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Being a good ancestor: Using the Moonshot Map to help future generations with climate resilience

On Wednesday 26th October 2022, our Project:Moonshot founders Juhi Shareef and Priti Ambani hosted a panel discussion with Mark Hilton (Head of Sustainable Business at Eunomia) and Gael Surgenor (Social Innovator, Intrapreneur, Leader, and Connector) about what it means to be a good ancestor, and how the Moonshot Map could help future generations with climate resilience.

It was a wide-ranging and insightful kōrero, commencing with an introduction from Juhi about Project:Moonshot’s kaupapa and goals:

“For us, being a good ancestor is about what can we do today—not waiting for future generations to have to pick up the pieces. All of us are in positions of agency and we can all do our piece.”

We know that the implementation of a Circular Economy will cut greenhouse gas emissions, and create a more climate-resilient future. According to Ellen Macarthur Foundation:

1. Switching to renewable energy is only half the story. It is vital, but would only address 55% of global emissions. To reach net-zero, we also need to change the way we make and use products, materials, and food.

2. By adopting the principles of the circular economy—eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials, and regenerate nature—we can tackle those emissions associated with industry, agriculture, and land use—i.e., the remaining 45%.

  • By eliminating waste and pollution, we reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the value chain

  • By circulating products and materials, we retain their embodied energy

  • By regenerating nature, we sequester carbon in soil and products

3. Applying circular economy strategies in just five key areas (cement, aluminium, steel, plastics, and food) can eliminate almost half of the remaining emissions from the production of goods—9.3 billion tonnes of CO2e in 2050—equivalent to cutting current emissions from all transport to zero.

But, as Juhi observed in her introduction, the focus needs to be both broad and systems-based, as well as place-based:

“It's not just individual people or businesses that are going to make the difference. One of the key reasons that Project:Moonshot exists is to look at activities from a place-based approach, but also have a systems lens and look at the whole system and all the moving parts and look at where the gaps are, where we're headed to, and what's in place now.”

The Moonshot Map – Initial Insights

The Moonshot Map is Project:Moonshot’s attempt to map that current state—a database of circular and regenerative initiatives and organisations in Aotearoa.

Juhi introduced the PRReSSOLVED framework that Project:Moonshot uses to categorise the projects, initiatives, and businesses that are included on the map.

The PRReSSOLVED framework is a version of the ReSOLVE framework that was developed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which has been adapted to include aspects of Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics model.

You can read more about the PRReSSOLVED framework and the Moonshot Map on our Project:Moonshot website, to understand what each of the elements represent.

The work done so far on the Moonshot Map is already providing us with some key insights—from both a place-based and systemic perspective. Juhi spoke about the map data that has recently been analysed for the Tamaki Makaurau/Auckland region—noting that we’re still in the early stages of populating the map with data points.

Our initial analysis is showing us that the top three circular or regenerative industries in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland (approx. 60%) are:

  1. Waste/Packaging/Composting (29.1%)

  2. Food and Beverage (17.3%)

  3. Infrastructure/Construction/Housing (12.7%)

And when we interrogate that data, our initial observations for Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland at this stage of our data collection are:

  • We are more of a recycling economy than a circular economy

  • Infrastructure/Construction Housing for the most part contains businesses that work with new/alternative materials and construction methods

  • We limited data points on Biodiversity/Restoration in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland

  • We only have one project in Auckland tagged as Regenerative (i.e., Organic Market Garden (OMG))

  • We have no data points for Manufacturing, Government, and Public Services—so we will be actively seeking those in the future.

Achieving a Circular Economy in Tāmaki Makaurau and Aotearoa—insights from the panel

The korero then led to questions for our panel—Mark and Gael—to seek their thoughts about what is needed in Aotearoa to achieve climate resilience for future generations.

The first question was for Gael, asking her to tell us a little bit about her work in government, her work with The Southern Initiative (TSI), and her perspective on the circular economy, social innovation, and its relationship to climate resilience.

Gael shared her enthusiasm for place-based regeneration and its impact on the circular economy:

“I'm so passionate about place-based approaches. It's where you can see the social, economic, cultural, and environmental challenges coming together, and understand how they impact people's lives—and how interconnected they all are.”

Gael saw the success of place-based approaches in action through her work with The Southern Initiative, and the power of local government procurement policies:

“One of the first things that we focused on was 'what are the levers in local government to make a difference to the social and economic challenges of a disadvantaged community like South Auckland'? So, we focused on the procurement lever, the purchasing power of local government. And that's led to a network of Māori and Pacific-owned businesses entering into the supply chain for big council infrastructure projects.”

Gael shared the example of a deconstruction business—Trow Group—that wanted to make a difference socially, economically, culturally, and environmentally. It's now featured as a circular construction company on the Moonshot Map.

They have become one of the biggest deconstruction businesses in New Zealand, starting with a $40,000 contract that the Council waste team couldn't find anyone to deliver. They probably wouldn't have become what they are without that place-based passion and commitment to progressive procurement.

She also highlighted the example of the Papatoetoe Food Hub as an initiative located on council land that's been converted into a learning centre and food system hub within a community that (for a time) had no supermarket. Now the Hub has a supermarket next door who are collaborating with the Hub, so that all the excess food that would have been wasted or gone to landfill gets repurposed into healthy takeaways and compost—to provide value to the local community.

Whilst they're a couple of small, place-based examples, they've grown their reach to provide positive outcomes for their community—and beyond. And, as Gael observed, many small things from the bottom up can have a great impact.

“What I love about Project:Moonshot is that you're giving those many small things visibility, and then looking for the patterns that are emerging out of that, which is really useful—especially for a systems impact approach.”

The next question was for Mark, asking him to describe what he is seeing in terms of regenerative and circular impact at a government and policy level.

Mark observed that while he can see a lot of good practice among the initiatives that are on the Moonshot Map, the map also illustrates just how fragmented things really are. We just aren’t seeing the level and scale of coordination that are needed to create a circular economy:

“The Moonshot Map is really helpful in illustrating good practice and how those things can work in reality on the ground and assist the community socially as well as economically and environmentally. But I feel like we've got a very, very serious problem globally with climate change.
…And it's good to see that Auckland has a climate change and net zero roadmap. But what's really difficult isn't establishing that map or even setting out the trajectories. What's really difficult is delivering on that.”

Mark observed that often the economics, policy frameworks, and business profit drivers are against progress. However, he’s also seeing for the first time ever that big businesses are becoming frustrated by the pace of progress of policymakers and the policy environment—the policymakers are falling behind where business is at.

However, it was acknowledged that from a policy perspective, Aotearoa New Zealand is starting to head in the right direction, with a review of the national waste strategy, a proposed circular economy strategy, and the inclusion of the agricultural sector in the emissions trading scheme.

Both of the panellists spoke about the potential for Aotearoa New Zealand to look to Scotland as a model for the transition to a circular economy, given the similarities in size, environment, and population. Mark observed:

“Scotland’s got a couple of big urban centres, but then essentially a lot of rural and mountainous areas and remote communities. And I think what the Scottish Government has done would actually be a good model for New Zealand in some ways. They've really thrown a lot of resources at supporting businesses on circular economy, supporting communities, but also putting in place serious policy frameworks, a proper climate and circular economy strategy, for example, and being very brave on some of the policy decisions—going beyond what the rest of the UK is doing and really showing the world what should be done.”

And Gael agreed:

“We need a whole ecosystem that is mutually reinforcing and creating the conditions for the scale and the speed that Mark's talking about. And we should look at Scotland. There are lots of parallels there, and I'm really inspired by some of the things that I've been seeing in Scotland around a regenerative economy, strong place-based policy coming from the government, and community wealth building as a new approach to a local economy.”

All of our panel members were in agreement about the need for more rapid progress in the policy environment to drive the transition to a circular economy, with Gael reinforcing Mark’s observation that we still have a long way to go:

“We're not doing enough fast enough. There aren’t the incentives, the policy settings, the conditions, the resourcing, or the infrastructure for the transition—the glue to deal with the fragmentation—all of those things are needed.
There needs to be a top-down and bottom-up approach simultaneously. And I do think that local government has a crucial role in all of this. It can help to shape markets for a circular economy… We need a whole ecosystem that is mutually reinforcing and creating the conditions for the scale and the speed that Mark's talking about.”

Mark also made a really powerful observation about the need for a more systemic, joined-up approach:

“It's easy to talk to people about what circular economy means and get little niche examples. But we need to mainstream all of that. You can't just rely on somebody making handbags out of fire hoses in London—that isn't going to solve the world's problems, right? We need to really mainstream all of this. And that's where the policymakers come in."

And in order to achieve the pace that’s required, Mark observed that some of that change will need to be imposed, rather than chosen:

“Some of it has to be kind of forced in a sense. You have to coerce the public into making lifestyle changes that they might not otherwise make. For example, pedestrianisation of large areas in city centres is helpful because it forces people to think more about using public transport or cycling. Auckland's starting to do a lot more with the cycle network, for example, which is good to see. But there are very practical things that can be done that can be really quite powerful as exemplars.”

The panel also discussed the importance of product stewardship—internalising external impacts so that people are made aware of the true cost of what they consume. As Mark observed:

“You know, most of the impact isn't here in Auckland. Most of the impact actually could be in a river in Canterbury, or it could be actually in China—in the environment where things are being manufactured. We've got so used to offshoring everything. But we live in a lovely clean environment, yet our consumption is still causing huge problems elsewhere. So, we really need to think about procurement as a major part of this. In carbon accounting terms, it's about the scope three emissions, which are often 70, 80 or 90% of an organisation's carbon footprint.”

To round off the conversation, the panel turned to what we—as individuals—can do, right here and right now. By examining Gael’s decision to relocate to a co-housing community housing project in Takaka, it was a great opportunity to discuss personal agency in what sometimes seems like an overwhelming situation. Gael shared her thoughts and motivations:

“I think we just all have to start—wherever we are, whatever we're doing, whatever our roles, whatever our in our personal and our professional life.
My motivation to go and live in a co-housing community is really an experiment to live closer to those values. And to find ways to live lighter on the earth, and do that collaboratively in an intentional community—then share some of those learnings or successes with others. And doing it on a small scale is like an experiment in a lab.
I mean, it's not the utopia, it's hard work. Living in a community is not is not the easy option.”

Here at Project:Moonshot, we support the key insights that were shared by Mark and Gael, and that were echoed as a key theme for the observance of the UN’s World Cities Day this year—i.e., “Act Local to Go Global”.

As Gael so succinctly summarised:

“My last point is I think we are not good at imagining alternative futures and we've got to get better at that and faster at living them.
But keeping in mind what Mark is really rightfully challenging, a whole lot of little things that are small scale—that are fragmented—won’t add up to enough change. So again, it has to be done with a systems lens at the same time as local innovation.”

Where to from here? Using the Moonshot Map to help future generations with climate resistance

And this is where the Moonshot Map comes into its own. The Map has the potential to provide the kind of systems insights that will inform decision-making for a circular and regenerative future. At Project:Moonshot we’ve committed to further developing the map, growing the database, and publishing insights drawn from the analysis of that data.

We'll do this by:

  • enhancing the capability of the Moonshot Map

  • exponentially growing the place-based data about circular and regenerative businesses/initiatives in New Zealand held in the Moonshot Map, and

  • sharing our insights that we draw from analysis of that data—providing industry, government, and institutional decision-makers with the kind of information they need to accelerate the transition to a circular and regenerative Aotearoa.

It is only through a combination of top-down (policy, economy, infrastructure) and bottom-up (place-based) change that we will transition Aotearoa to a more regenerative, circular economy—one that supports climate resistance for our future generations.

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