As part of the scenario co-development process that informs the scenario modeling work for the Global Resources Outlook 2023, the International Resource Panel (IRP) held eight webcast episodes between 10 May and 10 June 2021.

During these webcasts, leading thinkers from around the world presented on a variety of topics, ranging from food to mobility and from demography to income inequality. They discussed with participants on what they see on the horizon with regard to possible and plausible futures, what are the key risk and opportunities in their domain of expertise, and how they think risks can be managed and opportunities achieved.

The recordings and summaries of the webcasts can be accessed by clicking on the below titles:

  • 1. Population and Demography | Wolfgang Lutz, Founding Director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capita

  • 2. Urbanization and Cities | Maarten Hajer, Director of the Urban Futures Studio, Utrecht University, Netherlands

  • 3. Agriculture and Food | Guido Schmidt-Traub, Partner at SYSTEMIQ LTD 

  • 4. Businesses and Investment  | Joanne Yawitch, Chief Executive National Business Initiative

  • 5. Economy | Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Center for Sustainable Development, Columbia University

  • 6. Transport and Mobility | David Ward, President Towards Zero Foundation 

  • 7. Energy and Climate Change | Ritu Mathur, Director of the Integrated Assessment & Modelling work at the Energy & Resources Institute

  • 8. Wealth and income inequality | Facundo Alvaredo, Professor at the PSE and Co-Director of the World Inequality Lab/Database

In the episode of Population and Demography, Wolfgang Lutz, Founding Director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, illustrated the power of multi-dimensional demography in projecting the future, highlighting that human capital is a key driver of economic growth and the most important determinant of health. He also discussed the human population in the context of global environmental changes and elaborated on the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSP) modeling framework.

In the episode of Urbanizations and Cities, Panel Member Maarten Hajer, University Professor and Director of the Urban Futures Studio at Utrecht University, discussed the urban challenge and opportunity as spelled out by the IRP and his work. He believes that urban planning needs to shift towards using biobased materials and aspire to new ‘imaginaries’ which move away from suburbanization. Instead of opting for ‘smart cities', he called for a focus on creating ‘world neighbourhoods’ which better reflect green and just cities.

In the next episode, Guido Schmidt-Traub, Partner at SYSTEMIQ Ltd highlighted that agriculture and food system has the deepest and most profound environmental impacts of all systems. He elaborated on the need to improve resource efficiency in food systems and called for the adoption of national food system strategies and integrated landscape planning approaches.

On Business and Innovation, Joanne Yawitch, CEO at National Business Initiative, South Africa explained her thinking around the questions of ‘How does business carry on functioning in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and uncertainty; what is the responsibility of business towards its key stakeholders, workers and customers; and how do we locate ourselves within the broader society and what should we be doing?"

Looking at the wider global economy, Jeffrey Sachs, University Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, pointed out that the key driver of long-term economic change is technology, and the key factor in the use and diffusion of technology is politics. He believes that sustainable development is feasible, and global cooperation is key to bring about the existing digital and green pathways to sustainable development.

In the episode of Transport and Mobility, David Ward, President of the Towards Zero Foundation (TZF) elaborated on new vehicle production scenarios envisioned for 2030 and highlighted the importance of the ‘Avoid - Shift - Improve’ paradigm, a more human-centered approach, and a balanced mix of policy instruments in helping to achieve sustainable transportation of zero road deaths and emissions.

On Energy and Climate Change, Ritu Mathur, Director of the Integrated Assessment & Modelling work at The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI), provided an overlook of various climate scenarios and stressed the inadequacy of current climate policies and NDCs. To mitigate climate change, she stressed on three main pillars in the energy sector, including energy efficiency, electrification of end-use sectors, and decarbonization of electricity. She added that some ‘softer’ elements are appearing in many of these scenarios, including behavioral changes and material efficiency strategies.

In the last episode on Wealth and Income Inequality, Facundo Alvaredo, professor at the Paris School of Economics and Co-Director of the World Inequality Lab/Database, mentioned the need to look beyond ‘earnings' and to examine ‘capital incomes' to understand inequality. He demonstrated some striking figures on the increasing transfer of public wealth to private holders, the heightened wealth concentration in many countries, and the asset composition by wealth groups (capitalization). Finally, he highlighted that, in order to better understand the challenges we are facing, we need a general theory or more intellectual efforts to understand the system as a whole.

Following the conclusion of the webcast series, a number of workshops will be carried out among Panel members and the Steering Committee of the IRP to identify the knowledge and policy action needed to steer the path towards the future we want.