General Conference 10th session - Summary Round Table 2

  Summary of Round Table 2, 2 December 2003
  Industry and Environment: The Need For A New Industrial Revolution

In response to the calls of the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development to adopt more sustainable patterns of consumption and production, a number of personalities are proposing radical rethinks of the way our societies produce, consume and dispose of our products. At the heart of their proposals is the idea that products must be designed to mimic nature and ensure that the materials they are made of can be used over and over again, creating circular flows of materials. However, these proposals have principally been conceived for implementation in the developed countries. This raises the question of whether or not they are relevant to the developing countries.

The question was tackled by a group of distinguished panelists:

  • Ms. Hunter Lovins, co-chair of the Natural Capitalism Group and co-author of the book "Natural Capitalism, the Next Industrial Revolution"
  • Mr. Michael Braungart, Managing Director of the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA) and co-author of the book "Cradle to Cradle, Remaking the Way We Make Things"
  • Mr. Fritz Balkau, Chief of the Production and Consumption Branch in UNEP's Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
  • Mr. Suresh Prabhu, Member of Parliament for India, former Minister of Power, of Industry, and of Environment
  • Mr. Leopold Zahrer, Director General in the Waste Management and Environmental Technologies Department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management
  • Mr. Hans-Peter Egler, Head of the Trade-related Technical Assistance Division of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

The Round Table started with a key-note speech by Ms. Lovins, who showed through practical examples the value of adopting eco-efficiency and biomimicry (circular flow) approaches. She stressed that such concepts are as relevant, if not more relevant, to the developing countries. Mr. Braungart agreed with Ms. Lovins that these concepts are of great relevance to the developing countries. He also stressed the social aspects of these concepts, whose adoption inherently gives a better quality of life. Mr. Balkau picked up on the issue of the social dimension, especially on getting a better balance between labour intensive and capital intensive industrial processes if we are to reach sustainable patterns of production and consumption. He cautioned against too much reliance on recycling, which consumes energy and generates waste; dematerialization also has an important role to play. Mr. Prabhu stated strongly that developing countries like India definitely need industrialization, but they need a way of industrialization that does not take the same path taken by the developed countries. He proposed that these new concepts need to be tried out in the context of a developing country, and suggested that India, together with UNIDO, design a project that would be a test case. He further suggested that such a pilot project could focus on the textiles industry and perhaps also on the automotive industry. Mr. Zahrer gave an overview of the activities being undertaken in Austria to implement its commitment to Factor 4 (four-fold reductions in energy and materials intensity), showing the many tools available to bring about such significant reductions. Mr. Egler stressed that the practical implementation of these concepts must make economic sense, otherwise there would be no replicability and no dissemination. The floor was then opened to questions and comments from the public, and a short and lively debate ensued.

In his concluding remarks, the moderator acknowledged the need to have a vision of where we wanted to go into the future but stressed the need to turn this vision into practical actions. In this respect, he warmly thanked Mr. Prabhu for his suggestion to undertake a pilot project in India together with UNIDO, and proposed that the suggestions be fleshed out between the representatives of India and UNIDO.

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