As published on jerseyeveningpost.com/, Friday 15 January, 2021.
The Economic Council believes that the world is ‘reaching a pivotal stage’ and the great challenges of this century will be biodiversity loss and climate change.
New Perspectives offers hope, however, indicating belief that the right economic model in the Island can help address these problems.
‘The most commonly used definition of sustainability derives from the Brundtland Commission in 1987,’ the report says.
‘Understanding how to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their own needs.
‘Whilst in 1987 there was a plethora of scientific understanding that changing planetary systems would be detrimental to human life on Earth, the threat seemed more distant.’
The report says that Jersey must play its part in tackling environmental issues, not just for moral reasons but also because it will not be immune to its dangers.
‘Global food supply insecurity, infectious disease outbreaks, mass migration from collapse of freshwater access, are just a few of the consequences of tipping the planet out of balance,’ it says.
‘There is a temptation to say, but we, Jersey, are a small jurisdiction, with little contribution to global failures of policy, increasing emissions or depleting biodiversity.
‘However, we will be impacted by the changes under way. Sea-level rise is a true threat and the Jersey Sea Level Rise report (2017) detailed the likely scenarios we face.
‘Defences will be overtopped and coastal businesses and homes threatened without interventions (Jersey Shoreline Management Plan, 2020).
‘Storm systems globally are changing, becoming more frequent and of greater magnitude. As an island nation our connectivity to the UK and the continent is crucial for resource supplies, whether by boat or plane.
‘The collapse of pollinators and microbial systems will result in poorer agricultural output and poorer human health, leading to increased healthcare costs. Warming summers and wetter winters will further threaten productivity.’
Could Jersey become the world’s first carbon-positive jurisdiction?
New Perspectives points out that governments across the world have a ‘long history’ of setting environmental targets and then not meeting them.
Last year the States Assembly declared a climate emergency in 2019 and committed to net zero-carbon emissions by 2030. The council, which was formed to advise the government as Jersey emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, calls for this work to be built upon.
Policy suggestions include creating renewable energy supplies locally, discouraging fossil-fuel burning vehicles and building a ‘world-class’ public transport system.
‘In Jersey, emissions have been reduced by 47% in relation to 1990s levels, largely predicated on switching to French-sourced energy and not on adopting renewable energy development locally,’ the report says.
‘On-Island renewables would help make Jersey energy secure into the future and in a volatile external environment, where energy supplies could become flash points for future conflict, this is not only prudent but essential.
‘By adopting a more progressive approach Jersey could aim to be the first carbon-positive jurisdiction, which in itself requires investment and job creation, either via government, the private sector or a public-private partnership.
‘This includes tackling transport use, a particular challenge for an island. Much private transport on the Island is not fit for our small roads and the sale of increasingly large oil or diesel vehicles that serve no purpose in a domestic context should be discouraged via legislation, pricing and/or tax policy, not only to reduce emissions but also for public safety.’
New Perspectives says that increased usage of biofuels should not be encouraged as they cause deforestation and biodiversity loss.
Other suggestions for bringing about carbon neutrality include:
lCreating ‘a truly world-class’ public transport system to reduce barriers to reducing private transport use.
lRegeneration and infrastructure policies to incorporate low-carbon technology in construction and long-term functionality, at both domestic and corporate levels.
lEmbedding biodiversity plans in every infrastructure project, with the aim of creating a ‘new normal’ that buildings need clear biodiversity bolstering and carbon emissions reduction plans.
A positive investment role for the finance sector?
New Perspectives says that Jersey’s largest industry can also play its part by encouraging Environmental, Social and Governance investing, otherwise known as ESG.
‘Our powerful finance sector should have a laser attention to ESG investment development and lead in the strategic investment/disinvestment of environmentally damaging companies,’ it says.
‘This is already being demanded by discerning investors and the growth of environmental-impact investing could be led from Jersey.
‘Our finance sector could make bold and difficult targets – could we have the first forest-positive investment sector on Earth?’
It adds that offices in Jersey can also contribute.
‘We should aim to have the lowest ecological footprint possible for any jurisdiction while still helping people live happy and fulfilled lives,’ it says.
‘Waste of all kind should be rigorously discouraged or via costs associated with waste disposal more heavily levied on both business and domestic settings.’
Taking a lead and creating an Island of environmental excellence
The report calls on Jersey to replicate the success of its finance sector in meeting and exceeding global standards when pursuing climate goals.
‘Chasing after and exceeding global standards, such as the sustainable development goals, will put our efforts in a global context,’ it says.
‘This widens the ability to attract the innovation and investment from those who want to be part of an Island that is punching above its weight.
‘It also enlivens our tourism industry to offer a new eco-tourism. Our forebears who thought big about what a finance sector could be in Jersey used a long horizon.
‘We can do the same with sustainability and transform Jersey to an Island of excellence.’