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Young leadership – the last piece of our sustainable future puzzle

Putting the world on a more sustainable path is in everyone’s best interest, but no one has a greater stake in securing the future than our youth.

The good news is that we can create a world by 2050 where nine billion people thrive within the environmental limits of the planet. And these are truly exciting times. The coming decades will likely present humanity with bigger, graver challenges than anything previously encountered. We have a unique opportunity to shape a future where the planet thrives, where human creativity and collaboration can flourish and where society is equal, stable and prosperous.

But we must act now. We must look for new opportunities and solutions to the challenges we face. The sustainable solutions that will build our future societies are the missing pieces in the puzzle, and no one has a greater interest in finding these than the youth.

Personally, I get a lot of inspiration from including young people’s ideas and minds in our daily challenge – how to create a sustainable future. Working with young and passionate people fills me with hope, confidence and inspiration that humanity eventually will be able to turn the great challenges we are faced with into opportunities and new solutions.

So let me share two recent experiences with you.

How can we turn risks to opportunities and solutions?

With our Global Opportunity Report as a backdrop we recently engaged 50 students at NTNU in Norway to a one-day brainstorming session. Inspired by the risks, “lock-in into fossil fuel” and “unsustainable urbanization” the students worked creatively in order to bring forward new solutions. And guess what? By end of the day a huge stack of new opportunities and solutions were created and presented. They included:

  • Integration of renewable energy into smarter cities
  • Scaling of micro energy from all kinds of human activity
  • New solutions for combining wave and wind energy
  • Many circular economy concepts – e.g. “Greentegrate” solutions where our footprints are 100% transparent and where they envision that in the future we will all compete on being green.

This is what students can create in six hours. This is the space where tomorrow’s leaders can innovate on new solutions that will eventually change the world. And we should be inspired by those who take the lead. Tesla’s launch last week of cheap, wall-mounted home battery storage may fill one piece of the puzzle needed to create the future we want.

Is it possible to drive 500 km on 1 kWh (0.1 litre of fuel)?

This is the goal of a group of NTNU students developing a new concept car for the Shell Eco-Marathon.

The Shell Eco-Marathon challenges student teams from around the world to design, build and test ultra-energy efficient vehicles. With annual events first in the Americas, then Europe and Asia, the winners are the teams that go the furthest using the least amount of energy. The events spark debate about the future of mobility and inspire young engineers to push the boundaries of fuel efficiency.

Last month the DNV GL Fuel Fighter was launched by the students and supported by the car’s Ambassador Nina Jensen, the CEO of WWF Norway.


WWF Norway CEO Nina Jensen joins NTNU students to launch the 2015 DNV GL Fuel Fighter.

This project again proves to us how young leadership creates new ideas to existing problems. The students have worked across disciplines and applied 3D printing in order to design and produce the Urban Concept Car. I wish them good luck in the competition in Amsterdam.

The Missing Pieces

Opportunities and solutions bridge the distance between our understanding of the risks and challenges ahead and visions of where we would like to go. When we include sustainability in our definition of true opportunities for businesses and societies, we will fill the missing piece and be able to make real and valuable contributions to peoples’ lives, instead of prioritizing short-term profit.

I have great hope in young leadership to fill in the missing pieces.

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