Will the Future Blame Us? Bringing Future Generations into Today’s Politics | London, 19 April 2018

Fearless Girl Statue by Kristen Visbal (Image: Anthony Quintano / Flickr.com – CC-BY 2.0)


The FDSD and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries are delighted to invite you to a joint evening event on 19 April 2018 in London.

Bringing together experts from the policymaking community with academics and those from the actuarial profession and elsewhere in financial services, the interactive evening will examine the potential legislative levers for encouraging the explicit consideration of intergenerational issues in policymaking, including consideration of those not yet born.

The subject of intergenerational fairness has been steadily creeping up the political agenda in recent years, becoming a key battleground in the 2017 General Election. Parties across the political spectrum have pledged to repair the social contract between current generations, and invest for the benefit of future generations. But short-termism remains rife in politics. The many competing demands of modern society and economics mean that politicians are understandably consumed by the immediate needs and 5-year electoral cycles often mean that issues of sustainability are overlooked.

But what if there was some way to entrench sustainability into policymaking? How could we bring more long-term thinking into policymaking to manage risks and uncertainties that transcend generations? What would this mean for democracy today?

There are also lessons to be learnt from overseas, and examples from closer to home, where jurisdictions have created institutions to explicitly promote the long-term interests of future generations in the form of commissioners and ombudsman for future generations.

Confirmed contributors include:

  • Jakob von Uexkull, Founder, World Future Council
  • Clare Moriarty, Permanent Secretary, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
  • Joerg Tremmel, Editor-in-Chief of the Intergenerational Justice Review


The event is free to attend, but registration via email is required. Please contact policy@actuaries.org.uk with your name and professional affiliation.

Governing Geo-Engineering? | New Report by ETC Group, BiofuelWatch and Heinrich-Böll Foundation

© Dru Jay / ETC Group


“It is much easier for us to imagine the end of the world than a small change in the political system”, Slavoj Zizek famously said. The same is true for altering the earth climate system according to a recent report by the Canadian ETC-Group, BiofuelWatch and the German Heinrich-Böll-Foundation: The Big Bad Fix (PDF, 1.5MB).

The Paris Agreement from 2015 agreed to limit the increase of the global temperature to “well below 2 degrees” and to “pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels” before the end of this century. But instead of advancing necessary measures (real emission cuts, fundamental change of the energy matrix, industrial production and consumption patterns), the concept of “negative emissions” – the idea that it is possible to avoid cutting GHG emissions drastically if emissions are offset by different technological (or other) means – has gained traction. The buzz word is Geo-Engineering, a techno-fix for climate change. And unsurprisingly, the potential for harm is significant.

Thus, the prospect of controlling global temperatures raises serious questions of power and justice: Who gets to control the Earth’s thermostat and adjust the climate for their own interests? Who will make the decision to deploy if such drastic measures are considered technically feasible, and whose interests will be ignored? The briefing begins to unpack these critical questions.

Download the full report on the ETC Group theme page.


New APPG for Cross-Party Dialogue on Future Generations

An All-Parliamentary Group for Future Generations has just been set up in the House of Commons with the aim to “raise the profile of issues affecting future generations in Parliament and explore ways to institutionalise representation of future generations.” It is chaired by Daniel Ziechner, MP.

This APPG arose following some research at Cambridge University which explored the rights and representation of future generations in political systems around the world. The Secretariat for the APPG is based at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER).

The goal is to: “​create​ ​space​ ​for​ ​cross-party dialogue​ ​on​ ​​combating​ ​short-termism​ ​​in​ ​policymaking;​ ​and​ ​to​ ​identify​ ​ways​ ​to​ ​​internalise longer-term​ ​considerations​​ ​into​ ​today’s​ ​decision-making.” Issues identified include climate change, public health, and “​catastrophic​ ​and​ ​existential​ ​risks​ ​arising​ ​from​ ​emerging technologies”.

The APPG will be holding speaker​ ​events​ ​and​ ​discussion​ ​roundtables; providing briefings on catastrophic risks, and building a network of parliamentarians,​ ​academics,​ ​industry​ ​stakeholders​ ​and​ ​other​ ​APPGs.

If you want to know more about the APPG and how you might get involved, you can contact them at: secretariat@appgfuturegenerations.com

Citizens, participation and the economy | Interim report from the RSA Citizen’s Economic Council

There are many reasons why more democratic and deliberative approaches to economics are necessary and valuable: shaping better and more informed economic decisions, promoting transparency over economic priorities, and strengthening the quality of democracy and public debate. Following an intense process of public engagement, the RSA Citizens’ Economic Council has published its first interim report, setting out emerging findings, and introducing the Citizen’s Economic Charter.

In this report, the RSA project team calls for economic institutions such as HM Treasury and the Bank of England to institute deliberative citizen juries and assemblies to help empower citizens and work to build a greater level of trust in decision-making. A documentary film, capturing some of the work of the Citizens’ Economic Council has also been released. The full report can be accessed on the RSA website.

Related Links

  • Prof Graham Smith, Chair of the FDSD board of trustees is a member of the CEC Advisory Group, and introduced the innovation project in a blog post in 2016.
  • A recent CUSP paper argues that understanding deliberative systems is a key element for nurturing a deeper, more authentic democracy: “Both, small-scale experimental and large-scale institutional and legislative innovations have the potential to induce greater consideration for environmental concerns and a long-term perspective in our political decision-making”.



Harnessing democracy and engagement for sustainable prosperity

As environmental crises become ever more severe, voices are reappearing that call for authoritarian solutions: Democracy, so the argument goes, has proven to be too slow to respond to urgent threats, and so a stronger, authoritarian hand is needed to push through the necessary socio-political changes.

In a recent working paper, published by the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity,  Marit Hammond and FDSD chair Graham Smith respond to this charge by revisiting the role of democracy within a transition to sustainable prosperity. It is not democracy as such that is the problem,  the paper argues, but rather democracy in its current form is itself constrained by structural and discursive forces including the almost hegemonic status of capitalist politico-economic discourses and tendencies towards short-termism in political decision-making.

Instead of advocating further constraints on democracy, the essay explores new institutional and societal spaces that can revitalise democracy, ameliorating existing constraints and infusing sustainability politics with new ways of thinking. In particular, the authors highlight the potential promise of participatory and deliberative innovations, prefigurative politics, reform of established structures and institutions, and deliberative systems and cultural change.

Related Links


Cover image: Mural by Jason Woodside, Photo derivative of Elvert Barnes / Flickr (licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0 )

Improving data flows to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

(CC.0) Derivative of fgeralts / pixabay.com


FDSD responded to the consultation by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on their proposed approach to measuring and reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within the UK.

The provision of adequate data on our progress towards the SDGs (both within the UK and our impacts internationally) enables people to be able to hold Government to account, as well as to provide an information baseline and meaningful targets to inform the development of policy and practice by government, the public, civil society and business.

One of our main points was that there is a need to ensure that any data collected is broken down to a low enough geographic level to enable meaningful and informed local decision-making. At present, existing data in many SDG areas cannot be broken down in this way. The EU Referendum discussions in particular highlighted the problems that arise when there is little understanding of the realities facing different geographical areas. The profound inequalities across the UK will struggle to be addressed appropriately without adequate baseline measures and targets. We need to ensure that the opportunity for improving our ‘data infrastructure’, arising from the need to report against our achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, also works to enable local sustainable development, as well as informing the development of sustainable business and industrial strategies.

You can access the full response in pdf.

Decentralised Development Cooperation—the new driver for SDG implementation

CC.0 Annie Spratt / Unsplash.com


Development cooperation isn’t only a matter between national governments anymore, a recent article by Stefano Marta and Aziza Akhmouch from the OECD finds – collaboration proves to be rather successful between local and regional authorities in different countries too. The process known as “decentralized development cooperation” has become a real driver for regional self-determination and active development work – in particular with regards to the SDGs.

There is no common definition as to what exactly constitutes DDC, the authors write, and thus accounting for its success is still a blurry task. There is, however, a key similarity: “Across most countries, it is cities that tend to be directly implementing DDC activities, particularly those that aren’t linked to official development assistance.”

This new form of cooperation is increasingly recognised as a key tool to complement traditional development assistance and achieve global commitments beyond a top-down implementation model, and to mainstream SDGs into cities’ policies and plans. For more details on the OECD work around understanding and promoting this place-based collaboration, please see the full article on citiscope.org.

Localising the SDGs: Learning from Tuscany

An interesting case study for DDCs makes a recent regional report from Tuscany, which structures its local cooperation experiences in view of better systematising and capitalising on its decentralised cooperation initiatives. The report feeds into the Toolbox for Localizing the SDG, an international initiative that aims at empowering local governments and other actors by offering a growing set of “practical, adaptable mechanisms and instruments to address the most pressing development challenges, thereby facilitating the implementation of the Global Goals”.

The full report can be accessed on localizingthesdgs.org.

One Year On: The View from the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, reflects on her first year in office.

The United Nations has said, “What Wales is doing today, we hope the world will do tomorrow – action more than words is the hope for our future generations”.

Listening and involving people in shaping and informing the focus of my work has been central to my way of working as the first Future Generations Commissioner for Wales.

Since taking up office in April 2016, one of my main priorities has been to get out and listen to people – whether they are the professionals with responsibility under the new legislation or other partners such as voluntary organisations and local communities.

During my first six months in office I met all 44 public bodies and frontline professionals in Wales – to listen and identify opportunities for promoting the the sustainable Development principle and the five ways of working in the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act.

I have also contributed to more than 640 public engagements and meetings with ministers, voluntary sector leaders and experts. I have also spoken at national events including the Hay Festival and Royal Welsh Show to champion the Well-being of Future Generations Act and present the challenges and opportunities the act brings.

Throughout the many conversations, we have used the opportunity to test out innovative and collaborative methods to further develop our approach to public engagement.

For example, working with the Wales Audit Office and the Cynefin Centre, we created a survey for people to tell us about the issues they feel are important to them and their community, and to identify how they can help achieve our seven well-being goals. We received nearly 1,000 responses.

I have worked with the New Economics Foundation (NEF) to develop a ‘Future Generations Framework’ to show how organisations can make better decisions using five ways of working to maximise their contribution to the well-being goals set out in the act. While this was initially developed for infrastructure projects, we are testing the approach on other work to see if it can also support decision-makers apply the sustainable development principle. The framework can also be used to help the public promote the principle and challenge decision-making.

We have also worked with the Auditor General for Wales and Wales Audit Office to help drive the changes needed. If we work in partnership at an early stage, this will increase the positive impact of our statutory duties by providing a consistent approach to public bodies and public services boards.

We also set up a joint project with the Children’s Commissioner for Wales to help public bodies think about how they embed rights and sustainable development in their work to fulfil their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Well-being of Future Generations Act.

One of the main challenges in setting up my office has been the need to put sustainability into practice and be an example of how we are changing our ways of working to align with the act.

I initially focused on how my office could be sustainable and energy efficient. I was offered a shared space with the Welsh Language Commissioner which aligned with the collaborative approach to working as well as being cost effective.

The space needed to be refurbished. Allowing for the limitations of the existing infrastructure, our aim was to keep costs to a minimum and where possible build in energy efficiency into the redesign. So we upcycled fixtures, fittings and furniture from Welsh government stores, and we repurposed and repositioned existing partitions. We also put thermostatically-controlled valves on all the radiators, fitted energy-saving light bulbs, and installed some movement-sensitive lighting.

We have also been given access to free space within Bangor University and use of their video conferencing equipment which allows my North Wales-based staff to come together and avoid unnecessary travel to South Wales.

We are now bringing all our work together with an evidence base on the key issues, challenges and opportunities facing Wales. The next stage of the journey will be priority setting and creating a movement for change that will benefit people now and in the future.

Find out more about the work of the commissioner on the official website.

One Year On: A View from Civil Society on the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales was established just over a year ago. We talked to Anne Meikle, Head of WWF Cymru, to reflect on this novel institution.

What role did WWF Cymru play in establishing the commissioner?

WWF and other members of the Sustainable Development Alliance worked hard to lobby for a commissioner with independence from government – one who could champion the needs of future generations. We also pushed to amend initial drafts of the Well-being of Future Generations Act to strengthen the commissioner’s powers. We ensured she has broad powers to undertake research or review of any matters relating to the act.

What role do organisations like WWF play in the commissioner’s work?

Most commissioners in the UK have a much narrower remit than the Future Generations Commissioner. They only focus on single issues or groups, for example the Children’s Commissioner. A remit on sustainable development covers a very broad range of subject areas. It is very unlikely that any one person would have in-depth knowledge of all relevant issues. So organisations such as WWF support the commissioner by providing expertise on matters such as climate change, biodiversity, or the health of ecosystems (our life support systems). We can also advise on actions to tackle the drivers of loss of these natural resources, such as looking at more sustainable production methods or how public bodies can encourage these through their procurement practices. As a global organisation, WWF can not only advise on the international impacts of Wales’ actions but can also share examples from around the world of good practice, providing benchmarks for progress.

How open is the commissioner to the views from civil society groups and the broader public? (One of the four priority areas on which the commissioner is consulting is “public engagement”).

The commissioner has worked hard to ensure she hears the public voice through her engagement events. She has been very open to listening to, and using input from, civil society. That said, there is a need to further recognise and use civil society as experts alongside academic input.

Do you think the commissioner is setting the right priorities?

The commissioner is still developing her priorities, so it’s something we’ll be watching closely in the coming months. What I would say now is that it is essential that she makes sure that public bodies focus on the areas where they can have the biggest impact on wellbeing and drive transformational change. They will also need to tackle the risks and opportunities that arise with that focus.

What have been the main challenges for the commissioner in the first year?

Simply establishing a new function such as this, explaining its role and prioritising activities are major challenges. Beyond this, we have a newly elected National Assembly for Wales with a new intake of politicians who were not involved in the passage of the Act. We have also had a new Welsh Government, which has chosen different political priorities and has had to respond to both austerity and the political agenda post-Brexit. This constant political renewal, and tendency to focus on the short term, was a major reason that the previous assembly supported a legislative approach. Ensuring politicians remain committed, focused and inspired is a key challenge – one where collaboration with the Sustainable Development Alliance could be critical to success.

There is also a fundamental challenge to the civil service and the new permanent secretary in Wales. The act requires radical change in the ways that civil servants work. Their decision-making systems and tools need to be reviewed and amended in quite challenging ways.

Finally, the act established entirely new organisations – Public Service Boards (PSBs) – as a regional delivery mechanism. These PSBs bring together all the public bodies in each local authority area to deliver new plans to deliver on the act – collaboratively. Quite rightly the commissioner has been concerned to ensure that these are established and start work with the correct understanding and commitment.

How do you see the commissioner’s role developing in the coming years?

The cultural change required by the act will take at least 10 years to embed across all public bodies. In the first instance, the commissioner’s focus is to promote understanding of, and commitment to, the act’s delivery and providing support for these changes. Maintaining the commitment of public bodies and ensuring they take action on the major transformational changes – the really difficult decisions and choices that must be made – is going to require persistence and the use of all her available powers. Not all public bodies will make effective progress. The commissioner will need to use her powers of review to identify barriers to change and make specific recommendations to public bodies to drive improvement.

The commissioner’s other key role is to report on behalf of future generations, in early 2020. She will assess the improvements needed in public bodies to safeguard the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This will be a vital moment and mechanism to ensure that politicians in subsequent political terms take forward delivery.

Is this a model that could be replicated at UK level or in the other devolved nations?

A commissioner role is already used in many countries around the world. They all have their own unique powers and cultural context. The Network of Institutions for Future Generations provides a mechanism for them to share good practice, but also to assess the differences between them. As time goes on, it will be interesting to evaluate which of the various types of institution work most effectively. The value of these roles, as the network says, is “bringing future generations to the negotiating table”. Unless the UK or other devolved nations have a robust alternative mechanism for bringing in these voices, then they should look at establishing a commissioner.