We were thrilled to have Thomas Vellacott, a distinguished member of our Board of Directors and CEO of WWF Switzerland, inaugurate the Gold Standard 2016: Grow To Zero event with an inspiring keynote address that set the tone and resonated throughout our two-day conference.
In light of the immense challenges faced by our planet, the degree of commitment and investment needed to secure a brighter future cannot be overstated. But with these challenges come profound opportunities for change.
As Vellacott emphasized, these are “exciting times” to be working in sustainability. For the first time in history, global greenhouse gas emissions are down while the world economy grew by 3 percent. After centuries of decline, tiger populations have rebounded within the last 5 years. And the share of the world’s population living in extreme poverty fell below 10 percent this year — another unprecedented achievement.
Vellacott’s message is clear. We are presented with a tremendous window of opportunity, and a responsibility to get it right.
Growing to zero, as Vellacott rightly pointed out, seems like a contradiction. But the challenges of tomorrow cannot be overcome with yesterday’s logic. And people have started to understand: Growth and sustainability cannot be opposites. In the context of today, zero is the greatest number of all. Zero people living in extreme poverty by 2030. Zero carbon emissions by mid-century. Zero deforestation. Zero biodiversity loss.
“These are ambitious targets to aspire to,” Vellacott remarked, “and we certainly won't reach them with business as usual, but they aren’t impossible. We live in times of transformational change.”
In moving forward, Vellacott emphasized that standardization and verification frameworks will play a central role as a "necessary prerequisite for the transition we need." By enabling actors in sustainability to accurately measure their impact and scale their projects, organizations like Gold Standard will allow market forces to be recruited in the fight against climate change — a vital element as the amount of financial investment required for effective progress continues to grow.
We are grateful for Vellacott’s timely keynote address. In the face of the ever daunting challenges we face as a global community, we believe that a message which kindles courage, ambition and action will pave the way in achieving climate security and sustainable development for all.