Hi Olaf — thanks so much for engaging with this piece in such depth! Instead of responding to each comment individually, I think it makes sense to respond in one fell swoop.
One overall recommendation is that you read Mark McElroy’s University of Groningen dissertation that is linked in the piece, as it answers many of your questions.
re your comment on Mark’s Sustainability Quotient (S=A/N): “Smart definition. Core question: who decides on the norms, the actuals, and the acceptability of the Quotient?”
Great question! The short answer is: right now, it’s ad hoc, which is precisely why r3.0 is incubating the Global Thresholds & Allocations Council (GTAC), with a mission of creating a global governance structure around both methodologies and determinations of thresholds (norms) and allocations. So it will get at the issues you discuss here. We would welcome your deeper engagement around this Council…
And we agree on your extension of our point that thresholds & allocations (Ts&As) are always being applied, to wealth, well-being, rights, etc. In this sense, Ts&As are a lens through which to look at reality.
On the Science-Based Targets methodology, yes, it assigns percentages of carrying capacity, but not of nations, but rather of the earth’s overall assimilative capacity of GHGs, as determined by the science. There are a number of ways to determine these allocations: per capita (FTE / population); economic (value-add/GDP); physical (production/sector output), etc… Each has its strengths & weaknesses (long conversation, glad to have it), but the point is, we can either consciously allocate, or unconsciously allocate.
On the question of “fair share,” of course this is a thorny issue, but there are ethical foundations to define “fair” and “share.”
On your point about population, politics, and UNEP: Answering this in a satisfying way would take much longer than we have here, but the short answer is that the per capita methodology would dynamically respond to population increases, so organizations could actually use to methodologies to conduct future projections of the dynamic balance between assumptions on population growth and resource contraction. On the politics & UNEP front, I was just invited to speak at a brand new UNEP Science-Policy-Business Forum that is pursuing a novel approach (ie not UN-as-usual) to addressing this intersection, importantly including how to spur political / policy movement to align with the science in ways that create an enabling environment for sustainable business. And you are right that we have our work cut out for us, but I believe that has long been the case, and the level of the challenges only heightens the case for rolling up our sleeves and collaborating in earnest.
Your point about the Danish study is true — those 9k reporters are only a fraction of the estimated 80k multinational corporations globally, not to mention the SMEs operating at a national or local level. That said, we believe the largest companies have the largest impact, and therefore represent an efficient “lever” for change, and also set precedent / pilot tools, so that’s the first-generation target for collaboration.
Do we advocate for governments to apply context-based approaches? Absolutely! The Dutch Government just invited us to present a workshop on our approach, with 5 ministries and 2 government aligned organizations (NBA & MVO) represented. And I would say that context-based approaches are not completely unknown in the policy world. Here in the US, the EPA institutes a TDML approach (total maximum daily load), for example to chemical discharges into water. TMDL is clearly a thresholds-based approach, and setting an entity-specific allowance is clearly an allocation. So what we advocate is not totally foreign.
Phew! That gives at least a first-pass response to your in-depth questions — all of which warrant much deeper discussion, I would say, so I look forward to continuing to engage with you on these vital questions. Will we see you at our Conference in June at KPMG in Amsterdam? It’s a great opportunity to learn about our work :-)