Humankind depends on the natural environment, yet many of our activities are rapidly consuming our resources at an unsustainable – and globally unequal – rate. The Converge Project (CONVERGE 2009 – 2013) was funded by the European Commission to ‘re-think globalisation in light of planetary limits‘ – in other words, can we create the world where everyone gets their fair share of the earth’s resources while, simultaneously, protecting the environment?
An interdisciplinary project, it brought together nine partners from industrialised nations (UK, Sweden and Iceland), transition economies (Hungary) and rapidly industrialising nations (India). The research was inspired by the Global Commons Institute’s concept of Contraction and ConvergenceTM (C&C, Meyer 2002). This framework outlines a process through which we can avoid dangerous climate change by stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases while promoting global social equity. C&C proposes that every person has a right to emit an equal per-capita share of carbon. This would mean that industrialised nations would, overall, reduce their emissions, while levels in developing countries would increase as they continue to develop their quality of life.
The Converge Project extended this principle beyond greenhouse gas emissions to account for factors like natural resources, energy, governance, trade and human well-being. Recognising the relationships between social and environmental issues, we view convergence as a visionary concept that needs to part of the pathway to global sustainability.
It’s vital to note that Convergence is not about creating one homogenous culture; it promotes diversity while advocating universal concepts of human rights.
- To explore and develop the concept of Convergence across social, economic and ecological systems in the context of globalisation
- To test Convergence as a framework for holistic sustainability indicators
- To evaluate how EU and other policies and agreements conflict with or support processes of Convergence, testing the Convergence frame with policy communities and stakeholders
- To investigate how different methods of community engagement can contribute towards building sustainable communities in the North and South, testing the Convergence frame with local stakeholders
- To identify processes of real-world Convergence through case studies
- To draw upon our wide range of academic disciplines and real-world experience to analyse the results of objectives 1 to 5, and synthesise new understandings into a multi-scale conceptual framework
- To recommend how to integrate Convergence into the internal and external policies of the EU
- To communicate and disseminate the findings of CONVERGE to different end-users through a range of media.
The framework that emerged from the project – the movement towards a fair share for all within planetary boundaries – was called ‘convergent globalisation.’ It is supported by sustainability science and is grounded in an ethic acceptable to progressive social movements, developed and developing nations, and across different global belief systems.
The Converge project addressed all its objectives and produced a set of tools and resources that can support or create processes of convergence, assist policy makers, and indicate further developments with stakeholders that seem particularly promising. Over the course of the project we have:
- Demonstrated transdisciplinary approaches to synthesis bringing the project outputs into close relationship and providing thematic synthesis from different perspectives
- Indicated the opportunities for knowledge transfer and development to different stakeholder groups
- Deepened our understanding of the processes of convergence, including opportunities to create new or supporting processes of convergence
- Identified gaps in current policy, which limits or prevents the occurrence of convergence
- Developed methodologies for engaging communities in convergence
- Learnt many lessons from case studies that looked for convergence thinking
- Produced interdisciplinary, multi stakeholder critique to support convergence concepts
- Written recommendations for convergence, these were made to the EU and national and global governance – but also relevant for social movements.