ASU Global Futures leader directs discussions of must-have transformations at COP27

Peter Schlosser, vice president and vice provost of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, will present ASU's "10 Must Haves" initiative on Nov. 12 at COP27 in Egypt.

Peter Schlosser will present the "10 Must Haves" initiative at the Pathways to 1.5 Pavilion at COP27 on Nov. 12.


Peter Schlosser, vice president and vice provost of Arizona State University's Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, likens the planetary limits of Earth to that of a rubber band. Its boundaries are flexible and adaptable to change, but excess pressure can force even the strongest of bands to snap.

The idea that humanity is pushing the boundaries of what the planet can accommodate is at the core of the “10 Must Haves” initiative, a draft of which will be presented at the 2022 U.N. Climate Change Conference, or COP27, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. 

The Must Haves initiative is the product from the 2022 Global Futures Conference in September, which brought a broad group of global stakeholders together to collaborate on actionable items in support of a more sustainable future. 

The initiative was created jointly between the Global Futures Laboratory and the Earth League. It provides guidelines for 10 “must-have” outcomes, which are accompanied by “must-do” actions, to ensure a thriving tomorrow on a currently overworked planet. 

Schlosser, together with Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, will present the initiative at the Pathways to 1.5 Pavilion at COP27 on Nov. 12.  

Question: How did the 10 Must Haves come to be and why was COP27 selected as the launching point for the initiative?

Answer: Both COP27 and the 10 Must Haves share the same goal of getting humankind and our global society more informed about what the global situation is right now, which made it an appropriate setting. 

At the center of the discussion at COP27 is the question of how nations can live up to the nationally determined commitments, because we are lagging behind them. What we are seeing is nations making these commitments and then making decisions that put them on a trajectory to miss the targets.

What we are asking with the 10 Must Haves is: What now? Is there room for another approach that would get us to the same or similar targets that would avoid severe problems for all life on the planet and its life supporting systems in an accelerated mode? 

The 10 Must Haves were conceived broadly to allow a holistic view of the present state of our planet and possible pathways into a future of opportunity. We created a set of 10 targets that we believe can actually lead us to where we have to be, and then we ask what we have to do in order to reach that goal. 

Q: The 10 Must Haves include climate, but climate is not the only challenge addressed. Why is it important to confront concerns beyond global warming?

A: I see climate as part of a larger picture. We do not just have a climate problem, and climate is not the root cause of our problems. Climate is one of the outcomes of our overuse of the planet’s resources to the point where we are crossing thresholds. In essence, we are asking for more than what the planet has to offer. 

The 10 Must Haves were not designed as a specific contribution to climate negotiations, but as goals and targets that have to be reached to prevent us from transitioning from a crisis to a catastrophe. 

Q: One of the “Must Haves” discusses the need for a global society ready to respond to planetary crises. How might policy makers go about uniting a global society, especially when we have seen political clashes in our own country and beyond regarding climate issues? 

A: Right now we are on a trajectory where policy makers polarize many critical issues such as, for example, climate solutions. One of the key questions we are asking is how we can get the message across to decision makers that polarizing these issues will be at a detriment to everybody. The response of our planet to pressure does not distinguish between parties. It will affect everyone — young, old, left, right, middle — although not equally distributed as the consequences of negative responses of our planet to our pressure will affect already disadvantaged communities to a significantly higher degree. 

We have seen here and there, under the right political conditions, movement in terms of legislation that would help these causes. However, all too often the political landscape is so polarized that between one government and the next the course of action can change very radically. The continuity of efforts is in danger. 

We have to find the thread that keeps going while different administrations are running a country. We have to think about the fact that what really drives everything is societal dynamics: the decisions we make, why we make them and to what extent we are thinking about the impact of these decisions for us and our life-supporting systems for the future. 

Q: The Must Haves initiative is targeted more at large-scale policy makers in government and business than it is at individuals. How do establishments of power impact individual decision making when it comes to acting on climate issues and beyond? 

A: That is the key question: What drives decision making on the individual level? Usually, there are incentives and value systems that drive that decision making, so we hope we can actually reach those in positions to offer incentives. 

For the initial launch at COP27, we are aiming the 10 Must Haves at larger segments of the stakeholder community: private sector, governments, regulatory agencies, governments, etc. This is something that we want a diverse group of stakeholder communities to pick up, think about and hopefully find appealing enough that they will act on them, and the initiative will trickle down and appeal to a much broader audience. 

We want the 10 Must Haves to show that there is a set of actions that can be envisioned to get us into a better place but, in order to do that, we need to make different choices. 

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