News flash (as if needed!): the world has issues with power. Dictatorial power undermines human rights on all continents; emergency powers occasionally achieve the same in democracies. Air power kills innocent women, men, and children in more conflict zones than we dare count. Corporate power ravages ecosystems and livelihoods. People power (so far) unsuccessfully calls to end hostilities against civilians in Gaza. Flower power is, alternatively, a distant memory or a tongue-in-cheek reference to the pesticide-intense, export-oriented cut flower industry in Latin America and elsewhere.

Power is frequently associated with energy, but the link cannot quite put us at ease. To be sure, when electricity, an important form of energy, first appeared in non-technical writing in the 18th century, it was identified as a source of life. Popular science accounts, of male and female poles, for example, frequently veered into the sleazy.

A century later, electricity had become associated with death and evil. The installation of poles connecting networks of wires, necessitated by the introduction of the telegraph, drove widespread public fear of this invisible force. Serving from 1889 to 1893, US President Benjamin Harrison allegedly instructed White House staff to turn lights on and off because he was afraid of getting electrocuted. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came to life after being hit by an electrical shock from lighting. As I write these lines, Russia is bombing Ukraine’s electricity infrastructure. Several US states still reserve the electric chair as an option for execution.

Electricity as a form of energy is now ubiquitous, but it retains its ambivalent character. Policymakers point to electrification as a corollary to ridding the planet of fossil fuel energy, conjuring up a world of electric cars, trucks, ships, and planes, electric heating, electric everything. Power up solar panels, wind turbines, hydroelectric generators; power down coal- or gas-fired power plants (but what to do with nuclear reactors?). The buzz of more powerful and less mineral-hungry batteries is as energizing as that of peak oil, large-scale carbon capture and storage, and the hydrogen economy.

Whether 2023 is regarded a good or bad year from an energy perspective is largely in the eye of the beholder. The International Energy Agency (IEA) sounds upbeat. According to its World Energy Investment Report 2023, recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and measures to address the global energy crisis are showing positive results. The Report suggests that annual clean energy investment rose by 25 per cent since 2021. That’s impressive, but fossil fuel investments also increased by 15 per cent or USD 1 trillion. End use investment in energy efficiency should triple by 2030 to reach the 1.5-degree target. Sadly, it declined between 2022 and 2023. The term sufficiency does not appear once in the 181-page IEA report.

What to do? As a long-time follower or recent partisan of Zoï Environment Network’s work, you will be well aware of what’s at stake. You have come to discover new or tested solutions to environmental challenges suffused with shades of energy and power. The question must now be what not to do, individually and above all collectively. If power captures how fast energy is used or transmitted, powering down might be a good idea.

Jörg Balsiger,
President of the Zoï Board

Financial statement

Stories in 2023 – 1

Seizing the opportunities for cross-benefits

Text: Alex Mackey

Zoï works on Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) on mercury, climate change, biodiversity, and access to information to name a few. As crucial tools for making environmental progress, MEAs at times provide the legal framework needed to push countries to meet their commitments, whether through preventing the illegal trade of endangered species or reporting illegal dumping of hazardous waste across borders. Zoï makes these conventions and treaties easier for stakeholders to understand. As the understanding of these topics has deepened over the years, the global environmental community has come to appreciate the extensive synergies among them. 

The signing of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) – a new set of goals for the Convention on Biological Diversity – sparked excitement throughout the MEA world. Reports, articles, and COP decisions highlighted the overlaps between the new framework and existing MEAs. No doubt hoping to build on the momentum surrounding the biodiversity goals, MEA secretariats looked for ways to capture some of that renewed energy. A Zoï infographic that highlights mercury’s impacts on biodiversity and aligns the SDG taxonomy with the GBF is part of this effort.

If the SDGs have taught us anything, it’s that there are always trade-offs, and countries will prioritize certain goals or sectors over others depending on a mixture of local needs, economic benefits, and political motivations. We also know that working in silos is ineffective, and that our approach needs to contemplate the cross-benefits of considering related conventions, gender perspectives, Indigenous knowledge, and the associated risks. The MEAs embrace this idea, and are holding dialogues and pursuing collaborative opportunities to align their priorities. Zoï will be around to help make these connections clear and to provide access to better information for the environmental community.

Diagram: Maria Libert

Stories in 2023 – 2

Energizing responsibility
along value chains

Zoï has a new old topic: responsible consumption and production. We have added a renewed focus on the efficient use of resources, sustainable ways of doing business and change in lifestyle as a highly relevant Zoï thematic area. We don’t recycle, we rethink and further develop a thematic area of high relevance.

The transition to renewable energy relies heavily on minerals such as copper and lithium, and calls for responsible mining more than ever. The increasing world demand for building and construction materials calls for low-carbon and sustainable alternatives. And we still waste too much of the material we extract, produce and use.

Responsible consumption and production demand that both consumers and manufacturers respect the planet's natural limits and consider environmental and social issues along the entire supply chain of products and services. This requires both effective communication and policy advocacy that fosters collaboration among stakeholders.

Zoï has worked on green procurement, ecolabels, sustainable mining, slow fashion, the circular economy model, and options for building materials. We analyse, communicate and foster dialogue on a wide variety of instruments, policies, and processes with stakeholders in these areas while always bearing in mind the consumers’ and manufacturers’ perspectives.

At Zoï, we are committed to operating in a resource-efficient and socially and environmentally responsible manner. We continuously reflect on our responsibility along the value chain of our products and services, while putting in additional effort to improve ourselves.

Text: Johanna Zwahlen

Illustration & graphic: Carolyne Daniel

Stories in 2023 – 3

Conflict zones

By mid-2023, the war in Ukraine had lost its momentum and turned into something not seen before: a WWI-like trench warfare powered by star-wars drones and cyber technology. For protracted periods of time, vast areas of Ukraine were cut by nearly immobile front lines and heavy fortifications, while the country’s infrastructure got destroyed and the people were gradually losing their fertile land and rich nature.  

Throughout the year, Zoï and partners monitored the environmental situation in Ukraine and kept it in the spotlight. With the OSCE and CEOBS, we prepared a comprehensive assessment of the environmental damage from the first twelve months of the war. We also contributed to the work of the High-Level Working Group set up to create an Environmental Compact with recommendations for how to assess and repair the war damage. 

In the wake of the Israeli response to the incursion from Gaza into Israel on 7 October, we quickly became aware how fragile the situation in the Middle East is. We maintain our cooperation with Palestine on Chemicals and Waste management, because we believe working on environmental causes can contribute to peace building. 

And while Afghanistan has for good reasons remained a persona non grata of international diplomacy, we have maintained our contacts with its professional community and focused on the larger Central Asia neighbourhood. Of particular importance are new energy and water projects feeding Afghanistan’s developing economy, such as the Qosh Tepa Canal being built to divert highly contested water from the Amu Darya River.

Text: Nickolai Denisov & Otto Simonett

Illustration: Maria Libert
Map: Matthias Beilstein

Stories in 2023 – 4

Zoï and the CoPs

Zoï is an observer and regular participant at the Conferences of the Parties (CoPs) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and at the conventions on biodiversity, waste and chemicals, water, environmental information, industrial safety and others. Back in 2001, when proto-Zoïs participated in the climate CoP-7 there were about 4 000 delegates and after 10 days many delegates recognized each other. 

In 2009, the year Zoi was founded, the UNFCCC reported a, for the time, record number of participants at the CoP-15 in Copenhagen. 25 000 delegates made their way to Denmark. Zoï organized a major side event on Central Asia to launch a visual atlas and Zoïtopia – a newspaper produced as part of our creative thinking experiments. Dubai hosted COP-28 in 2023, and the number of participants grew to about 100 000 - an overflow of people, information, topics and events. Zoï showcased highlights from the Adaptation at Altitude climate solutions portal, and advocated for the inclusion of mountains in climate change negotiations and processes.

In early 2024 Zoï attended a Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. This first such global environmental meeting hosted in Central Asia counted 2 000 delegates. There was lots of energy, warm Uzbek hospitality and a strong focus on biodiversity safeguards, and conservation of the key biodiversity areas and eco-corridors. Zoï was happy to network with NGOs and our CEPF partners, and was privileged to participate in the launch of Uzbekistan's State of the Environment report.

Baku, Azerbaijan, will host CoP-29 in 2024. For the first time it a CoP will be held, in one of our core regions – the Caucasus. We are looking forward to participating and wish the host country and the UNFCCC Secretariat all the non-fossil fuel energy needed for a successful outcome.

Text: Viktor Novikov

Illustration: Maria Libert

Stories in 2023 – 5

At an impasse:
Renewable energy in
the mountains  

The evidence that climate change happens faster and with more negative impacts in the mountains than in the flatlands is overwhelming. Sensitive ecosystems are at risk. Worldwide more than 2 billion people are directly affected, and whatever happens in the mountains has downstream or even global effects.

The goal of the Adaptation at Altitude programme is to identify and promote adaptation strategies and solutions for the mountain regions of the world. Finding financing for adaptation in these remote and sometimes  impoverished areas is difficult, and renewable energy projects that support livelihoods in the mountains and contribute to combating climate change thus, would seem to be ideal solutions. But recent experience in Switzerland has shown that what seems to be a win-win proposition may not always be so straightforward.  

In democratic processes, Swiss communities have rejected large-scale solar schemes, partially on environmental grounds. The concern is that large solar, wind, and hydroelectrical power schemes could lead to irreversible environmental damage, and that the environmental costs outweigh the economic benefits. In addition, the extent to which local populations might actually benefit from investments in renewable energy in their backyards is unclear. 

The lesson we at Zoï take away from this situation is that, in itself, the threat of climate change is an insufficient basis for taking action. Adaptation and mitigation solutions need to be acceptable to the stakeholders affected, in particular, the local communities. Or, as a recent event in the Geneva discussion series on rights and the environment put it: No Nature-based Solutions Without a Human Rights-based Approach. 

Text: Otto Simonett

Illustration: Maria Libert
Photo: Department of Science and Technology, Government of Sikkim.

Stories in 2023 – 6

Leveraging AI
for creative purposes  

The rise of artificial intelligence has nudged Zoï, which is known for its innovative and modern visuals, into facing the question of whether or not to embrace this evolution. As a first step, we have adopted recent advancements in creative software and visual technology. Is the ethical use of such technology feasible, especially given our advocacy for craftsmanship and for traditional creative professions such as photography and illustration? As a graphic designer, I believe that we may be able to incorporate AI into our work without abandoning our commitment to these traditional arts, and I advocate for leveraging these technological advancements while maintaining the integrity of our craft. 

The integration of artificial intelligence into creative fields such as photography, illustration, and graphic design has fundamentally transformed how professionals operate. Advanced algorithms now generate complex visual concepts and automate numerous routine tasks, such as retouching images. This automation grants artists and other creators the freedom to focus more on the creative process itself, exploring new ideas and experimenting with innovative techniques without too much technical constraints. 

Nevertheless, generative AI can reveal itself as racially and socially prejudiced, anachronistic, and conservative, and can struggle with object superimposition, hands, text, and numbers. Image creators need to use AI judiciously, be precise in their requests, and understand its algorithmic behaviour. However, the challenge with AI image software lies in the struggle to accurately distinguish between authentic representations of reality and deceptive, fabricated photos, raising concerns about the potential for misinformation and manipulation in digital imagery. Consequently, we must invest more time, energy, and resources in scrutinizing and rectifying biases in order to produce high-quality work.

The creative process starts with human ideas, and we must continue to prioritize hard work and human creativity, while recognizing that AI serves as a powerful tool to augment, rather than replace, our creative efforts.   

Text: Carolyne Daniel

Illustration: Carolyne Daniel
This image was generated using artificial intelligence.




Alex Mackey – Project management and analysis – Geneva

Alexandra Povarich – Graphic design, climate and biodiversity – Taskhent

Carolyne Daniel – Print and digital design, artistic direction – Geneva

Defne Salli – Analysis and communication internship  – Geneva

Dmytro Averin – War impact analysis and data management – Irpin

Emmanuelle Bournay – Cartography and statistical analysis – Crest

Firuza Illarionova – Field and policy support Central Asia – Nicosia, Dushanbe

Geoff Hughes – Policy analysis, writing and editing – Port Townsend

Johanna.Zwahlen – Project management and analysis – Geneva

Karma Denisov
– Webmaster and social media – Himalayas

Lauren Sinopoli  
– Analyis and communication summer internship – Geneva

Lesya.Nikolayeva – Project management and communication greater Europe – Geneva

Maria Libert – Illustrations and graphic design – Stockholm

Marianne Gémin – Finance and administration – Geneva

Matthias Beilstein – Cartography – Schaffhausen

Mayra Salazar Volkmann – Project management and communication internship – Geneva

Nickolai Denisov, Deputy director – Environment and conflict  – Geneva

Otto Simonett, Director – Creative thinking and leadership – Geneva

Rebecca Jiménez – Project management and communication – Geneva

Viktor Novikov – Project development and management Central Asia – Geneva

Board members


Jörg Balsiger, President – Professor, Environmental Governance and Territorial Development, Université de Genève – Geneva

Yvan Rochat – Secrétaire général, Commune de Genthod – Geneva

Karen Landmark – Director, GRID-Arendal – Arendal



Aigerim Abdyzhaparova – BRI, climate, ecosystems – Moscow

Aleh Cherp – Sustainability and energy – Lund

Alex Kirby – Environmental journalism – Lewes

Alexandra Sternin – Graphic design – Konstanz

Amangul Ovezberdyyeva – Climate change and biodiversity – Ashgabat

Anvar Homidov – Climate change, environment and hydrology – Dushanbe

Carolyn Drake – Photographer – Vallejo

Dasha Mokhnacheva – Climate migration, disaster risk reduction – Incheon

Denis Sorokin – Water and communication – Tashkent

Doug Weir – Conflict and environment – Hebden Bridge

Eoghan Darbyshire – Conflict and remote sensing – Hebden Bridge

Eric Nanchen – Sustainable mountain development – Sion

Ecaterina Melnicenco – Climate and DRR – Chisinau

Elena Kreuzberg – Ecosystems – Ottawa

Florian Wüstholz – Journalism – Bern

Gamal Soronkulov – Local development – Chatkal

Hasan Abdel Fattah – Chemicals and waste – Nablus

Hermine Cooreman – Web development – Ghent

Hongqiao Liu – Environmental safeguards China – Paris

Irina Bekmirzaeva – Climate change – Almaty

Isacco Chiaf – Interactive design – Rome

Iskander Beglov – Water and communication – Tashkent

Jalil Abuduwaili – Geography and ecosystems – Urumqi

John Bennett – Environmental journalism – New York

John Cole-Baker – Mining – Trient

Joel Rabjins – Animations – Ghent

Julia Rende – Graphic design – Stockholm

Kanybek Isabaev – Environmental information – Osh

Katy Ayres – Legal analysis – Strathblane

Liesbeth Eeckman – Animations – Ghent

Lusine Taslakyan – Environmental information – Yerevan

Mamuka Gvilava – Environmental impact assessment – Tbilisi

Mamuka Khurtsidze – GIS entrepreneur – Tbilisi

Mazin Qumsiyeh – Biodiversity and sustainability – Bethlehem

Marina Denisova – Copy-editing – Lancy

Mikko Halonen – Environment and mining – Helsinki

Mila Teshaieva – Photography – Berlin

Mohammad Hassouna – Environmental engineer – Marseille

Mohammad Najajrah – Entomology – Bethlehem

Myriam Steinemann – Climate change – Zürich

Oleg Lystopad – Media and communication – Kyiv

Pavlo Bystrov – IT and data management – Kyiv

Oli Brown – Security and environment – Samoëns

Oxana Huliayeva – Water ecology and hydropower – Kyiv

Penny Langhammer – Key biodiversity areas – Portland

Peter Speelman – Legal analysis – Geneva

Rasul Ryskulov – Animations – Bishkek

Robert Bartram – Editing, writing – Geneva

Roman Kashkarov – Biodiversity – Tashkent

Ruslan Valitov – Cartoonist – Bishkek

Samual Gardaz – Red Sea corals – Geneva

Sergiy Zibtsev – Wildfire mapping and research – Kyiv

Sophie Thirion – Chemicals and waste – Geneva

Stefan Ruchti – Cryosphere – Laupen

Stefan Schwager – Climate finance – Gümligen

Stephen Graham – Copy-editing and storytelling – Berlin

Susanna de Panfilis – Physics – Geneva

Svein Tveitdal – Climate change activist – Froland

Talaibek Makeyev – Climate change and water – Bishkek

Tamar Bakuradze – Environmental information – Tbilisi

Tamara Mitrofanenko – Intergenerational learning – Vienna

Vafadar Ismaiyilov – Environmental information – Baku

Vahagn Tonoyan – Water management – Yerevan

Valentina Grigoryan – Climate services – Yerevan

Vicken Cheterian – Research and journalism – Geneva

Vera Mustafina – Waste management – Almaty

Yaroslav Tartykov – Graphic design – Bishkek

Yusup Kamalov – Local development – Nukus

Zurab Jincharadze – Caucasus environment – Tbilisi


Zoï partners



Consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and accredited with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Member of the Swiss NGO DRR Platform, NDC Partnership, BRI International Green Development Coalition (BRIGC) and Associated Programme of Flood Management (APFM) of the World Meteorological Organization and the Global Water Partnership. We are also a partner of the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP)—Barcelona Convention of the UN Environment Programme.


Zoï 2023

Zoï Environment Network consists of over a dozen staff and consultants with expertise in geography, environmental science, engineering, cartography, design, copywriting and filmmaking. We work with an extensive network of local experts and recurring contributors whom we engage according to project-specific needs.

This year, our annual Zoï  retreat took place at Domaine de la Ruisselière in the Beaujolais region of France.