Climate change is rapidly reshaping our world. The scientific journals – and the daily newspapers – are filled with reports of extreme weather, increasing temperatures, shrinking ice sheets, and rising sea levels. At the same time, advances in conservation and alternative energy are making their own headlines. If we don't lead in these areas, we risk falling dangerously behind – especially with a worldwide population exceeding 7 billion. Our children and their children deserve nothing less.
The Aspen Institute is committed to addressing the needs of our changing planet. Our approach involves creating awareness, convening diverse perspectives to solve complex energy and environment issues, building international consensus on resolving climate-change, influencing how business managers achieve sustainability, and inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders. Programs under our energy and environment umbrella include, among others, our Annual annual Energy Forums, the Aspen Food Security Strategy Group, the Africa-China Strategy Group, the Forum on Oceans, the Forum on Water Resources and Climate Change, and the Catto Fellowship.
The Catto Fellowship is unique by virtue of its focus on the environment, its international scope, its use of the Institute's signature values-based seminars, and its requirement that each class of 20 Fellows design and complete a collaborative group project.
The collaborative project of the inaugural class of Catto Fellows focused on global environmental governance – specifically, on the institutional arrangements, governance principles, and policies needed to ensure the success of a new international agreement on climate change, and whether existing institutions could fulfill various requirements for credible carbon markets and measurable national actions. To highlight their findings, the Fellows organized a special two-day policy forum, one month before the historic 2009 climate change conference in Copenhagen, attended by over 60 policy experts and diplomatic representatives from around the world. Their workproject helped focus global attention at a critical junction on the need for collaboration in environmental stewardship – and set new standards for advocacy.
The second class of Catto Fellows committed their collective energy to protecting the oceans from further plastic pollution and rethinking the design and use of plastics. Working with a wide variety of partners, including NGOs, corporations, and the United Nations, the Fellows created a strong platform to discuss plastic pollution, including successfully injecting the issue of marine debris into influenced the final UN resolution adopted at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), in June 2012.
“Nature is very resilient. But we have to change the conversation on the environment. We need eco-wide, region-wide solutions.”
—M.A. Sanjayan, Lead Scientist at the Nature Conservancy and Catto Fellow, at the Aspen Environment Forum