From 6 through 10 May 2012, the third edition of the international sustainability conference i-SUP took place in Bruges. Scientists, policy-makers and experts from industry, from throughout the world, presented technologies, concepts and methodologies that soon must contribute to the transitions needed by societies everywhere. The closing India Night highlighted the collaboration between Belgium and India, such as that of VITO and the Indian research centre TERI.
The growth rate of the world's population has never been so high. One of the results is severe environmental problems: depletion of raw materials, contamination of water, air and soil, climate change and a decline in biodiversity. In the past, policy-makers and researchers focused primarily on solving these problems. Today, however, the challenges have taken on such proportions that problem solving alone is not enough. If we wish to effectively address the energy and raw material issue, call a halt to climate change, prevent further environmental pollution and intensify biodiversity, new social systems are needed.
Four pillarsNew ways of thinking are needed to enable these transitions. These new ways of thinking and their associated systems were the focus of the i-SUP conference. The programme contained seven themes, organised in four parts: 1) energy production and consumption, 2) production systems (materials, chemicals and products), 3) transport and mobility, and 4) urban and rural development.
Nine plenary sessions, numerous workshops and lectures, and almost as many specialisations: it is no coincidence that i-SUP opted for a wide range of topics and a multidisciplinary approach. It has become clear that integration is absolutely necessary to address the major issues of tomorrow. And this integration is needed not only within Flanders and Europe. Environmental and energy problems are global by nature, and thus an international approach is the only correct one.
Focus on IndiaGrowing nations such as India present specific challenges. Flanders, Europe and India have much to offer one another: this fact was underlined by almost all the speakers at India Night. Santosh Jha, representative of the Indian embassy in Belgium, emphasised India's rapid growth and the major challenges this entails. The Indian government is not standing still: it has prepared a national action plan that aims at a combination of climate change mitigation and sustainable growth. India is looking to Flanders and Europe to help the plan succeed. More international collaboration and an injection of cleantech are needed to help India rise to these enormous challenges.
If there was one important message at i-SUP, it was that VITO and Flanders are ready to exchange their expertise with the international research world and the global business community. And that sustainable development is not only about saving the planet, but also about people, combating poverty and equality. i-SUP, however, also made it clear that sustainable growth is also about developing business and economic profits. Flemish companies that capitalise internationally on their expertise are fulfilling the three P’s of sustainable development: people, profit, planet.
i-SUP2012 hosts the Aquafit4Use Final Conference