World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO)
  • Date submitted: 28 Oct 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO)
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Science (9 hits),

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1. General considerations

Rio+20 is a crucial opportunity for governments to recognize, enhance and map out the vital relationship between Science, Engineering, Technology and Innovation, and Policy-making, within a multi and trans-disciplinary framework.

Rio+20 should be a fundamental milestone in the implementation of a new social contract for Science, engineering, technology and innovation, with the inclusion of all society, particularly women, vulnerable communities and indigenous peoples. Subjects like food and water security, climate change, energy, urban and human well-being, disasters, ecosystems and biodiversity, sustainable consumption and production need to be revisited.

2. Green Economy

Green Economy is being defined by attributes. There is a need for a guiding framework or principles for implementing the green economy.

Green Economy has to respect and operate within the natural limits of the planet.

Expectations and proposals within a Green Economy framework were clustered in terms of Infrastructure, Natural Disasters, and Knowledge and Technology Development, and are presented in the following sections.

2.1. Infrastructure

New and emerging challenges that will require special attention in building or adapting infrastructure are related to:

? Reversing the rate of terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity loss;

? Managing hazardous wastes in all habitats (e.g. urban, industrial and agriculture areas located in temperate, subtropical and tropical areas) through the development of complete eco-toxicological approaches;

? Developing climate change mitigation and adaptation capacities, recognizing that richer nations have greater responsibility in mitigation while developing nations will require greater efforts in adaptation;

? Building resilience to floods, tsunamis, volcanoes, and other natural risks, as well as related human displacements, in the framework of climate change;

? Developing a systematic approach to urbanization, as current rates of urbanization constitute a major environmental and social challenge, and

? Developing clean energy sources and sustainable agriculture.

The use of any given technology requires a thorough analysis of the technological, economical, and environmental feasibility for implementing scientifically sound and efficiently engineered solutions.

A systemic approach to urbanization should be developed, such as land use and territorial planning, including urban and peri-urban planning, based on continuous dialogue among all the stakeholders of society.

Regarding energy options, some of the technologies needed are not yet economically viable. In particular we have not yet learned to harness the abundant solar energy at a competitive cost, although costs are coming down fast. In addition, building the necessary infrastructure to bring large scale renewable electricity from places with high yields (areas with high solar exposure or strong winds) to the places with high consumption requires huge investments and long lead times, as well as development of mechanisms to encourage infrastructure investment.

In addition to an increased share of renewable energy in the world?s energy mix, energy efficiency measures will help reduce the energy intensity of national economies and, therefore, slow down the increase of primary energy demand.

End-use efficiency, power-plant efficiency, biomass, biofuels, nuclear and carbon capture and storage need to contribute. Hydro and wind power are suited to be deployed for the long term. Energy storage technologies ? e.g. pumped hydro and compressed air storage, batteries for transportation ? are key to the management of intermittent renewable energy sources. These are either mature technologies or are making big strides, while geothermal power (?hot dry rock?) still awaits the ?proof- of-concept?. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is being developed and demonstrated at large scale. Today, wind and concentrated solar thermal power are close to being cost competitive in developed countries or in regions where other energy sources are in short supply.

Research is needed to define the extreme loadings for which engineered facilities should be designed, operated and maintained. Historical records, which have been the bases for engineering decisions, can no longer be considered to define the environments our facilities will face in the future.

2.2. Natural Disasters

Measures for prevention, reduction and mitigation should concentrate on preventing the occurrence of disasters or minimizing disaster impacts. In the case of man-made disasters, it is critical to eliminate the human cause through public safety measures, capacity building and training, and safety systems, to avoid recurrence of the disaster, or to minimize its impact without extension beyond the affected region.

For the reason that disasters are social phenomena, both structural and non-structural measures should be applied in an integrated manner, using a social, comprehensive, and multi-disciplinary approach. Specifically, early recovery in the affected areas and societies is essential and sound reconstruction is a must to prevent disaster recurrence.

From the aspects of project appraisal, most governments, international financial institutions and private sector entities use cost benefit analysis which, however, is inappropriate to take account factors of disaster risk management projects, especially because disaster risk management projects require prolonged terms. Private sector entities also bear social responsibilities toward prevention, reduction and mitigation of disasters. It is particularly recommended to develop other project appraisal methods than the conventional cost benefit analysis.

2.3. Knowledge and Technology Development

To develop Science and technology which would support sustainable development objectives new paradigms and renewed efforts need to be taken to:

? Improve multi and trans-disciplinary collaboration and knowledge-sharing between the natural sciences, exact sciences, engineering and technology communities;

? Design new and redesign existing institutions, research and training programmes, and funding mechanisms to support multi and trans-disciplinary research in all fields of the natural, exact, engineering and social sciences;

? Close the gap of human resources for Science, engineering and technology, with a focus on women and gender issues and the inclusion of the underprivileged, and disadvantaged minorities;

? Emphasize the modelling of complex systems, particularly in regional, national and local contexts, and the assessment of the social and environmental impacts of new technologies and research developments;

? Give high priority to multi and trans-disciplinary research, focusing on sustainable development issues such as clean energy and energy efficiency, sustainable food production, the structure of human settlements, and ecosystems and biodiversity.

Scientific and Technological Communities advice should be unbiased, independent, focused and based on scientific knowledge, engineering criteria and technological state-of-the-art. This advice is particularly relevant for risk management, early warning and monitoring systems for new and emerging challenges, natural disasters and extreme events.

The activity of the Professional Engineer within the STC Major Group is mainly built on providing governments, decision makers and civil society with the elements to understand what is feasible to achieve conditions for sustainable development, and this is been done on the basis of

? actual scientific knowledge and the limitations imposed by the laws of Nature,

? the technologies we currently possess, and

? the potential of success of technologies that are under development.

3. Institutional Framework

An umbrella organisation to lead on Sustainable Development should include organisations which have great influence over investments. UNEP has an environmental bias that will not allow it to strengthen the whole agenda of sustainable development.

The experience accumulated by the UN Department responsible for the Secretariat of CSD (Department of Economic and Social Affairs ? DESA) constitutes a good source of manpower and expertise for the creation of an independent Agency to deal with Sustainable Development.

An adequate regional governance structure for Science, engineering, technology and innovation could be established by:

? building partnerships with all major regional and global players;

? developing and implementing instruments for regional R&D co-operation;

? incorporating information systems to support decision-making, including repositories of Science, engineering, technology and innovation policy information for social inclusion;

? facilitating the establishment of problem-oriented networks for targeted research activities towards sustainable development;

? contributing to the development of sustainable development indicators, including social, technical, engineering, exact and natural Science dimensions.

A feasibility assessment should be conducted for establishing regional systems, based on existing institutions, to study the Science-policy interface aiming at analysing successful and unsuccessful practices; identifying the relationship between Science, engineering, technology, and innovation and development, and allowing policy to be more evidence-based.
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