test convergence with wider stakeholder groups or the general public. These activities can be taken forward by the proposed Convergence Observatory and Alliance. However, it is also the case that the main strategic aim of the project became more fully defined as bringing together (or ‘coupling’) the many and diverse actors who are already engaged in Environment and Development. In this sense the fact that project events did succeed in attracting a mix of people from across these areas demonstrates that this concept does have strong resonance with both groups and with those who already see themselves as attempting to combine the two.
The project did not focus on business or government (politicians). Although the results of the project have much to offer in this regard, implications for these stakeholders come largely under the heading of further work and form one key element of the proposed agenda for the Convergence Alliance and Observatory (see Impact Plan).
In the case of measurement and indicator regimes the proof of concept is provided in strong arguments and example applications but does not yet include trialling with stakeholders.
In summary proof of concept came from four areas:
A. Systems Modelling Workshop Participants (WPs 3 & 7) - rich systems outputs capturing information and processes (D20); Positive participant feedback for the process and its value.
B. Policy makers at EU level (D27) - interest in convergence and its potential as a policy tool and basis for Environment and Development joint discussion space.
C. Sustainability practitioners from across Environment and Development (WPs 2 & 8) - rich results from events including Bristol and Tirunelveli Declarations with critical endorsement from participants in questionnaire feedback.
D. Case examples initiatives and organisations (WP 6) - feedback from examples studied was positive about the value of the mapping. This led to the development of an additional self-assessment tool by WP 6 leaders Green Dependent
System approaches and patterns
In the CONVERGE project we have brought soft and critical systems thinking into the analysis. We have developed a cogent critique of ranking and the development of a convergence DPSIR model.
Understanding of systemic interdependencies is needed for the development of informed and complementary kinds of change for convergence. Considering the two dimensions, equity and limits, requires systemic thinking to appreciate the interconnections and consequence of change, to construct interdisciplinary and participative examination, and to test policy. Fully developed system dynamics models are important to explore how systems change over time and how they might respond to interventions (Quote: D41, Parker, 2013).
The European Union aims to promote and extend peace, democracy, cooperativeness, stability, prosperity, and the rule of law. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Commissioner for External Relations (2004- 2009) said, "The future of the EU is linked to globalization...the EU has a crucial role to play in making globalization work properly...”
In the field of policy making we have identified key gaps between national strategic thinking and global strategic thinking; we have gained an overview of some of the key relationships between global level and EU level sustainable development policies. We have gained the interest of networks of policy makers across the Environment and Development divide and developed the concept of using convergence as a ‘pre-policy plug in’ to debates.
Policy conclusions from CONVERGE:
1) Convergence policy” does not exist, only sustainable development policy and various sectorial policies with some arguments for convergence.
2) Focus of Sustainable Development Goals has gradually shifted: human rights, development issues are better incorporated.
3) Global equity is not accepted by the EU policies. Job and growth comes first; equity and limits comes second.
4) Imminent policy trap: toolbox extends to market-based instruments, green investments - no exit from growth paradigm in the EU policy.
5) Contraction is encompassed by the EU Horizon 2020: strategies for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth -- crucial to better incorporate the equity within limits arguments in the EU 2020.
6) Coherence understood as new focus (conceptual hook) but not radical change in policymaking. No links between DG Environment & DG Development - policy coherence cannot be successful if organisational setting does not live up to it.
7) Environmental policy is successful, however reducing inequality (in access to resources) is less realistic.
8) Convergence is regarded as adequate for starting reasonable conversations with stakeholders in sustainability debates.
9) Policies address complex systemic interactions but process level of convergence is entirely missing from EU policies.
10) NGOs could be engaged for the convergence framework.
11) Further evidence is needed on successful engagement processes - how we get to the desirable future.
12) Current multiple crises offer a favourable governance context, sense of urgency for real world solutions; bottom-up, networked, participatory policy approaches.
13) Convergence as a ‘pre-policy concept’, a plug-in for policy-makers - crosscutting several DGs work and it could offer creative space for intergroup meetings at the EU.
14) Convergence as a ‘hook’ captures various policy areas and invites an open debate (see Balazs, D27).
Convergence and Isomorphism, Universality and Diversity
The synthesis of information about sustainability frameworks in terms of national strategies has shown up the ways that these are linked (or not) to wider global agreements. The distinction of patterns between convergence and isomorphism challenges EU policy – the former is a global concept while the latter has been bounded to the EU borders.
The vision is of converging in diverse communities, each living according to its own local definition of sustainability but with a responsibility to the sustainability of all other communities including communities of the future (Quote: Roderick et al., D16, p 23).
Convergence is primarily about what is to be achieved and why do we want to achieve it; how we achieve it is secondary, and we suggest that these ‘how’ methods should embrace diversity for resilience and experimentation in forms of learning process – divergence in methods. This reveals how the seeming convergence / divergence contradiction is reconciled. We need a convergence on what we want to achieve and a divergence or plurality of ways to achieve that common purpose (Quote: Roderick et al., D16, p5).
Resources and Convergence
The dynamic systems modelling for convergence developed into a review of some of the key resources for food and for human development. The University of Lund team, working with Professor Ragnarsdottir from the Iceland team, adopted a ‘focus on the dynamic modelling of the key natural resources that are common to all case studies and have crucial impacts on the food system on global level. Dynamic modelling studies looking at key minerals and metals in food production and supply chain.
As a background to this research it is useful to consider the following summary from the work of GreenDependent in Hungary (WP6).
Greener production has not led to decrease in impact of humanity
As a result of the ecological modernization of production, the efficiency of resource use has improved and its environmental impacts have decreased. However, as the consumption side has not been appropriately considered (apart from moves to increase efficiency and make it more environmentally-friendly), despite growing research evidence for this need, greener production methods have not lead to a decrease in the overall environmental impact of humanity (Quote: Vadovics, Background paper to D33, p11
Together they comprise an overwhelming case for a step change in recycling and for the importance of this to both current and future generations. This has also changed the perspective of convergence to include resources much more centrally in addition to the bio-capacity of the Earth’s system stressed in the ‘Planetary Boundaries’ concept.
Natural resources and how long they will last
In determining what would be a fair use of natural resources across the globe we evaluated the availability of over 40 natural resources (Ragnarsdottir et al., 2012; Sverdrup et al., 2013). While the concept of peak oil is fairly well known, (it is generally accepted that oil production is peaking now, and coal and gas will peak within this decade), we found that several strategic metals, elements and other energy resources (e.g. uranium) are about to run out in the near future under the present non-circular paradigm of use. Of note is that phosphorous production has already peaked and no other element can replace phosphorous as a fertilizer in food production (Ragnarsdottir et al., 2011; Sverdrup and Ragnarsottir, 2011).
Our results show that under resource use as today (business as usual – BAU) many of these resources will reach scarcity levels within this century. The scenarios in the research are based on increasing the recycling rate – first to 50% , then to 70%, then 90 and last to 95%. In doing so the time to scarcity is increased over an order of magnitude in years. However, the last two scenarios – where most of the resources last into thousands of years – assume 95% recycling and that the population is reduced to 3 billion. The last scenario assumes half of the use of today, 3 billion people and recycling at the rate of 95%. Precious metals are mostly considered to be better recycled than the others because they are very valuable. The research shows that materials that underpin modern society may become unavailable for global mass production of goods. Since phosphorous is also a limited resource, this puts a focus on food security and how the world is going to provide food security to global citizen. It is inevitable that material volumes that can be supplied from fossil reserves will be reduced with respect to today and resources will go up in price.
Our research shows that future resource supply is unsustainable without comprehensive recycling. The creation of wealth from conversion of resources and work, as well as the current extensive borrowing from the future, cause concerns that peaking energy and materials production may lead to “peak wealth” and the end of the golden age we live in. We show that scarcity may lead to “peak wealth”, “peak population”, “peak waste” and “peak civilization”, unless urgent counter-measures are systematically undertaken. The research shows the peaking time of nine resources.
The only action humans can do on a limited planet – to shift the peak year somewhat into the future - is to use less (increasing resource efficiency and/or reduce the resource consumption) and/or to recycle more. Therefore we conclude that there is little more important in a converging world than to increase recycling of materials and metals in addition to reducing resource use.
The findings of this project show graphically that we live in a world of limits and that there is important need for policy makers to take notice and formulate resource based economic models that include availability of resources.
Wider societal impact of resource depletion
Our recommendations are that governments must take this issue seriously and must immediately prepare legislation to close material cycles, optimize energy use and minimize irreversible material losses. Policies have shifted from end of pipe solutions, to clean production, and in the future policies need to focus on sustainable consumption and sustainable population using different balancing loops that can be introduced into the system by policies (Sverdrup et al. 2013).
It is imperative that we start on a path towards sustainable development worldwide. In the best of cases there will be both a convergence and a contraction necessary on a local to global scale. As efficiently as we used globalization to expand, we must now use it for the required convergence and contraction. Here we define goals for closing the present sustainability gap we observe and have described here to create sustainable basic materials, metals, energy and phosphorus cycles in human society; to make sure that the measures that are taken are socially sustainable within the basic framework of democracy and free society;
The sustainability principles are applied with a long-term perspective, with fairness towards coming generations without limiting their possibilities or forward appropriating their freedom or fundamental resources for subsistence. We need to take care that we are not just shifting the resource issue around. The whole chain from technology to effect on society must be included, as well as detailed sustainability assessments with respect to energy, materials and return on monetary, energy and material investments. For example, biofuels are already used to a large degree; however, it is at present only 1%-2% of the total global energy production. This issue must be dealt with carefully as it interacts with other ecosystem services harvested from the forests, local fuel, food crops, biomass for pulp and paper, wood for construction, ecosystems for nature conservation and production of recreational services. People in developing countries depend to a large degree on biomass for fuel. Biomass for energy has a limited potential, and a huge downside if done wrongly and short-sightedly.
Our research demonstrates that both resource use per capita and the number of consumers are globally too large. Soon it is not about the affluent to contract and the poor to converge, it will be about that all must contract with respect to net materials and net energy use per capita or face serious societal crisis. The concept of net use emphasizes the importance of energy and material conservation in closed loops, making recycling of everything one of the mantras for survival of society.
The model assessments we have done suggest that there is no way 9 billion people on earth can be sustained for any long period of time. The UN and IIASA global population projections towards 9-12 billion people on Earth in 2050 can only occur if the models have no limitation on food or energy.
We must find a way to promote prosperity without growth and within the limits of the planet. For any strategic metal or element, recycling reaching 70%, is needed at present, but the recycling rates are far below that (Ragnarsdottir et al., 2012). Significant approaches to global materials sustainability will be made when the average recycling is above 90%. The corresponding alternative measure would be to have a significantly smaller global population. Governments need to take these resource limitations and population growth seriously and start preparing for actions and legislation that can close material cycles and minimize material losses as soon as possible
These natural resource evaluations are crucial in helping to set further and more complete agendas for convergence research within the EU and further afield and further development with stakeholders is most important.
Measurement and Convergence Pathways
We have developed an outline set of convergence indicators and rationale and indicated the need for a forecast into which we can place points or regions of convergence. The project aimed to synthesise other feasibility studies and indicators (D15) and to produce a set of convergence indicators (D16).
Resource Efficiency and Equity
The concept of convergence wherein all countries aim to provide the same quality of livelihood for all their citizens, while globally we remain within the limits of the Earth to support us, is the enormous challenge that we face. Without explicitly considering equity we are in serious danger of making resource efficiency - considered in isolation - irrelevant if the social tensions of perceived inequality boil over into conflict. Similarly, though, all efforts to improve the development of economies and equalisation of provision become irrelevant if we continue to use resources inefficiently and we damage the environment or just plain run out of essential materials like water and so undo the vast progress made on alleviation of poverty and disease (Quote: D16, Roderick et al., 2013, p 24).
The above extract makes crucial links between the natural resource efficiency debate and equity issues. This constant coupling of material and social themes is central to the convergence approach.
Participation and engagement
The use of participatory workshops provided a rich set of results in systems diagrams. The engagement process helped all to participate and demonstrated the value of a broad range of stakeholder involvement. Prior to invitation of stakeholders the value chain of the system under investigation needs to be set out. At the beginning of the workshops both the state of the world and systems analysis needs to be explained so that participants can find convergence based solutions. The overall process we refer to as the Converge Process (D37). We made a key distinction between community and social movement engagements and developed different strategies distilled from literature and cases studied. We recommended conducting convergence workshops for institutions and communities to apply convergence approaches. The idea of fostering leadership for convergence appeared.
D35 illustrates the process of the dynamic systems modelling in the phases of workshops. The richness of the data collected and organised in this way represents a huge step forward when applied to any convergence theme (e.g. food; water; transport etc.). The opportunities for expert knowledge to be complemented by a full range of more local and practitioner perspectives are crucial for both convergence practical purposes and for the ethics of participation.
The need for buy-in for solutions by all stakeholders in order to make substantial system changes is another key motivation for using the Convergence Process set out in D37. The food system workshops have demonstrated that this process can be used in a multi-level way from local communities, to cities, to small countries. One aspect of knowledge transfer will be to consider how to develop these for the global level, considered further in the discussion of the food theme below.
Key concepts and mapping tool
In work with initiatives undertaken in WP6, convergence has been defined as bringing together strong and just sustainability.
We have developed an innovative mapping system for initiatives using the convergence Quadrant Model approach (WP6). This allowed a consistent comparative analysis across a wide range of stakeholder groups and aims. We applied the model to many initiatives across the world to analyse and draw out conclusions and issues to inform further development of convergence. We now reside in the quadrant referred to as Inequality and Profligacy where there is increasing resource use and decreasing equality. We need to find a pathway to the quadrant described as Equality and Frugality where there will be decreasing resource use and increasing equality. We believe that the Converge Globalization concept can help humanity to get there – but much more research is required at global, EU and national level.
Other tools (see D47)
We have developed and tested a set of tools and resources to take people through processes and build capacity and participation/solidarity in groups. These provide rich information for groups to take into their own experiences as they think their futures. These tools are: (a) The Convergence Principles, (b) The Enriched DPSIR process, (c) The initiatives mapped in WP6.
Convergence synthesis in the food theme
As a process for testing the convergence framework and the indicator development process, food was very successful. As a cross-cutting theme - everybody needs to eat - we were able to bring a diverse group of stakeholders to the table in three different countries (Iceland, UK and India), and these were able to relate with the research via their own conceptual understanding and real-world interaction with food and the food system.
The cross-cutting and Transdisciplinary nature of food system enabled us to examine food threads as they pass through from many areas: politics; economics; social sciences; local knowledge and expertise; appropriate technology. Food also provided a handle with which to inspect the wider system, particularly nested global to local scales and interactions of the food system. One clear point was that though these nested scales and interconnections exist, from the perspective of convergence, they are not efficient, or fair. For example - whilst some communities suffer from hunger and malnutrition, others are obese. A more convergent set of processes and mechanisms in the food system would push for fairer allocation / distribution of the Earth's food and nutritional resources.
With regard to the global scale of food supply and consumption, the EU has a special role to play in considering global policy as argued below. The first extract considers the general need to look at any issue from multiple scale perspectives.
Issues of scale and systems informed food policy/strategy
The issue of multi-scale is presented here: If this were an exploration of what the EU countries might do to address an issue such as food security then assessment of responses should consider Convergence at the global level; would a strategy for self-sufficiency in Europe have divergent consequences at the whole world level?; by reducing the need for food imports we would affect the livelihoods of people in exporting countries and slow down their development; perhaps we should switch policies towards encouraging low-income, potential food producers? There is always a need to look inward and outward across scales to balance short term local gains against long term global effects that might have large and serious consequences for the local (Quote: D 16 Roderick et al., 2013, p50).
The food sector work has demonstrated that any convergence theme (e.g. water, transport, shelter, etc.) would bring up the issues of resource depletion. This means that indicators for the sustainability and convergence of any of these systems would necessarily be complex. This is argued in detail below with regard to the CONVERGE food theme workshops.
With regard to wider global issues, the availability of food is directly related to the size of population and this is discussed further in the transdisciplinary synthesis of project outcomes.
Meta-discussion – learning about transdisciplinary (TD) research
The planning of the CONVERGE research recognised the need for review of TD as an on-going part of the research process and this has been summarised in the periodic reports. The research highlighted many issues that are generic to TD research generally and to TD research on sustainability in particular (TDRS). These issues have been the subject of project events and workshop discussions and have yielded some potential new resources for the TDRS community, but also some recommendations regarding research policy and support for the European Research Area (ERA) as detailed below.
Transdisciplinary review in the project
All projects have research limitations to do with methodological and practical issues. CONVERGE is no exception. However, the reflective aspects built into the project have helped to transform these limitations into sources of learning that can be passed on and debated with the wider TD research community – as we began to do with our Prague conference on Transdisciplinary Research for Sustainability in 2013.
The project reconsiders the systems nature of the research in D16 but also in the TD synthesis of D39. The Guidelines for the European Research Area in D40 will consider generic meta-questions of TD research for sustainability in addition to developing specific recommendations regarding convergence issues in sustainability research. This work will also feed into proposals for innovative research in D43. Systems issues in relation to the project were discussed at the UK Systems Society conferences during the life of the project and will continue to be a source of theoretical and methodological development.
The transdisciplinary critique of outputs has been an on-going part of project meetings and discourse linked to the reports on the TD working of the project. These discussions have led to changes in emphasis in some activity and greater links being made between some of the project outputs. The main area of TD critique and exploration for the practitioner review has been the extent to which convergence can meaningfully bring together environment and human development concerns in a new vision for convergent globalisation. As discussed further below this testing has taken the form of research with practitioners attending a number of key events.
The project processes are iterative and involve constant development and review. This in turn involves re-designing project outcomes to a certain extent – mostly in terms of re-interpretation of the focus of deliverables in the light of our developing understanding of what is involved (Bammer, 2005; COSEPUP, 2004). From this perspective any review during the life of the project will be ‘in process’ – as the concept and its supporting elements are still in development. This methodology will therefore need to capture these process aspects, drawing on the tradition of systems and process thinking (Romm, 1998; Scoones et al., 2007).
One of the tools that was applied to the CONVERGE research activities was a framework for mapping research questions and results across the broad areas of knowledge. This framework has been developed in order to help identify the different kinds of systems with which researchers have to deal in TDRS and to assist in clarifying the issues across different kinds of knowledge involved.
The explicit attention given to TD issues in the project has assisted in the learning of the project research team, but also enabled us to engage with the wider TDRS community about the meta-issues involved. Our successful European conference on Transdisciplinary Research for Sustainability, held together with Charles University Environment Centre in Prague (2013) helped to provide recommendations to the ERA.
Key points from the project discussions and the Prague conference are summarised below:
• The overwhelming need for civil society to be informed by sustainability knowledge; for that knowledge to be made relevant and accessible to civil society; for sustainability knowledge to be co-created with civil society and other stakeholders wherever possible.
• The lack of progress in finding ways to build in concern and advocacy for future generations in TDRS and sustainability work generally.
• The blocks, barriers and bottlenecks to effective TDRS work that are still very much felt by all participants.
• The lack of resources to support those wanting to apply TD & TDRS approaches (patchy development so far).
• The lack of joined-up research policy across the EU on TD generally.
• Review of EU and global networks identified that while many address components of the TDRS meta-questions and agenda - very few are mandated to concentrate upon this. This means there is a lack of consistent progress on the philosophy and methodology of TDRS.
• The loss of valuable research experience and failure to share this through academic and other channels heightened by of over-personalisation of excellence and failure to develop explicit standards for evaluation of TD.
• Research ethics in TD is in great need of fuller discussion and development as a topic – currently there are contradictions and frictions across areas of ethics in the EU.
• Danger the EU falling behind in global debates on this vital topic.
• Need to develop TD excellence to support EU’s continuing global leadership in Sustainability
In many places throughout the world (if not all places) academics and knowledge producers are subject to pressures and sanctions to hide, or partially report controversial knowledge – usually of the un-sustainability of current activities in which some powerful groups have an interest.
Participatory Research in TDRS demonstrates the vital importance of taking local and indigenous knowledge of livelihoods and local systems into full account. This is particularly the case with the food system as researched in CONVERGE as a cross-cutting theme. Participatory research also involves key concerns of gender and diversity in empowering different perspectives to be voiced - and food issues, linked to biodiversity – a key current debate in global sustainability science is currently dominated by research into corporate initiatives such as Genetic Modification.
In the interests of science the proposals and practices from people’s movements and from NGOs for maximising food production and protecting/enhancing biodiversity should be given at least equal research attention to test these claims. There is slow progress to reform the systems for policy and governance to reflect the transdisciplinary and cross-departmental features of sustainability. Efforts in the European Research Area (ERA) to support the development of TD capacity should be linked to the reform of joined-up governance and include training of researchers and policy-makers. The issue of governance is also important to discuss in terms of indicators as measuring progress to goals – without effective governance that is free from corruption reliable data cannot be produced or disseminated appropriately.
Reliable sustainability data and research is also crucial for the proper application of environmental law. Robust evidence supported by expertise and integrity is needed. Environmental Law has been recognised by Transparency International as a ‘paradise’ for corruption owing to over-complexity and frequent changes. This implies an effort to reform environmental law to help ensure that it can be put into practice in more transparent ways (Quote: Parker, D40, p 5-7)
August 2013 saw the end of this four research project called CONVERGE. It was funded by the European Union as part of their environment programme. The objective was to rethink globalisation in the light of Contraction & Convergence™ - the proposed methodology to establish equitable trajectories for countries to cap greenhouse gas emissions. We explored the underlying ethic of this methodology and the simple word ‘convergence’ emerged with its tag line ‘equity within planetary limits’.
Convergence is an idea to apply to the processes of society. It acts to create visions of the future and to set goals that we can use to shape policy to alter the rules of the game. We can apply it at any scale from the individual to global governance – and we can measure progress.
Translating convergence into practice will require effort to inform and set in place learning processes that will reimagine the future – it will demand a will to see fair share and lightness of being – in a literal sense.
Part of the ‘how’ to deliver impact will be through two developments that are underway:
The first is the Convergence Observatory (CO), which will act as a research network and campaign focus for convergence ideas. It will develop and monitor convergence indicators, continue investigating and developing the concepts of convergence and actively lobby in all sectors to raise awareness and affect policy making.
The second is the Convergence Alliance (CA), which is a network to connect organisations and individuals, to promote the idea of dealing with limits and equality as one combined issue, to act as a mechanism to couple organisations that are more focused on one dimension, say environmental limits, with another focused elsewhere on fairness and equality.
The CO is active in producing policy papers and engagement based on research and monitoring, it has a co-ordinating role. The CA is a space for reflection, conversation and forming links, it has an amplification role.
The Convergence Alliance and Convergence Observatory are linked projects that have emerged from the project. These initiatives are sponsored by the Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems based in Bristol, UK, GreenDependent Institute based in Godollo, Hungary, and Social Change And Development (SCAD) based in Tiruneveli, India.
The CONVERGE research project provides proof of concept and the Convergence Alliance will engage people and organisations in a multi-scale, global effort for convergence. This alliance is an international, campaigning network to advocate convergence as a platform for change for sustainability and equity. It is an association of individuals and organisations to (a) advance convergence ideas and continue to test them in practice, (b) match “Environment” with “Development” to bring these fields of study and practice together, (c) deliver education and opportunities for systems thinking on complex global issues, (d) form partnerships for research, (e) campaign based on perspectives drawn from convergence philosophy. The Alliance is non-political, i.e. it does not support any political party. It will be ‘political’ in the sense of engaging in conversations on politics and will intentionally lobby politicians and policy makers to promote Convergence ideas.
Simultaneously the Convergence Observatory will research and monitor information and policies with a convergence perspective. This observatory is starting in the EU and India but is planning for full international participation. The aim is to research and advocate for policy interventions using a convergence approach to equity within planetary limits. This is a way to (a) collect and present examples of convergence in action, (b) measure degrees of convergence and publish metrics, (c) continue research into the concepts, (d) influence policy makers from an evidence base, (e) inform the Alliance members.
Convergence Alliance proposal
The deepest and most important contribution that CONVERGE has made to European policy making is highlighting the extent to which democratic and consensual bargains are already being made across the world between publics and governments balancing the competing needs of 1. economic and social development with 2. environmental sustainability and the equitable management of limited resources.
The main idea of the CONVERGE project is balancing social, political and economic equity within planetary limits. The challenges in relation to these ‘super-wicked problems’, are especially difficult to resolve as they directly pit competing needs for action and freedom against each other in ways that democratic bureaucracies are especially ill-equipped to handle.
The Convergence Alliance will continue to promote a number of processes identified by CONVERGE as particularly essential to a converging world:
• Sharing benefits of consumption more equitably by expanding the access to Global Public Goods, finite resources, and to the services provided by both.
• Burden-sharing of the costs of resource use based on principles of equity. That is, ensuring that the true costs of resource use are reflected in price, distribution and access.
• Participation in decision-making concerning the use and distribution of resources, and the services that derive from these.
The Convergence Alliance is a process to connect individuals and organisations that are interested in the ideas of Convergence. One of our key findings is the need to encourage better connections between the environmental and development communities. Many people identify strongly with one direction like conservation of a particular species while others focus on issues of say fair trade or poverty reduction. We conclude that the Convergence Alliance can help to create partnerships across these boundaries, and to create opportunities for discussion and learning to share different worldviews as we explore the systemic nature of the world and seek Convergence.
The Convergence Alliance will campaign for change; it will provide resources for people to use in their work and run a variety of courses blending personal contact with online experiences. It is our hope that the Convergence Alliance will form bilateral links or multilateral clusters of individuals, businesses and organisations to exchange ideas and work on common issues.
Convergence Observatory proposal
1. Convergence Platform. This would be an online platform allowing members to share research and new work addressing Convergence and the central problem of fitting together environmental sustainability and economic and social development. We would promote this to university, NGO and business groups, and seek funding for a news service component.
2. Convergence Lecture Series. A series of lectures, in partnership with a University department if possible, and featuring speakers from development and environment communities. These should be filmed for YouTube clips where possible.
3. Human Convergence Index (HCI). The 2013 Human Development Index included for the first time an inequality weighting, the so-called IHDI. The IHDI takes the HDI methodology and score for each country and discounts the coefficient controlling for inequality using the Atkinson method, which is often used as a more sensitive measure than the Gini distribution as it explains outliers better. Inequality is measured as a composite discount of the distribution of Life Expectancy, Educational Attainment and Mean Income, rather than the absolute value of each.
A stand-alone research project that could drive publicity and communications for the Observatory (and be highly fundable) would be a Convergence-weighted index, or a CHDI. As the HDI and IHDI methodologies are relatively straight-forward and published, and if robust and reliable sources of data for convergence indicators could be found for the weighting, a methodology for calculating a CHDI could be put together by somebody with graduate statistical training based upon the HDI methodology. This methodology could then be used to combine the Convergence indicators with national HDI coefficients in order to create a Human Convergence Index.
The impact that the CONVERGE project could make is directed at five sectors:
1. Private – businesses: multinational, transnational, large national, SMEs
2. Public – local community ward, city, regional, national, supranational region (EU) and global governance.
3. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) – non-government groups, from small, local to large, global, it includes community groups.
4. Science – knowledge organisations, university sector, think tanks etc.: facilitating and informing conversations
5. Individuals – in the social media networks and publications
For each of these sectors we define what impact we want to achieve, how we should go about doing it and why it is important to do so. We also need to discover whom we should involve and any plans should say when and where to do so.
For companies, the desired impact of the CONVERGE project would be that their strategic decision making processes would include convergence as an important, even overriding criteria. As strategy is translated into operational directives the ideas of convergence would take material form in the way that supply chains and stakeholder relationships develop. As a company prepares for change, whether from recognition of environmental limits or from the impact of new technologies or from new social structures and processes then the consequences for equality are placed as central concerns.
A business that signed up to the Convergence Alliance would undertake to examine its operations and its strategic direction, to uncover the effect it has on issues of both equity and functioning within planetary limits. A systemic picture of the company in the world would reveal its contribution to convergence (or divergence) and this would influence decisions. Embedding convergence principles in the CSR arena is a major desired impact of the project.
Large, multinational companies are well tuned to examining their supply chains for environmental and socially damaging effects as the public relations fall out from abuse can have a serious effect on reputation and sales. Introducing convergence might move these efforts from ‘do no harm’ to active measures for operating within resource constraints and limits while improving equality at both local and global scales.
The impact of CONVERGE extends to business representative organisations, partnerships, initiatives and networks: in the UK this would include the CBI, the IoD, Business Links, Chambers of Commerce and then we can address transnational initiatives such as WBCSD, Global Compact, Global Reporting Initiative and so on. Endorsement for the CA from these bodies would be desirable and may be essential. Their support for the Observatory would be most welcome.
Actions to achieve this impact will include:
• Recruiting companies to join the CA
• Writing articles for the business press
• Writing reports (e.g. Convergence and Business) and distributing widely
• Inviting business people to conferences and workshops
Both GreenDependent Institute and the Schumacher Institute offer convergence consultancy to companies to integrate environment and social issues.
There are many spheres of influence to consider in the public sector. The main impact that we wish to make is into policy making and into the thinking that is going on for new developments such as the Sustainable Development Goals. The Description of Work for the CONVERGE project states:
[It is] difficult to fully integrate the sustainable development agenda within the internal and external policies of the EU. [CONVERGE] is expected to take a broad and visionary look at the connections between globalisation and sustainable development, and to provide as an output indications and directions for increasing the ability to sustain integrated policy-making at all levels. CONVERGE will make an important long-term contribution to the Sustainable Development Strategy.
There is a clear need to make an impact within the EU as they are the clients and owners of the project. We need to document and approach all agencies and centres. Their support for the Observatory would be most welcome.
Actions to achieve this impact will include:
• Writing articles for public sector (EU) press
• Writing reports (e.g. Convergence and Business) and distribute widely
• Discovering some champions to help get our message through
• Inviting people to conferences
At the national level we should attempt to do a similar exercise wherever we have resources. In the UK we should approach DfiD, DECC, DEFRA etc. We should consider contacting some Embassies and High Commissions; potentially contact the Commonwealth organisation and British Council. Other partners in the consortium will do likewise; in particular India would bring a new perspective that we can use to interest EU agencies.
At the local level we should look for representative organisation such as the Local Government Association in the UK. TSC will definitely feed the convergence concept into Bristol’s European Green Capital 2015 Award.
At the global level the UN agencies, OECD, and other organisations likewise require full investigation and approaches. We should consider the city region globally through the Covenant of Mayors.
The main objective and impact that we could make in this sector is to recruit as many organisation as possible into the Convergence Alliance and to use that as a vehicle to promote the concepts and to potential match-make some bilateral links.
The objective is to improve their impact and provide a cohesive force. To do this we are suggesting coupling or linking as a process to explore different directions than the main focus of any particular CSO. With good input from the ‘science’ we wish to promote systems thinking about their main issues in a context of all complex global issues.
We might consider looking at Global Citizenship movements to assess the ideas of convergence and to form links.
A major focus for CONVERGE in the final period is the process to establish the Sustainable Development Goals. Through this work it is expected that many items for further research will appear.
Public outreach – mostly through writings for popular press. The production of a popular book on “Convergence” could well help deliver some impact. This work has started (Dec 2013). Social media and websites will help to raise awareness.
The direct project impact
Impact will be made on those stakeholders involved closely with the project. CONVERGE will shape the worldview of the following:
• Core team members including advisors
• Community of Learning – those involved in workshops and conferences
• Community of Interest – those who watch: visitors to the website and discussion fora.
This is implicit impact in that these stakeholders will act as champions or critics of the concepts and ideas.
What is missing?
We have only slight connection to Africa through one advisor (Emelia Arthur, Ghana), and no connections to USA, South America, other parts of Asia than India, Australia / NZ, Russia, and the Middle East. As convergence is about nations coming together the only route to get an impact throughout the world is to look at global organisations of which the UN is obviously the key player.
The potential impact
In all sectors and at the individual level the potential impact of the CONVERGE project is to change behaviours, the rules of the game and decision making so that we, global society can squeeze through the resource bottleneck. Convergence is a huge concept and is being addressed by many organisation at all scales. The CONVERGE project has the potential to focus efforts and bring out the need for simultaneous consideration of equity and the limits of the resources to support life.
As a ‘big picture’ project CONVERGE has a very wide stakeholder base in addition to the more focused stakeholder groups from which research participants have been drawn and for whom resources have been produced.
Products available for use and dissemination
There are a number of products from the project deliverable set that are obvious ingredients for making an impact and can be used directly or with some wrapping:
WP2 Convergence Indicator sets – derived from D15 / D16 – this is material for the Observatory to develop reports to the public sector and business, and information for policy makers.
WP3 Methodology for group modelling, D21 – this will assist policy making, for those who wish to develop a systemic understanding of convergence issues.
WP4 Final report on policies, D27 - valuable for policy makers, business and CSOs
WP5 Guide to community engagement, D30 - A valuable asset for the Convergence Alliance working with public sector, community groups, CSOs and individuals.
WP6 Case studies electronic book, D33 - a valuable asset for the Alliance working with public sector, community groups, CSOs and individuals.
WP7 Resource book for communities wishing to engage in convergence, D37 - a valuable asset for the Alliance working with public sector, community groups, CSOs and individuals.
WP8 Trans-disciplinary synthesis of project outputs for knowledge transfer D39, Guidelines for the European Research Agenda related to Convergence D40 - direct input to the science communities as well as policy makers and research at EU level.
WP9 Book chapter, policy recommendations D42, D43 Proposal of new innovative research policy agendas - provides direct input to the science communities as well as policy makers and research at EU level.
WP10 Website – some material can move over to a CA website, e.g. the film D49 - a valuable asset for the Alliance working with public sector, community groups, CSOs and individuals.
Dissemination has taken several forms:
The production of resources made available on the project website and circulated to contacts and CONVERGE research participants. The production of Recommendations in D40 (to the European Research Area) and D41 (to policy makers and to policy actors such as NGOs). These recommendations are supported by the many project outputs that are identified in the Recommendations’ Appendices - thus encouraging further knowledge transfer.
Many dissemination events have been held that combined Action Research, Dissemination and Engagement and in which ‘Proof of the Convergence Concept’ has been tested – both with formal and informal evaluation. This has occurred through the presentation of CONVERGE research and results at numerous conferences, expert meetings, seminars and other professional and practitioner events, through the publication of academic papers, book chapters.
List of Websites:
Co-ordinator: Ian Roderick at email@example.com