Saturday, January 28, 2012

Third World Network calls for clearer ‘green economy’ principles that reflect the submission of developing countries in final Rio + 20 text

Adapted from the preliminary comments of TWN on the zero draft of the outcome document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

The zero draft of the outcome document for the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) is clearly an attempt by the Secretariat to produce a document that can be widely accepted in time for adoption in June, with the hope that its generality will not give rise to difficult intergovernmental negotiations. The desire of the UN and some governments, including Brazil as host country, to attract heads of States and Governments to attend the Conference is a driving factor and the draft is premised upon the Rio+20 conference being at a Summit level as seen in para. 1. The actual time allocated for negotiations of the document is very limited, compared to the 1992 Rio Summit and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development that produced the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. Thus what is presented in the zero draft looks like a compromise text that tries to please everyone with something of concern to them.

The main outcomes of the internationally agreed sustainable development agenda under the UN auspices are reaffirmed throughout the document but the implementation aspect of the zero draft is weak. This is disappointing since the failure of implementation is clearly evidenced by the multiple crises facing the world as we head towards Rio+20. The outcome of the 2009 UN conference on the impacts of the financial and economic crisis on development is surprisingly absent from the zero draft.

In view of the positions and proposals submitted and articulated by the groupings of countries in the preparatory process so far, the overall thrust of the zero draft favours an outcome along the lines of the Green Economy Roadmap of the European Union (with some caveats regarding what the GE should not be in para. 31) and the Sustainable Development Goals proposal of Colombia/Guatemala (paras. 105-110).

Section III on “Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication” attempts to capture the unresolved debate on the topic that has dominated the Rio+20 preparatory process so far. Para. 31 is designed to allay the repeated concerns of developing countries but this section essentially promotes the European Union’s proposal and roadmap.

The zero draft suffers from the same lack of common understanding of a “green economy” that is characteristic of the inter-governmental debate so far. Para. 26 views “a green economy as a means to achieve sustainable development, which must remain our overarching goal” (emphasis added). Para. 27 states that “green economy is not intended as a rigid set of rules but rather as a decision-making framework to foster integrated consideration of the three pillars of sustainable development in all relevant domains of public and private decision-making.” Then para. 30 states that “a transition to a green economy will require structural adjustments which may involve additional costs to their economies” while para. 30 refers to “transformation to a green economy” and para.32 acknowledge that “countries are still in the early stages of building green economies” with para. 42 setting out the types of support needed “to make significant progress towards building green economies” (emphases added). All these imply that green economy is a goal and this is reinforced by the detailed actions proposed in section III. As discussed above, it is unclear how the detailed proposals in this section interface with the Sustainable Development Goals proposals. Given the uncertain and possibly far-reaching implications of these proposals any follow-up if agreed to must be driven by Member States through the General Assembly and not be left to the Secretary-General as proposed in paras. 33 and 43.

A clearer set of principles of green economy in the context of SD and poverty eradication is needed and the list of what it is not should be more comprehensive along the lines of the submission of developing countries.


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