IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
Top from left: Carla Gómez Briones, Pratik Kunwar, Shahd Hammou; bottom from left: Brooke Hadeed, Marian Nourya Koné, Pok Wei Heng
January 12, 2023 9:03 AM EST

The World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper community is a network of young people driving dialogue, action, and change. TIME asked a few members of the community to share their solutions to the problems the world is facing today.

Here are their ideas:

Ensure fair energy transitions

Carla Gómez Briones, power and climate summer associate at the Rockefeller Foundation

Achieving a sustainable future clearly -requires a global shift from fossil fuels to renewable- and clean-energy systems that will allow the world to reach net zero by 2050. This transition involves much more than technology investments toward a carbon–neutral society and a fertile policy space. It represents a complex transformation with profound social, cultural, and economic implications. These will be especially pronounced in developing countries that have yet to achieve energy security and are highly dependent on fossil fuels.

This may involve difficult trade-offs. Local communities naturally prioritize growth. With limited means, leaders may opt for decisions that don’t prioritize sustainability, at least not in the short run. As developing nations go through a turbulent process, it’s vital to prioritize a just energy transition that allows them to balance development and climate goals. With fragile political systems and limited fiscal capacity, there is a risk that entire communities could be stranded.

Investing in people’s skills, putting gender equality at the forefront, and prioritizing energy security are the vital underlying conditions for enabling a just transition where everyone can thrive.

Support innovators

Pratik Kunwar, founder of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Nepal

Citizens around the world are more eager than ever to choose who represents them and where their taxes are spent, and to hold their leaders accountable. This requires tackling distrust, disengagement, and disparity.

In the Global South, youth-led civic technology is a promising solution. For example, in Nepal, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s (CEI) app Shaasan enables citizens to freely report civic-­justice issues and rate elected officials on their performance. It increases civic participation and engagement by eliminating the traditional barriers to dialogue between citizens and their governments. Locally designed, people-­centered solutions like these are scalable and well equipped to handle 21st century dynamics, whether in Kyiv or Kathmandu.

What is lacking is visibility, support, and funding for innovations like these, for young innovators and entrepreneurs from the Global South who work under very restrictive frameworks in resource-­constrained environments and who have been historically underrepresented in decisionmaking and solution building. Give them a seat at the table.

Invest for equity

Shahd Hammou, program lead and country gender adviser for Sudan at Mercy Corps

Socioeconomic equity and the concept of future-proof societies were once seen as nice-to-haves. Today they have become critical for building resilient economies. The inequity we see in the world creates an opportunity to invest in sustainable outcomes that drive returns on investment, particularly for women and other marginalized groups.

New systems for investment have shown that it is possible to address current social vulnerabilities while maintaining and exceeding commercial targets. And companies taking an inclusive approach to customers and markets can help bring economies and societies closer to reaching their potential. For example, there is an opportunity for at least $700 -billion in global revenue in better serving women as customers, and 100 million more women are expected to join the labor force by 2030. Women’s economic participation, decisionmaking, and asset control boost development in poverty contexts, yet they are still underserved in developed and developing countries alike. Mainstreaming equity and diversifying investment could make for huge improvements.

Embrace nature’s wisdom

Brooke Hadeed, associate at nonprofit Social Finance

In facing today’s food crises and climate disasters we can take inspiration from nature’s technology, perfected over millennia, and requiring only a revived approach within modern sensibilities to have a profound effect.

Regenerative agriculture is a system of practices that can enable us to feed our populations from the extracts of nature, while simultaneously feeding value back into the soil and natural environment. Nature’s cycles are precursors to the circular economy. In the developing world, particularly small island states, agriculture still adheres to colonial–era cash-crop structures. After centuries of soil degradation and the elimination of Indigenous practices, those countries now rely on the bridges of globalization for food imports to feed their citizens. These bridges are deteriorating amid broken supply chains, inflation, and an uptick in food nationalism. Meanwhile, natural disasters are rising in frequency and severity.

Regenerative practices—such as permaculture and agroforestry—incorporate thoughtful design and long-term planning to bolster carbon sequestration; improve land, soil, and water quality; and restore habitats rich in biodiversity. In the long term, we stand to gain greater resiliency to extreme weather and increase crop yields to feed growing populations. This requires a measured approach that transitions finance from near-sighted and destructive food systems to those that create beneficial economic and social impacts for farmers and local communities.

Help tech thrive in Africa

Mariam Nourya Koné, software engineer and tech entrepreneur

Innovation can be accidental but is often best when it’s intentional, cultivated, promoted, and inspired by an ecosystem that supports it. It arises from multiple stakeholders working together to educate and provide access to opportunities, as well as a culture that’s favorable to taking risks and open to creativity.

My hope is for Africa to become a hub for technological innovation. This continent’s market presents a significant opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly for women, who are underrepresented in the tech sector.

Some innovations that were started half a century ago in developed countries do not even exist in Africa. We cannot accept another 50 years to close that gap. There are a few ways in which we could bridge that distance. Each of these requires cooperation among various stakeholders.

One way to encourage such innovation in Africa would be establishing government-­assisted programs that match up leading industry experts with a diverse range of local talent that includes women, to enable supervised training. Policy is another important area. Creating an innovation-­friendly environment requires the buy-in of both the private and public sectors to promote policies that support and facilitate the development of new technologies. Finally, a broad range of stakeholders across governments, the private and public sectors, and civil society must create spaces where young innovators can test their ideas to solve local problems.

Inclusive cooperation is vital to ensure we avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, but also because alone we may move fast, but together we go further.

A just renaissance

Pok Wei Heng, climate change and sustainability consultant at EY

Emerging economies are disproportionately impacted by climate and geopolitical issues. We’ve seen that with the devastating floods in Pakistan as well as energy crises in South and Southeast Asia, as developed countries have drained liquefied natural gas (LNG) sources amid the Ukraine war.

Pursuing decarbonization efforts and a green transition will be challenging in this multipolar world. Governments must build a common language to enable geopolitical de-escalation, decarbonization, and regeneration.

Allocation of global public goods is key. This could include a collectively managed rights-centered program, overseeing allocation of resources that are necessary for energy and decarbonization infrastructure, like cobalt, lithium, and LNG. This would enshrine a just transition to a green economy for every worker, community, and country, in line with climate agreements like the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty proposed at COP27 last year. Diplomacy must evolve and undergo an environmental renaissance.

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