The Ecological Sequestration Trust: Scaling for Impact

The Ecological Sequestration Trust: Scaling for Impact

My journey to provide and scale support to city regions to meet Global Goals by 2030

I worked in Arup from 2004, leading a global planning team who taught me that we did not have the tools and understanding of how human and ecology systems and resource flows interact and how this affects investment and health-productivity risks. It was clear that city regions would be critical in determining a successful outcome for humanity by 2050 and my analysis in my Brunel Lecture for Institution of Civil Engineers in 2008 was that we had to embrace a factor 4 reduction in pollution and resource consumption by 2050, both in retrofitting existing city regions and in the model for new urbanization.

By 2010, scientists and city Mayors were calling for radical change of direction and many global experts came together with the Chinese Government at a Civic Exchange meeting in Hong Kong. It became very clear to me, at this meeting, that there was a need to bring world leading experts together and show how transformational change could be done.

I went home and discussed this with my family over Christmas. We decided that I would leave Arup and create a UK Charity to lead this and by April 2011 The Ecological Sequestration Trust was formed.

The first task was to find world leading modelers in agent based city resource flow models, agriculture and soils, forests and in the economics of human well-being and then ask them if they would bring their models into an open-source environment and create the first integrated human-ecological-economics modelling platform.

The modelers agreed and said they would contribute their existing modelling knowledge, which was the first big breakthrough. We agreed that once we had funding, the work would be led by Prof Nilay Shah at Imperial College and Rembrandt Koppelaar from the Institute for Integrated Economics Research.

It was clear in 2011 that 2015 would be a critical year at the United Nations for setting up the new Sustainable Development Goals, moving disaster risk processes forward and reaching agreement on climate change. It seemed that a tidal wave of social change, anticipated in 2008, may at last start to rise and move in 2015. I saw our job at the Trust to work with these processes and help shape the wave of change to meet global needs. Then in parallel create the open-source free to use tools to enable everyone to ride the wave and deliver community success by 2030.We decided to call the platform, the stakeholder surfboard,

We needed to help build capacity among communities to surf the wave, learn from the early demonstrators and plan the scale up process. This needed to be an inclusive process, drawing in more partners and existing programs, to grow momentum.

We built a small world class team with our partner Future Earth Ltd and worked tirelessly to find locations that were willing to help develop and test the platform. DFID and Cities Alliance became interested in building for demonstration in Africa, thanks to the vision of Simon Ratcliffe at DIFD, and their ‘Future Cities Africa’ Pilot became a main source of funding to get the platform into prototype form for demonstration in 2016 in Accra, Ghana.

In parallel the wave-shaping work took me into Thematic Group 9 at SDSN, drafting and fighting for an Urban SDG, also working on the Planetary Health Commission, also creating a model for funding the transformation in city regions, and then working with the UN Data Revolution and C40 Cities and ICLEI on city metrics and with earth systems modelers at ICES Foundation to connect regional models with earth systems models for risk assessment.

We made some big discoveries along the way.

1. This is a unique moment in human history when we have the capability to connect earth system and regional system modeling and create practical user interfaces to enable communities, public, private and NGO sectors to work together, test scenarios, build collaborative intelligence and make decisions aligned to the 17 Global Goal outcomes.

2. There is enough capital to enable the transformation to happen by 2030. Funding to build local capacity to use this capital effectively can come from the huge value that will be created, using a revolving commercial fund.

3. GIS tools can be used for investment decision making and risk assessment locally in a way that is aligned with the needs and interests of insurers who need community engagement and an evidence base for outcomes.

4. Management of ecology on land and at sea, forests and soils is critical to delivering the Goals and integrated urban rural systems management can become the norm.

5. Land tenure and cadastre systems are essential to enable inclusive development to proceed and the same GIS tools can be used for essential land registry purposes.

6. Community involvement and gaming versions of tools for education are essential components of successful change.

7. A form of trusted collaborative governance, with data checked by independent experts at local Universities is essential. A collaborative laboratory or ‘Collaboratory’ that supports everyone in the community is evolving and being tested.

8. Platforms should be used for storing and accessing data on the cultural history of a place, it’s people and ecology.

It has been an exciting, hard but rewarding journey for everyone involved and we look forward to supporting the Habitat III process to help up to 5billion people in city regions to live in a more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable way.

Article by ''Peter Head, The Ecological Sequestration Trust ''