Only One Earth

Fri, 02 Sep 2011
We are only ten months away from possibly the most important conference on sustainable development this decade.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will take place on the 4th to the 6th of June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro and will focus on the two themes of the green economy in the context of poverty eradication, and creating an institutional framework for sustainable development.

It will occur twenty years after the first Rio Conference which agreed on Agenda 21. Seen by some as the blueprint for the 21st century, it helped set up the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention of Biological Diversity and the Rio Declaration, a set of 27 principles to guide our work on sustainable development.

The problems the world now faces have been on the international agenda for decades and have been underlined by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) GEO4 Report, the IPCC Report, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the planetary boundaries work.

Indeed, if governments had implemented the many conventions, treaties and declarations they have negotiated from Stockholm in 1972 via Rio to Kyoto to Johannesburg, we would be well along the road to sustainability.

Rio+20 will need to provide much-needed new momentum, on environment and sustainable development.

There have been so many broken promises, this has to stop!

We face huge challenges on a number of fronts. I want to highlight five:
  1. Human societies are living beyond the carrying capacity of the planet
  2. Climate change has emerged as an out-of-control driver
  3. There is now becoming an increasing link between environment and security
  4. Governments have still not given the UN the mandate, the resources or the institutional capacities required to monitor and enforce international agreements.
  5. The current consumption economic model, which has brought unprecedented prosperity to the more developed countries, has only deepened the disparity between them and most developing countries.

The parallels of the ecological problems with the financial crisis are clear. The banks and financial institutions privatized the gains and socialized the losses.

We are doing the same with the planet's natural capital.

Our present lifestyles are drawing down the ecological capital from other parts of the world and from future generations. We are increasingly becoming the most irresponsible generation our planet has seen.

The principal goal of our economy should be to improve the lives of the entire world's people and to free them from want and ignorance - without compromising the planet itself.

This weekend the UN DPI NGO conference: "Sustainable Societies - Responsive Citizens" will invite over 2000 stakeholders from around the world to Bonn, in Germany, to come forward with recommendations for the Rio process, and the role that volunteers play in delivering sustainable development.
10 monhs away from the most important sustainable development conference in a decade. Are we ready?
It will suggest a set of new sustainable development goals for the green economy. This will include ones on energy, climate change, sustainable consumption and production, food security, water, urbanisation, forestry and the blue economy.

It will come forward with suggestions on how to reform our institutions at all levels to address the challenges we face.  
This would include support for the creation of a Sustainable Development Council of the UN General Assembly - to address new and emerging issues and their inter-linkages - issues such as energy security, water security, food security, climate security.

Some stakeholders are backing the call for a World Environmental Organization to bring together the Multilateral Environmental Agreements into a coherent and strong new body.

Stakeholders are also calling for three conventions:
  1. Regional conventions around Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration: "Access to Information, Public Participation and Environmental Justice" - in Europe we call that the Aarhus Convention
  2. An Environment Corporate Accountability and Responsibility Convention
  3. A "New Technologies Convention" to deal with things such as nano technology and some of the crazy ideas in mitigating climate change

Rio must underline that the foundation for a green economy and a strong institutional framework for sustainable development is people. People are consumers, activists, volunteers, and (responsive) citizens. People who are actively engaged in their communities and societies will ensure action to effectively tackle pressing sustainable development issues.

Felix Dodds is Chair of the UN Department for Public Information (DPI) 64th Conference: "Sustainable Societies - Responsive Citizens" and Executive Director of the Stakeholder Forum.

All views expressed within this article are those of the writer and not of the BBC.

posted by Felix Dodds


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