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Beyond 2015 – what’s the future for development and the environment?

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I’m still reflecting on what came out of the recent ‘Beyond 2015′ conference. It’s time for us to be brave and start looking beyond aid, looking beyond development. This means moving away from simply giving money and towards understanding the complicated systems that shape the world. The post-2015 development agenda will be ambitious. We know we can’t continue to accept a world in which the huge disparities between rich and poor increase, with the environment paying the price.

WWF projects encourage sustainable livestyles in Tanzania © Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UKSustainable lifestyles and WWF projects in Tanzania, East Africa

But a lot of people are still questioning whether a global framework is a useful way of tackling these problems. Part of the decision-process will be looking at the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and evaluating what worked and what didn’t.

Here are some of the important issues that are emerging – this isn’t a full list, it’s just an insight into some of the key things we’re going to be thinking about over the coming 18 months…

Transparency and accountability – particularly in the private sector. Globalisation (the increased and accelerated flow of goods, money and information around the world) has radically changed the world in recent decades, but right now it doesn’t work for the world’s poorest peoples or the environment.

How can globalisation be made to work better? WWF has been doing a lot of work on certification of some key traded commodities – like beef, sugar, and soy – to improve the way they’re produced and managed. We’ve been bringing together industry, government, and civil society organisations to work out how better regulation and increased transparency can change this, as well as creating certification schemes in forestry and fisheries – to set standards, raise awareness, and help the public make better informed choices.

Human rights. WWF has a pro-poor approach. This means that wherever there is a trade-off between the environment and people, we choose people. We care deeply about nature, of course, but we have no right to decide that other peoples’ lives are worth any less than those of, say, our own families or friends. The global nature of the problems we face means that so often the factors driving environmental damage in developing countries are our own consumption patterns here in the global north, including the UK.

Climate change and sustainability. 2015 is going to be a big year, because it’s not only the year that the MDGs run out, it’s also the year the UN climate talks are aiming to sign a global deal. Climate change threatens poverty reduction – the environmental impacts are often felt first and hardest by poor and vulnerable communities (who, ironically, contributed the least in carbon emissions and other global greenhouse gases in the first place), and the majority of that burden is carried by women and girls. But environment is about much more than climate change – biodiversity loss and the ability of ecosystems to regulate and regenerate are as much of an issue.

Policy coherence for development. This sounds very technical and dull – and it can be – but it’s important. It’s basically about making sure that the decisions made in the interest of development aren’t undermined by other policy decisions, such as trade or agriculture.

A lot of people are now questioning the ’economic model’  the world uses. Our governments prioritise the mantra of unlimited economic growth. But why is economy more important than people or the environment? Surely the economy is there to facilitate people’s wellbeing and to ensure that this beautiful planet is here for generations to come. An economic model that drives the destruction of the natural world at an ever-accelerating rate – to the benefit of a very small global elite – is obviously not working.

This often comes down to the values we hold as a society – both in different countries and as a global society. It’s something that I believe we fundamentally have right. When I talk to my friends, family and colleagues, people in the street, we all share a common understanding of what is good, what we care about – but some how that isn’t translated into the global structures that shape so much of our lives. 2015 is an opportunity to make this right.

Public transport in Copenhagen, Denmark © WWF-Canon / Fernando ZarurPeople on public transport in Copenhagen, Denmark © WWF-Canon / Fernando Zarur

The complexity can be overwhelming. But WWF is good at making sense of complicated issues, and showing how things are connected. We’re widely respected for understanding that the way to address declining tiger populations, for example, isn’t just by creating tiger reserves, but that all environments are part of a highly complex and interconnected system.

The environment is, in fact, linked to and part of trade, economy, agriculture, food, nutrition, health, education, climate change, conflict, peace, security, gender rights and more.

This makes it difficult to know what to work on sometimes, but the great thing is the Beyond 2015 campaign understands this too. And it offers us the opportunity to learn from partners who focus on those different areas and share our experience – so we can be in a much stronger position to make progress after 2015.

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