Triple-win solutions

I have been asked to write some more about the triple-win solutions, which I will gladly do! But to be able to explain the concept better, I will first briefly define the concept of sustainable development.

The concept of sustainable development was defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1987 in the report “Our common future” (also called the Brundtland Report) by the following phrase: ”Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED 1987, page 43). It was furthermore defined as a three-dimensional concept including social, environmental and economical sustainability. The further message of the WCED report was that a continued economic growth is crucial for the possibility for the developing countries to challenge poverty – but that the growth should be environmentally sustainable at the same time (see the WCED report for a full introduction to the concept).

The reason for talking about a triple-win solution is that some believe that we are in the middle of a triple-crisis at the moment. This triple-crisis is first of all based on the fact that the world is socially unequal, with still too many people living in poverty, feeling hunger and suffering on a daily basis (for further information and numbers, see The Millennium Development Goals Report 2011 elaborated by the UN). Secondly, the world is also environmentally in crisis, as the environmental changes are felt across the globe – following the UNDP Human Development Report from 2007-08, 262 million people were affected by the natural disasters between 2000-04, where of 98% were from Less Developed Countries (LDCs). Finally, the economy is also in crisis, as experienced e.g. through the economic breakdowns beginning in 2008 in North America and Europe.

On the basis of this, the triple-win solutions are meant as a part of a sustainable development to address these three crises: social, environmental and economical. The triple-win solutions are therefore outcomes that support social development, environmental sustainability and economical growth at the same time (see the UNDP 2012 report “Triple Wins for Sustainable Development”).

As mentioned by Friedrich Barth from the UNDP at a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in May 2012, renewable energy can be a triple-win solution (see also the UNDP 2012 report “Triple Wins for Sustainable Development”). Let me explore this some more:

Renewable energy has first of all been pointed at as poverty reducing, due to the fact that access to energy can increase the score in the Human Development Index (HDI). Secondly, if the prices on renewable energy can be lower than on fossil fuels, the poor have to spend less money on energy on a daily basis (which in the long run can lead to a reduction in poverty as well). Renewable energy will be far less harmful for the environment, due to smaller amounts of CO2 being released into the atmosphere (see e.g. “The Sustainable Energy for All Initiative” led by Ban Ki-Moon). Indirectly, the reduction of poverty will result in less poverty pollution, which is caused by the necessity for the poor to exploit the nearby environment for surviving. Furthermore, the better environment caused by access to cleaner energy sources, will also benefit the poor by leading to a higher food security and better lives – hopefully with less environmental disasters occurring in the long-run (see for example the article “The Energy-Poverty-Climate Nexus” by Casillas and Kammen, 2010).

The above mentioned can also be expressed through the energy-poverty-climate nexus, which expresses the link between renewable energy, poverty and the environment, and how these can affect each other in a positive way (see again the article by Casillas and Kammen, 2010 – or the UNDP/UNEP “Poverty-Environment Initiative”).

To sum up, the triple-win solutions are solutions that support economic, social and environmental progress at the same time, and they are thus part of promoting a sustainable development in the future.

Lærke Damsø-Jørgensen

Kenyan Climate Innovation Centre Sustainable development through provision of potable water