The event aimed to build next generation infrastructure to embrace the times ahead through science-based environmental decision-making

NCSE conference

Organized by the National Council for Science and the Environment, the conference on “Sustainable Infrastructure and Resilience” took place in Washington, D.C. on January 7-10, 2019. It gathered scientists, students and academics from the country’s leading universities, and representatives of various non-profit organizations. Based on the assumption that investment in a broad range of next generation infrastructure can help establish more sustainable communities and enhance resilience during a period of accelerating socio-environmental and security threats, the conference’s goal was to spotlight the importance of new research, innovation, and collaboration through partnerships in the area of sustainable infrastructure and resilience.

In their opening addresses, Mike Carvalho, NCSE Chair of Board of Directors and President of Carvalho and Associates, and Michelle Wyman, NCSE Executive Director, insisted that the solution to today’s global warming challenges can be found in the study of nature and in science. They were succeeded by keynote speaker Jeff Nesbit, Executive Director of Climate Nexus, who spoke about his recent trip to Antartica, describing its richness and abundance of wildlife, pointing out that right now civilization is at a climate tipping point, and that “water is more important than economy.” It is significant from his perspective that Yemen is out of water, that Saudi Arabia has turned to US for water, and that Pakistan has turned to India and the US for water.

Climate change matters for big companies

The first plenary, “Transforming How Companies Operate in a New Carbon Economy: Industry Leading Innovation,” was moderated by Elizabeth Cantwell, CEO of Arizona State University Research Enterprise (ASURE). Speakers including Grace Bochenek, Lead, Energy and Environment Center of Excellence, The SPECTRUM Group, Bob Dixon, SVP and Global Head of Efficiency and Sustainability of Siemens Industry, Inc., Kevin Etter, Director, Humanitarian Relief and Resilience Program, UPS (Retired) and Rohan Patel, Director of Policy and Business Development at Tesla all agreed that “most change is occurring within companies,” as the majority of companies now have CSR programs as part of their operations.

Rohan Patel from Tesla stated that his company’s goal is to accelerate the movement towards sustainable energy, although there are many cost barriers. Several speakers in the opening plenary emphasized that huge infrastructure issues need to be addressed in the environmental decision-making process. They all agreed that it is important for all countries to move towards sustainability, extensive investments in research and create extra avenues of revenue that would be used to expand the scope of investments in infrastructure and allow for complex projects. The speakers shared the opinion that it is important to utilize innovation in business model adaptation, as well as systems adaptation.

Engineering and science working together

Speakers at the session called “Building Forward: Closing the Gaps between Climate Science, Decision-Making, and Engineering” which I attended included Susanne Moser, Ph.D., Principal Researcher of Stanford University, Dan Cayan, Ph.D., Climate Researcher, University of California, James Deane, Senior Supervising Architect of the Rail Operations Group, CA High Speed Rail Authority, Robert Lampert, Ph.D., Principal Researcher and Professor, Pardee Rand Graduate School. Statistical analysis techniques were suggested, as well as other methods of putting together ways to effectively “build infrastructure taking into account climate change.” Extreme heat was mentioned as a public health issue that puts strain on roads and water supply. Priorities in terms of building forward include: infrastructure investments and reduction of inequality. The final step in infrastructure building is implementation, accountability, training and development. In that context, the significance of cost and benefit assessment for green infrastructure was emphasized.

Investments in Infrastructure: a Long-Term Strategy

Another session I attended was on “Private Sector Roles in Building Community and Infrastructure Resilience” featuring Yoon Kim, Director, Four Twenty Seven, Ksenia Koban, VP, Payden and Rygel, Samantha Medlock, SVP, Willis Towers Watson, Lisa Schroeer, Senior Director of S&P Global Ratings, Thomas Barr, Founder and CEO, Infrastructure Services Group. It focused on the corporations assigning credit ratings to cities and regions according to, among other factors, the likelihood of disasters, as well as a number of elements pertaining to disasters. It was noted that climate change effects are taken into account in bond ratings.

Innovation for Good

On the second day of the conference, I attended the Keynote 2: “Cultivating Productive Optimism in Environmental Science.” The speakers were Carl Page, President, Anthropocene Institute, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America. Anne-Marie Slaughter, in her powerful opening statements, said: “Science and environment give us the belief in something greater than ourselves.” Carl Page, an investor in clean tech and high tech ventures, spoke about the importance of the project of cleaning up pollution using cheap energy. He talked about the increased pace of technology adoption and “the race of de-carbonization.” He also addressed the issue of nuclear energy, which is often considered safer than coal. One of the reasons for opposition to nuclear energy is overpopulation. Having said that, the atomic innovation space is vast. Being an investor, Page made an observation that innovation in finance is accelerating, and investment in companies with environmental goals is becoming prevalent.

I also attended Plenary 2: “Information and Decision Making: Response, Recovery, and Resilience” with Evan Lehmann, E&E News, Shirlee Zane, Sonoma County Supervisor, and Ryan Lanclos, Director, Esri. This session addressed helping NGOs understand what it means to be resilient and how to run a disaster response program. The speakers warned about the effects of exacerbating effects of acute shocks to infrastructure. Economic development and resilience were also a theme of the discussion. The participants reiterated again and again that it time for vigorous and positive action in addressing climate change.

On the “Community Science 101: Practical Tips and Real-World Strategies for Engaging with Communities”, sessions, the speakers were Sarah Wilkins, Thriving Earth Exchange Project Manager, and Zack Valdez, Thriving Earth Exchange Contractor. During this session, the audience participated in an interesting assignment. They were placed on a team as scientists and community leaders in a city that recently experienced a heat wave and asked to address the issue of the changing climate and assess the ways to resolve the issue. To solve this problem, the audience examined the community values, available resources for infrastructure and the existing constraints. Some of the points included asking the right questions to the community leaders, providing better protection to people from the effects of the heat wave, addressing the problem of lack of air conditioning and figuring out the geography and the size of the affected area. The participants had an effective brainstorming session and proposed their solutions.

The final plenary was called “Applying the Convergence of Knowledge, Technologies, and Science to Resilience Thinking,” were professors and researchers made a strong case that when the community is working together, using its knowledge in combination with technology and science (convergence), it is much more effective compared to working independently.

At the end of the two-day conference, Gary Geernaert, Ph.D., US DOE delivered the John H. Chaffee Memorial Lecture on Science, Policy and the Environment in which he emphasized the need for the scientific community to be connected to decision-making process and for the public to have trust in science and scientific data. He addressed the rapid development of new science, including artificial intelligence, machine learning (ML), and robotics, and the importance of new science to be partnering with communities to make things happen. He also touched upon community priorities, state priorities, and scientific priorities and the importance of the “collective vision” in applying science to environmental decision making.

Discussions were very intense, going on for two days with students, professors, and leaders from non-profit space expressing their opinions and giving their suggestions on today’s most crucial issue that society is facing, climate change and the need to act quickly and collectively

Written by Elena Tarrassenko

The 2019 edition of the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) Annual Conference will be held in January to highlight the importance of Infrastructure & Resilience for a Sustainable Future

Sustainable Infrastructure is key for building a better future

It is known that scientists are amongst the fiercest fighters for the future of our planet – and, by consequence, the future of humanity. Year after year, the science community shows the world how important it is to build environmental policies and sustainable infrastructures to improve our chances to live in a safer world.

But what does sustainable infrastructure mean? A broad-based concept, it embarks “a continued commitment to work towards improving and enhancing built, natural, social and, more recently, cyber infrastructure”, says The NCSE, which is ringing in the new year with the NCSE 2019 Annual Conference by focusing on this fundamental theme. More than 700 scientists, educators, researchers, business leaders and policy-makers will gather in Washington, D.C, next January, to discuss the issue.

NCSE 2019

Along with focusing on these key areas, attendees will also explore the theme of resilience and the vital role it plays in promoting sustainability. Most commonly understood as the ability to withstand, adapt, and bounce back, the notion of resilience goes hand in hand with the definition of sustainable infrastructure.

The theme of this year’s conference is central to our lives and life experiences. From natural to social, built, and cyber infrastructure, the resilience and sustainability of our environment enables us to face and overcome some of our most pressing challenges worldwide.

The NCSE Annual Conference convenes scientists together with experts from the public and private sectors, business enterprises, government, universities and national and international organizations to address these challenges and consider the world today, and in the future. Sessions cover an array of topics such as coastal resiliency, environment and health, transportation, and energy.

Visit their website to review the sessions and read more about sessions and speakers.

The NCSE Annual Conference is a Horyou Media Partner.

Horyou community is pleased to share an account of its major actions and events in 2017 while it is bracing for more in 2018!

Opening ceremony SIGEF 2017

The clock is ticking and it’s only a few hours before New Year’s Eve and our community is full of joy and excitement, both for the things it has fulfilled during the year that has just elapsed than for the ones it has got in store for 2018. We’ve lived so many things together, we’ve grown and learned from each other, we’ve made new friends and became stronger while welcoming new members and organizations! So, now is the time to remember and the time to look ahead!

Our ever-growing community is our first reason to rejoice! We have now broken the glass ceiling of 250,000 users and 1,500 organizations and attained a full global presence. Horyou is growing stronger in Asia, with a more effective presence in Japan, Philippines, Singapore and India. Yonathan Parienti, Horyou founder and CEO, has spent several months travelling through the region to share our community’s message of social good and to officially launch Spotlight, our global digital social currency for economic inclusion. This was achieved during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, in India to highlight the fact that «Horyou values were more than welcome and that Spotlight can make a difference for many projects, organizations and change makers, in Asia and all over the world», as he put it.

Horyou at the GES!

It is in that context of expanding our community and extending our activities in Asia that SIGEF, the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum, was organized by Horyou in Astana, Kazakhstan, during the EXPO 2017. A landmark really! Through its several panels, SIGEF fostered the debate on some of the most crucial subjects of interest of our time, including smart cities, future energy and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Horyou also led an international and diverse delegation through EXPO 2017, focusing on the importance of clean and efficient energy globally.

And on the 18th of December, Horyou has launched the #HoryouLightChallenge, which aims to call everyone to join efforts in view of a swift and effective implementation of the SDGs. The concept of the challenge is to use social media to spread positivity, as well as social good actions and projects, and create a buzz around the many ways we can act to help the SDGs come true. The challenge is still on; click here to know more about it and have a chance to win an all-inclusive trip to SIGEF 2018 in Singapore next September.

Join the #HoryouLightChallenge!


Looking ahead, there is a lot more to come, all of which will be shared with you in the next few weeks. But one thing that you should be already saving the date is SIGEF 2018 will be held in Singapore, one of the most innovative and fast-growing cities in the world. Stay tuned.

Happy New Year!

This year’s Responsible Business Forum (RBF), Asia’s largest gathering on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) held in Singapore this week, a city that next fall will also host SIGEF 2018. Yonathan Parienti, founder and CEO of Horyou, the social network for social good and organizer of SIGEF, was invited to be part of an exclusive group of 600 delegates to attend the event.

Responsible Business Forum (RBF), Asia’s largest gathering on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) was held in Singapore this week

«Our participation in the Responsible Business Forum in Singapore is a sign that we are following the right path. Both Horyou and SIGEF are typically in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which makes us very welcome there», says Parienti. SIGEF 2018 will be held on September 11th, during the chairmanship of the ASEAN Summit.

RBF will hold SDG workshops for all participants, as well as share commitments, report on progress and define a framework for measuring performance and impact of each goal through case studies and panels. The Forum approach is to provide integrated solutions to accelerate action. Businesses, governments, UN agencies, NGOs, investors and international experts will be presenting their success stories, as innovation and financing of SDG will be high on the agenda this year.

The event will comprise seven channels of debates, namely agriculture, food & nutrition; consumption, climate change, inclusive growth, cities and urbanization, and circular economy. Discussions will include green financing opportunities, cleantech and data philanthropy, while companies will showcase initiatives that prove they keep thinking ‘out of the box’, such as AkzoNobel, a coatings industry bringing solutions to smart cities and clean oceans, or MasterCard that is acting on gender equality and inclusion.

The business sector’s cooperation with other actors of the SDG ecosystem will be stressed by many speakers. «We have to translate the SDG into a language that the business community can understand», warns Meng Liu, head of Asia and Oceania Networks with the United Nations Global Compact. «In order to support their implementation, the business sector must go beyond CSR», adds Haoliang Xu, regional Director for UNDP in Asia Pacific.

According to the UNDP, business opportunities that align with SDG are valued at 12 trillion US dollars globally. «There is so much to be done. Horyou, with SIGEF and Spotlight, is a tireless supporter of SDG as it offers channels of communication and funding for many organizations and projects that help to achieve the goals», reminds Parienti.

The city of Katowice, in Poland, was chosen by the UNFCCC as a venue for the 2018 UN Climate Change Conference, the “COP 24”.

Katowice, Poland
Katowice, Poland

It will be the third time the country hosts a UN Climate Change conference – the two previous ones were held in 2008 (COP 14 in Poznań) and in 2013 (COP 19 in Warsaw).

Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “I would to like to thank the Government of Poland for agreeing to host COP 24 as part of the Eastern European Group and look forward to working with Minister Jan Szysko and his team to make the conference a success on all fronts.”

“2018 will be another important year for international climate diplomacy as nations move forward to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement – indeed 2018 is when governments are expected to reach some key milestones,” she said.

“These range from finalizing the guidelines for fully operationalizing the agreement to taking stock of how countries are doing collectively in terms of being on track to realize Paris’s aims and ambitions over the coming years and decades,” added Ms. Espinosa.

Ms. Espinosa was shown a research centre in Toruń where the Government of Poland is scientifically monitoring how forests absorb carbon. Forest protection is a key part of efforts to address climate change. Ms. Espinosa said she looked forward to joining with the people of Poland to realize a successful conference that pushes forward the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

As the next Conference of the Parties COP23, to be held on 6-17 November, in Bonn, Germany, is being prepared, a group of 79 states and the EU made a call to action and announced more funds to the Pacific Region, heavily affected by climate change and the rising level of oceans.

The UN Climate Conference is part of the preparation events for the COP23
The UN Climate Conference is part of the preparation events for the COP23

The EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States made the call at a UN climate change conference, ahead of the upcoming G7 and G20 leaders’ summits and the next annual UN climate negotiations COP23.

Together, the European Union and the 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) developing countries make up more than half of the signatories of the Paris Agreement on climate change. They urged all partners to keep up the momentum created in 2015.

As an example of commitment and increased cooperation, the EU has announced an allocation of 800 million euros, up to 2020, to support the Pacific Region. Around half of this amount would be directed exclusively to climate action. The EU will also provide another 3 million euros to support Fiji’s COP23 Presidency.

In the last few months, the EU has taken the lead on Climate Action among the G7 states, given the change of presidency in the US and the uncertainty about the commitment of one of the biggest greenhouse gases emitters globally.

Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: “Today more than ever, Europe stands by its long-term partners most vulnerable to climate change. We, developed and developing countries together, will defend the Paris Agreement. We are all in, and our joint commitment to this agreement today is as in Paris: irreversible and non-negotiable.”

The UN climate conference took place from 8-18 May to prepare the ground for the next Conference of the Parties COP23, to be held on 6-17 November 2017, in Bonn.

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