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Achim Steiner, United Nations Environmental Programme Executive Director

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Achim Steiner, United Nations Environmental Programme Executive Director, explores the track record of modern environmentalism in shaping an agenda that has been characterised both as disruptive and anti-development, or conversely as catalytic and fundamental to rethinking our economic and development paradigms in terms of the imperative of sustainability.

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Change has become an imperative — the question is whether this environmentalism can move beyond the planetary perspective to incorporate the social and economic realities that motivate the choices people make about the future.
- A lecture by Achim Steiner

Abstract

Rooted in a tradition of critiquing past development choices, environmentalism has increasingly emerged as a science and empirically based provider of analysis and risk assessment as to the environmental change phenomena occurring in our atmosphere and biosphere. The need for moving beyond questioning to providing answers and alternatives has meant that the ‘environmentalism of the 21st century’ must itself confront significant drivers of change. By drawing on ‘lessons learnt’ and exploring the implications of some of the most recent concepts shaping the environmental discourse of today — such as planetary boundaries, decoupling, the green economy, natural capital, tipping points and irreversible change, intergenerational equity and environmental rights — the lecture will reflect on some of the key reference points which will define the strategic directions for an evolving ‘environmentalism in the 21st century’. Change has become an imperative — the question is whether this environmentalism can move beyond the planetary perspective to incorporate the social and economic realities that motivate the choices people make about the future.

About the Speaker

Before joining UNEP, Achim Steiner served as Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) from 2001 to 2006, and prior to that as Secretary General of the World Commission on Dams. His professional career has included assignments with governmental, non-governmental and international organizations in different parts of the world including India, Pakistan, Germany, Zimbabwe, USA, Vietnam, South Africa, Switzerland and Kenya. He worked both at a grassroots level as well as at the highest levels of international policy-making to address the interface between environmental sustainability, social equity and economic development.

Steiner, a German and Brazilian national, was born in Brazil in 1961. His educational background includes a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Oxford as well as a master of arts from the University of London with specialization in development economics, regional planning and international development and environment policy. He also studied at the German Development Institute in Berlin as well as the Harvard Business School.

Sponsored Lecture: Part of the Peter M. Wege Lecture by the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

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Article topics: Clean Energy , Energy , Environment , MconneX


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