Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rio + 20: UNEP's Angela Cropper urges leaders to 'Seize the Moment'

By Angela Cropper

Angela Cropper, Former Deputy Executive Director, now Special Advisor to the Executive Director, UNEP views the Rio+20 Conference as a golden opportunity for political leadership, given the dire, urgent and complex economic, social and environmental issues that confront the world. The requirement for such leadership and commitment on macro sustainable development issues is more pressing than the need for long lists of sectoral ‘to dos’, which mostly already exist on paper as outcomes of global summits and sectoral processes.

She notes that we know what needs to be done, adding that we need to examine why implementation lags so far behind such resolutions of mind and what would enable this Conference to elevate its ambition and make good use of the opportunity before it. How might it remove some of the impediments to sustainable development? What kind of outcomes would position the world to deal with some of the urgent, if complex, problems it faces?

Angella makes 10 proposals, 4 of which are reproduced here:

Shape the approach to economic growth to serve social objectives and recognize environmental limits and imperatives.

The Conference will meet at a propitious moment, as the world now much better understands the issues of sustainable development and how the economy, the environment and human well-being are inter-related and mutually supportive. But this understanding is not put into practice: environmental imperatives and human well-being objectives are invariably traded off as optional and secondary to economic growth. This impedes sustainable development which unifies economic, social and environmental objectives — as opposed to adding on environmental and social considerations only where the economic bottom line remains unaffected.

The Conference could set this relationship properly on its feet, putting economic growth at the service of the social objectives which governments have long enunciated over time and recognising and respecting resource and environmental constraints. This will require qualitatively different attention to decisions about policy, investment, and other development interventions, so that environmental and human wellbeing outcomes are not sacrificed in the preoccupation with, and pursuit of, economic growth.

Commit to transforming land management and food production and consumption systems to ensure national and global food security.

This is essential for many reasons: avoiding a new wave of converting forests and wetlands in response to the pressures for world food security; ensuring that existing agricultural land is used sustainably; addressing the multiple pressures that lead to processes of land degradation and desertification; and addressing the needs of the estimated two billion people who subsist in threatened ecological systems and are at the bottom of the human well-being ladder. The Conference could commit to increased investment in alleviating such processes and to the national policies and actions required.

Help Least Developed Countries onto a ‘fast runway’ for Sustainable Development.

The Conference could take global leadership on behalf of the world’s 48 most disadvantaged countries, and set the stage for a transformative moment in the Global Partnership for Development. It could decide on global affirmative action to help them overcome impediments over domestic investible resources, access to modern technologies on affordable terms, and technical capacity for designing accelerated economic transformation and the institutional framework of policies, legislation, regulation, fiscal measures that will be required. This would also include establishing and harmonizing a public/private investment and financing platform.

Commit to an energy compact to expand access, efficiency, and investment in renewables.

The Conference could catalyze a new global energy mix by relating energy demand (access, saving and efficiency) and supply (including incentive policies, subsidies, investments and the deployment of renewable energy sources). This could be an important lever for simultaneously addressing economic, social and environmental aspirations in the context of climate change targets and sustainable development.


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