Crossroads Conference

Saturday, 4 November 2017


Plenary 1: Paris Agreement and 2030 Agenda – From Vulnerabilities to Opportunities (9:50 – 10:40)

The debate will focus on “the need for transformation – opportunities of the sustainability transformation”. The framing of the main challenges, key options, and significant benefits of sustainability transformation will combine three different topics:


Parallel Sessions A: The Transformation is happening – Innovations as drivers for change and sustainability (11:10 – 12:40)


Session 1: Transforming the Urban Landscape – Re-Imagining a Zero Carbon Future

From a spatial perspective, cities are one of the main contributors of greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution. At the same time, they are the world’s biggest concentration of living labs that accelerate and scale-up the transformation in key sectors. The adjustment of existing physical patterns, layouts, and structures of cities in OECD countries, and innovative planning in urban areas of the Global South, offer tremendous potential for sustainable development. Furthermore, cities are a source of social innovation, acting as hubs of creative debate and pioneering spirit. We will examine experiences, challenges and possible solutions for transforming the urban landscape.


Session 2: Mobility – From Challenges to Transformation

In some industrialised countries, particularly China, the combustion engine is on the path to being phased out. However, making the mobility sector more sustainable is not only a question of new technologies and alternative fuels; it is also a question of existing and future infrastructure, governance mechanisms, multiple North-South divides, costs of world trade logistics, and individual behaviour. Although the challenges are extensive, so are the successes in recent years. The session will focus on positive examples and strategies aimed at transforming and overcoming obstacles within the mobility sector.


Session 3: Financing the Transformation

‘Today’s financial system is failing the sustainability test’ states UNEP’s report Imagining the Financial System. Path-dependencies, short-termism, and limited incentives for green investments are only some key reasons for this. However, the hardware and software required to make the transformation a reality is in many cases market-ready and competitive, for example in renewable energy, sustainable buildings and mobility.


Plenary 2: Visions for a Sustainable Future (13:40 – 14:40)

The transformation towards sustainability does not only require out-of-the-box thinking in areas such as institutional and financial reforms, technical innovations, or environmental governance. It is also a question of changing fundamental mind-sets and narratives which form the basis of unsustainable decisions in everyday life.


Parallel Sessions B: Scaling up the tranformation – key sectors to zero emissions (14:55 – 16:25)


Session 4: Energy Systems Transformation

Without a rapid decarbonisation of energy systems, the Paris target of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius will not be met. Fortunately, the energy sector has devised numerous sustainability breakthroughs in recent years, including improved efficiencies, decentralised energy production networks, and competitive renewable energy technologies. We have the technologies and the knowledge to transform our energy production and consumption patterns, but we must accelerate and scale-up efforts to put these discrete successes into broad transformative practice worldwide. We will identify strategies to accomplish this goal by discussing the following questions:


Session 5: Digital Revolution for Sustainability

Digitisation might help us solve many sustainability issues and align human action to the natural boundaries of our planet; it could emerge as the most underestimated driver of the transformation towards sustainability. Digital technology innovations such as precision farming, the internet of things, and great efficiency-gains via block chain might encourage this shift. On the other hand, digitisation is in many ways “uncharted territory” that entails fundamental challenges for the wellbeing of humans and the planet. Big-data driven surveillance, ethically questionable “enhancements of humans”, and the emergence of technical systems driven by artificial intelligence, which have been controlled by humans and their institutions in the past, are playing a greater role in society and need to be urgently debated. What appeared as science fiction only some years ago might become reality in the near to medium future. What could a sustainable digital age look like? This question goes beyond the 2030 Agenda and stimulates debate about the next generation of sustainability goals and discourses.


Session 6: Building Transformative Networks – Overcoming Silos for Integrated Sustainable Development

To realise the transformation towards sustainability, it is not sufficient to apply some cosmetic changes here and there. Transformative change addresses entire systems and this requires overcoming traditional silos of thinking and action. Planetary boundaries have to be respected, while at the same time keeping in mind social inclusion, both locally and globally. In order to achieve sustainable development, we must dissolve the silos in our societies.


Plenary 3: Feeding Everyone and the Next Generations – Sustaining People and the Planet (16:55 – 17:55)

Climate policy, food security and nutrient planetary boundaries – are there complementarities? The world’s diet is out of balance: food security and hunger remain top priorities in poorer countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Elsewhere, increased socio-economic development has led to unhealthy levels of meat consumption, putting additional pressure on land and water resources. The projected growth of the world population will further aggravate these problems. Above all, agriculture and land use are severely impacting the climate and causing direct consequences for both mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and vice versa. This panel will critically discuss the sustainable intensification needed to feed a growing world population whilst managing environmental externalities.


Sunday, 5 November 2017


Plenary 4: Multilateralism at a Crossroads – What is at Stake? (9:20 – 10:20)

To get technical and financial measures for transformation to sustainability into place, multilateral cooperation will be critical. However, nationalist governments and movements pursue a kind of “counter-transformation”, challenging any efforts to global cooperation and questioning both the scientific and ethical basis for climate and sustainability action


Parallel Sessions C: Key challenges for the transfromation towards sustainability (11:10 – 12:40)


Session 7: Pluralism of World Order Concepts – Reservoir of Cooperation or Amplifier of Conflict?

All over the world, there are varying concepts for the future world order, and how future global governance should be configured. In the past it seemed clear that intensifying global interaction would lead to converging concepts of world order and global governance, yet in more recent years it has become evident that this is not the case. The future world order is open, contingent, and likely to be characterised by many diverging conceptions.


Session 8: The Challenge of Poverty and Rising Inequalities – Threat to Peace, Human Wellbeing, Sustainability and SDGs

Two global agendas, one common goal: The Paris Agreement and the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development are guidebooks and perhaps even a new social contract to reform our societies for future peace and prosperity globally. This goal will only be reached if the two agendas are pursued simultaneously and holistically. While there is broad agreement on the interdependence of climate and sustainability action, coherent policy implementation is still limited in most countries. This is due to gaps in coordination among actors and institutions, and a tendency to focus on the places where policy is easy to implement while ignoring conflicting institutional objectives (e.g. decarbonisation vs. jobs in fossil industries or resource-based sectors) which hinder real progress.


Session 9: Stories and Narratives – Journalism in Times of Transformation

A key function of journalism is to inform the public about ongoing crises and future dangers that the planet and its inhabitants have to face. In times of transformation, journalism can encourage the shift towards sustainability by reporting on sustainable solutions and discourses worldwide, whilst simultaneously providing multiple perspectives on challenges like poverty, inequality, bad governance and climate change. The key question is: Is the role of journalism changing in times of climate crisis, rising inequalities, planetary boundaries, and “country first” ideologies?


Plenary 5: Creative Arts for the Transformation – The Role of Culture and the Arts (13:40 – 14:40)

Sustainable development is waiting for us: We possess the knowledge, we have the technologies, we agreed on the roadmaps. Yet transformative change is painfully slow. Are expert round tables, scientific studies and strategic thinking enough? Are we disregarding the human dimension to sustainability and the power of emotions, imagination, creative habits, and culture? This panel features people who approach sustainable development from cultural angles.


Plenary 6: Further and Faster – Strategies and Enabling Conditions for an Accelerated Transformation (15:10 – 16:10)

Throughout the past few decades the ideas, the knowledge, the frameworks, the tools, the policy options, and the technologies to realise the transformation towards sustainability have been developed. We can celebrate many sustainability pilots, sustainability pioneers, emerging sustainability narratives and agendas. However, the gaps between the ambitious 2030 Agenda and the goals of the Paris Agreement and current trends in many national markets and societies are still overwhelming. Implementing the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda is about scale, acceleration, and extensive transformation. This session identifies the enablers of large-scale changes, drivers of accelerating progress, and examples of far reaching transformative changes towards sustainability.

Closing Plenary: Establishing a Culture of Global Cooperation – Together We Can Achieve the Transformation! (16:10 – 17:00)

In this wrap up- session, the chairs of the conference will present the “Crossroads Memorandum”, which will be transmitted to the negotiators of COP 23, the leaders of G20, and to key international organisations. The memorandum will be discussed with Achim Steiner, Administrator of UNDP.