Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Future We Want

By Ban Ki-Moon, The New York Times, May 23, 2012

Twenty years ago, there was the Earth Summit. Gathering in Rio de Janiero, world leaders agreed on an ambitious blueprint for a more secure future. They sought to balance the imperatives of robust economic growth and the needs of a growing population against the ecological necessity to conserve our planet’s most precious resources — land, air and water. And they agreed that the only way to do this was to break with the old economic model and invent a new one. They called it sustainable development.

Two decades later, we are back to the future. The challenges facing humanity today are much the same as then, only larger. Slowly, we have come to realize that we have entered a new era. Some even call it a new geological epoch, where human activity is fundamentally altering the Earth’s dynamics.

Global economic growth per capita has combined with a world population (passing 7 billion last year) to put unprecedented stress on fragile ecosystems. We recognize that we can not continue to burn and consume our way to prosperity. Yet we have not embraced the obvious solution — the only possible solution, now as it was 20 years ago: sustainable development.

Fortunately, we have a second chance to act. In less than a month, world leaders will gather again in Rio — this time for the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20. And once again, Rio offers a generational opportunity to hit the reset button: to set a new course toward a future that balances the economic, social and environmental dimensions of prosperity and human well-being.

More than 130 heads of state and government will be there, joined by an estimated 50,000 business leaders, mayors, activists and investors — a global coalition for change. But success is not guaranteed. To secure our world for future generations — and these are indeed the stakes — we need the partnership and full engagement of global leaders, from rich nations and poor, small countries and large. Their overarching challenge: to galvanize global support for a transformative agenda for change — to set in motion a conceptual revolution in how we think about creating dynamic yet sustainable growth for the 21st century and beyond.

This agenda is for national leaders to decide, in line with the aspirations of their people. If I were to offer advice as U.N. secretary general, it would be to focus on three “clusters” of outcomes that will mark Rio+20 as the watershed that it should be.

First, Rio+20 should inspire new thinking — and action. Clearly, the old economic model is breaking down. In too many places, growth has stalled. Jobs are lagging. Gaps are growing between rich and poor, and we see alarming scarcities of food, fuel and the natural resources on which civilization depends.

At Rio, negotiators will seek to build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals, which have helped lift millions out of poverty. A new emphasis on sustainability can offer what economists call a “triple bottom line” — job-rich economic growth coupled with environmental protection and social inclusion.

Second, Rio+20 should be about people — a people’s summit that offers concrete hope for real improvements in daily lives. Options before the negotiators include declaring a “zero hunger” future — zero stunting of children for lack of adequate nutrition, zero waste of food and agricultural inputs in societies where people do not get enough to eat.

Rio+20 should also give voice to those we hear from least often: women and young people. Women hold up half the sky; they deserve equal standing in society. We should empower them, as engines of economic dynamism and social development. And young people — the very face of our future: are we creating opportunities for them, nearly 80 million of whom will be entering the workforce every year?

Third, Rio+20 should issue a clarion call to action: waste not. Mother Earth has been kind to us. Let humanity reciprocate by respecting her natural boundaries. At Rio, governments should call for smarter use of resources. Our oceans must be protected. So must our water, air and forests. Our cities must be made more liveable — places we inhabit in greater harmony with nature.

At Rio+20, I will call on governments, business and other coalitions to advance on my own Sustainable Energy for All initiative. The goal: universal access to sustainable energy, a doubling of energy efficiency and a doubling of the use of renewable sources of energy by 2030.

Because so many of today’s challenges are global, they demand a global response — collective power exercised in powerful partnership. Now is not the moment for narrow squabbling. This is a moment for world leaders and their people to unite in common purpose around a shared vision of our common future — the future we want.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why we need Sustainable Development Goals

By ourfutureplanet, May 28, 2012

Rio+20 must launch SDGs to guide countries through complex development challenges, argues Colombian ministry official Paula Caballero Gómez.

Despite countries' growing commitment to alternative energy and more efficient use of resources, twenty years after the Earth Summit sustainable development is still seen by many as an idea rooted in environmental concerns.

This creates a fundamental disconnect between proponents of sustainability and those who, leaving environmental concerns aside, claim that commitment to human wellbeing and poverty eradication demand exclusively socioeconomic responses.

The proposals for adopting a suite of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — potentially a key outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) next month (20–22 June) — can address this disconnect by articulating complex development challenges.

SDGs are about metrics, which have proven their importance as drivers of public policy in addressing critical issues such as rural sanitation and child mortality — look at the impact of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), or ecosystem valuations. If properly developed and designed, SDGs will doubtless play a similarly key role in driving sustainability.

But the value of SDGs doesn't end there. One of their most crucial contributions will be to clarify how the three dimensions of sustainable development — economic, environmental and social — depend on each other.

Interrelated challenges

Colombia is promoting SDGs together with Peru and the United Arab Emirates. But these governments do not have their own list of priority SDGs. A preliminary set of core issues has been drafted based on extensive international consultation and recommendations from many sources.

Proposed global goals around which SDG targets, indicators and implementation methods could be focused:

-Food security: production, access and nutrition
-Integrated water management
-Energy for sustainable development
-Sustainable and resilient cities
-Healthy and productive oceans
-Enhanced capacity of natural systems
-Improved efficiency and sustainability in resource use
-Enhanced employment and livelihood security

Colombia's vision of the SDGs is based on the fact that economic growth, environmental protection and social welfare are deeply interrelated.

Take global food security, for example: it is about far more than merely reducing hunger, which is one of the main targets of MDG 1. Achieving it will demand a long-term strategy that incorporates issues as diverse as biofuels, commodity prices, crop genetic diversity, desertification, and safeguards for traditional livelihoods, to name a few.

Our societies and economies are not ready for the multidisciplinary approaches required to address the economic, environmental and social dimensions of food security. But a SDG could help forge the way by outlining tangible, key elements of sustainable and sustained food production.

The MDGs focused on the final result: ending hunger. SDGs would focus on the drivers that need to be tackled to achieve that final outcome.

The proposed SDG on water highlights the need for such an approach, as well as the difficulties of making the case for it. Targets on water are often labeled 'environmental', despite the fact that economic productivity and human wellbeing depend on it.

For example, irrigation is key to the production of most of the world's food, and sanitation is the cornerstone of health. But a surprisingly large number of people fail to see these simple connections. That ecosystems also need water, and that ecosystem services need protection, does not make water an environmental issue — rather, it highlights the interconnections of human and planetary health.

There are also inter-linkages between different SDGs. These are just as important as the more comprehensive perspective on a given issue that each SDG can provide.

For example, 20 per cent of animal protein worldwide comes from the oceans, so healthy oceans are a vital component of global food security. And millions of children die every year from acute respiratory infections and other diseases related to environmental hazards.

A tool for change

In a world where natural resource scarcity and populations are rising, and demands from the expanding middle classes are growing, policy decisions will involve difficult trade-offs. Governments need to identify 'no-regret options' that deliver benefits across a range of sectors or issues.

SDGs can help decision-makers do this. They can point to both constraints and opportunities for long-term planning and investment, and enable policymakers to justify their actions even if they entail higher costs than business as usual.

Rio+20 can, and should, play a decisive role in launching the SDGs as a key component of a global policy framework beyond 2015. The process will require expert guidance and input, but the selection of thematic areas is a political decision that should be made at Rio.

The development of each SDG requires quantitative, time-bound targets and a dashboard of descriptive indicators that countries can put into practice according to national circumstances — a one-size-fits-all approach would obscure specific priorities and needs.

SDG indicators will need to be tailored to different national capacities, institutional structures and mandates if they are to catalyse domestic efforts towards more integrated approaches to sustainability.

In 20 years, the world has changed at a pace few could have predicted. There are new geopolitical realities and pressures on natural systems that mean business as usual is no longer an option.

SDGs can be a tool to help ensure that policies guide change and manage resources in a way that keeps human development options open. That is not an environmental agenda, but it is one that factors in social and economic, as well as environmental concerns.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Will Rio+20 Spark a Green Revolution?

By Stephen Leahy, IPS News, May 25, 2012

Think of Rio+20 as the hothouse to grow the green ideas and values humanity needs to thrive in the 21st century.

No one is expecting, or even wants, a big new international treaty on sustainable development said Manish Bapna, interim president of the World Resources Institute, a global environmental think tank based in Washington, D.C.

"The important action will be on the sidelines of the formal negotiations," Bapna told IPS in an interview.

Blocs of countries, civil society organisations and representatives of business will meet, create coalitions and make commitments on specific issues and on regional concerns.

"There could be some exciting specific commitments coming out of Rio," Bapna said.

Perhaps the most important outcome from Rio+20 would be to put to rest the erroneous belief that protecting the environment comes at the cost of economic growth when it is in fact the opposite. Without a healthy, functioning environment, humanity loses the benefits of the environment's "free products": air, water, soil to grow food, stable climate and so on.

"One of the big hurdles to a sustainable future is that officials in many countries think they can't afford to move onto a more sustainable pathway," he said.

Bapna hopes Rio+20 will generate a "new narrative" - a wider understanding that there is no viable alternative to the transition to low-carbon, resource-efficient economies that alleviate poverty and create more jobs.

As many as 50,000 people are expected to participate in hundreds of events at the Rio+20 Earth Summit spanning two weeks in mid-June in Rio de Janeiro. More than 130 world leaders will attend, including Russia's Vladimir Putin as well as the prime ministers of India, Manmohan Singh, and China, Wen Jiabao.

U.S. President Obama has not confirmed his attendance at the 20th anniversary of world's first Earth Summit that gave birth to three major environmental treaties on climate change, biodiversity, and land degradation and desertification.

In just about every environmental category things have only become worse since 1992. However, a few countries like Germany understand the environmental and economic necessity of shifting onto a more sustainable path, Bapna said.

"Germany is making the single-most important effort in the world to fight climate change by de-carbonising their economy," he noted.

Germany is committed to double its energy and resource productivity by 2020, which will generate news jobs and enhance its competitiveness in a world with fewer and more expensive resources.

Consumption of fresh water, oil, copper and gold are on pace to triple by 2050, according to a 2001 U.N. report. Except there simply aren't enough resources left on the planet to manage that.

About 22 percent of Germany's energy comes from renewable sources and its goal is to reach 35 percent by 2020, and grow to 80 percent by 2050. Major efforts in improving energy efficiency have been the key in making this shift.

Rio+20 needs to engage people on the sidelines with a new "story" about the imperative to live sustainably with examples of how new markets and green jobs are being created, Bapna said.

The official Rio+20 negotiations are going so badly that an extra week of talks will be held next week. Those negotiations involve what's called the "zero draft". It is intended to be the roadmap for sustainable growth, often called the green economy, and will likely include a set of sustainable development goals.

However, like all U.N. agreements, every word requires unanimous approval by all nations, which is extremely challenging.

"We recognise that we can not continue to burn and consume our way to prosperity. Yet we have not embraced the obvious solution – the only possible solution, now as it was 20 years ago: sustainable development," said United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon in a statement Thursday.

Ban acknowledged the negotiations were "painfully slow" and personally pushed for the extra week of talks urging countries to look beyond their national interests.

"Rio offers a generational opportunity to hit the reset button: to set a new course toward a future that balances the economic, social and environmental dimensions of prosperity and human well-being," he said.

With less than 30 days left to the high-level segment, there is still "no agreed definition of what the green economy is," said Craig Hanson, director of the People and Ecosystems Program at World Resources Institute.

There is growing consensus about the need for green growth and development but people are uncertain what a green economy actually looks like. Germany offers an example with its clean energy efforts that have created 370,000 jobs, Hanson told IPS.

Niger's success in reversing desertification in the Sahel is another, he said.

Negotiations on how to get to greener economies have been a struggle with some countries putting their national interests ahead of what might be best for the planet and future generations he acknowledges.

Phasing out the hundreds of billions of dollars governments dole out in fossil fuel subsidies annually would be best for future generations but it is unclear what countries are prepared to do, said Bapna. "Will they reaffirm previous promises or make firm commitments at Rio? We just don't know."

The U.N.'s Sustainable Energy for All initiative has serious momentum and a bloc of countries could make firm financial commitments to help bring clean energy to world's poorest people, he added.

About 1.4 billion people have no access to electricity and 2.5 billion use traditional biomass for cooking, which has many health and environmental impacts. Bringing electricity to those without out would cost 30 to 40 billion dollars a year - a fraction of the amount spent on current fossil fuel subsidies.

The world has changed since 1992. Things are a lot less predictable. There is no overarching green vision uniting all countries.

"What we do know is this is the critical decade. The world needs short-term commitments to act," said Bapna. "Rio will be a pretty remarkable event.... We need confidence and hope to come out of Rio."


Monday, May 28, 2012

African Farmers' Livelihoods at Risk

By, May 28, 2012

Representatives of hundreds of thousands of African tobacco farmers will gather at the International Tobacco Growers Association Africa Regional Meeting from May 28 to 30 to discuss outrageous recommendations being developed by international regulators that would destroy their livelihoods.

Farmer leaders attending the meeting from Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe will focus on the recommendations provided by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) working group on Articles 17 & 18. The FCTC originally recommended that governments of these countries should help tobacco farmers find viable economic alternative crops, assuming that tobacco demand will decline.

Very little research on alternative, economically viable crops has been undertaken and as the group recognises, any future research will require lengthy time trials. However, the FCTC has now put forward unreasonable and absurd measures to phase out tobacco production, without offering the vast African farming community any viable fall-back solutions.

Antonio Abrunhosa, chief executive officer of the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA), which represents more than 30 million tobacco farmers and workers around the world, says an entire region's economy is being put at risk by this "new form of imperialism" by health officials with no experience in agriculture. "With nothing to show for their efforts to find alternatives to tobacco farming, they're moving toward telling governments to make it impossible for farmers to keep growing tobacco, regardless of the impact on millions of jobs."

Tobacco farming not only provides a good living for millions of people but it is a vital source of foreign revenue for many of these countries. In Malawi 7 out of 10 workers are either directly or indirectly employed by the sector and tobacco represents 80% of the country's agriculture GDP.

Francois van der Merwe, chairman of ITGA Africa Region said the decision makers within the FCTC have moved beyond their original intention of helping tobacco farmers find viable alternative crops. "This shift is happening with a complete disregard for the fact that tobacco is one of the only crops that provides sustainable income for many families in this region."

Jorge Nestor, the Argentinean President of ITGA, referred the vast experience of his association in the search for alternative crops, highlighting the huge investment necessary to develop complementary crops to tobacco, far beyond the possibilities of the majority of tobacco growers' communities.

The ITGA is a non-profit organization that works to advance the cause of millions of tobacco farmers to the world. It strives to provide a strong collective voice on an international and national scale in order to ensure the long-term security of tobacco farming communities.


Sustainable development is the only way forward

By Jonathan Glennie, The Guardian, May 21, 2012

Development co-operation needs to shift focus from poverty eradication to a broader, more inclusive framework

The term "sustainable development" emerged in the 1970s and 80s as awareness grew of the natural limits within which human development takes place. Despite near-universal recognition that it is a powerful unifying concept, bringing together social, economic and environmental factors, it has spent the 20 years since the first Rio Earth summit languishing in environment ministries.

But it now appears possible, even probable, that sustainable development will emerge as the main framework for development practice in the coming decades, replacing or rebalancing the poverty eradication focus of recent years. Instead of millennium development goals, we might have SDGs, or sustainable development goals.

What might such a transition to sustainable development mean for development co-operation? That was the subject of a recent paper I wrote for the UN's Development Co-operation Forum. Your thoughts would be welcome.

The most important change would be the involvement of rich countries as well as poor. Sustainable development tackles affluence and excess, not just poverty, and it is the high-income countries that most need to alter their resource use (with a gradually increasing burden of responsibility on middle-income countries, especially the largest ones). Financial transfers will therefore reduce in importance relative to other areas of action (such as trade and regulation). Aid agencies might develop new roles as whole-of-government enforcers of development policy coherence.

But finance will still play an important role. If extreme poverty declines significantly over the next 20 years, as economic growth continues in the south, the rationale for development co-operation under a poverty eradication paradigm might diminish. Yet the inclusion of other objectives under a sustainable development framework, such as greening growth and conservation of resources and ecosystems, could mean more funding to countries where the environmental impacts of growth are greatest. This would challenge the consensus that aid to middle-income countries should be reduced.

Physical science considerations such as geography and resource allocation will become more dominant in allocation calculations than they have been under the poverty eradication framework, which has relied predominantly on social scientific (economic and political) analysis.

Not all development finance needs to be transferred across borders. Technological advance, perhaps more than anything else, has led to rapid reductions in poverty. Investing more in public research could lead to technological solutions to poverty and sustainability problems becoming more rapidly and openly available.

The public justification for development co-operation will need to evolve. To engage the broad coalition of support required to maintain high levels of development co-operation, rich countries will have to appeal to mutual benefit, not just charity – an approach more in tune with shifting attitudes in poor countries tired of being seen only as recipients of largesse. Global sustainability could join global security as the basis of a frank appeal to national self-interest.

National governments may finally find a way to introduce international taxation. The beauty of taxing global public bads (like air travel, overfishing, oil exploration, currency speculation), and the reason it is so appropriate for a sustainable development framework, is that either a) the bad is diminished or b) the money raised can be spent on global public goods.

Some people say a focus on sustainable development will mean longer term horizons and objectives, but I disagree. Both sustainable development and poverty eradication are both long-term and urgent endeavours, requiring not only the gradual and substantial redirection of country policies, but rapid response to pressing problems. But it is true that politicians, who generally have short-term (four to six-year) mandates are better at making short-term decisions. Long-term global objectives will require decision making at a multilateral level, but the challenge is making such decisions legitimate and effective. One clue comes from the language of climate finance which emphasises entitlement rather than voluntarism. This sense of the historical responsibility of developed countries could be expanded to cover not just greenhouse gas emissions but also depletion of natural ecosystems and resources, transforming the balance of power between source and recipient of development finance.

Ideally, sustainable development could provide an overarching framework within which all sub-goals (eg poverty eradication, social equality, ecosystem maintenance, climate compatibility) are framed. Sustainable development is not a subset of development; it is development (in a modern world of resource limits). Environmental issues are not one factor among many (as in MDG7), but the meta-context within which poverty and other goals are sought.

And while we are at it, it may be time to redefine Official Development Assistance. The objectives of development co-operation (including climate finance) could be folded into a single definition such as: "the promotion of sustainable development, with particular concern for poverty eradication, equitable resource management, human rights, and global stability", rebranding it as sustainable development co-operation, or SDC.

A final point. There is a serious danger that poor countries may come under pressure to compromise on poverty reduction objectives for the sake of the planet – "green aid conditionalities" could emerge. It should be made explicit that the poorest countries should follow whatever path best brings them out of poverty, including engaging in dirty growth if that means eradicating poverty faster.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nations need food security goals

By Mark Kinver Environment reporter, BBC News, May 22, 2012

The biggest environmental summit for a decade must make meaningful progress on global food security and sustainable agriculture, say researchers.

CGIAR, the world's largest publicly funded research body, has published a seven-point "call to action" plan.

Ahead of the Rio gathering, scientists are calling for an improved commitment to deliver nutrition security and lessen the need to aid.

Agriculture is estimated to provide jobs for 40% of the world's population.

In its statement, CGIAR said: "Faced with environmental degradation, climate change... and a world population that is continuing to climb, it is critical for farm and natural resources management and policies to play a more central role in shaping the broader development and environmental agendas."

The organisations listed a seven-point "call to action" list, which they will present at the gathering in the Brazilian city, including:

- Improved partnerships to maximise the management of agriculture, aquaculture, forest and water resources;
- need to address unequal sharing of natural resources via better governance and dissemination of technology;
- support for a knowledge sharing system to improve production and minimise adverse impacts;
- adopting measures to restore degraded environments and ecosystems.

"One reason why it is necessary to push attention on to agriculture in Rio is because negotiations are going really slowly," explained CGIAR spokesman Bruce Campbell.

"We thought it was really important to put the focus on agriculture in Rio, and the 15 research organisations have come together in order to form a consortium and speak with one voice for the first time."

Dr Campbell added that the agencies were calling on the negotiators to reaffirm the role of science and technology.

"We are also looking for an improvement between the links between policy and science so then scientists are so much more linked into the processes that matter," he said.

The Rio+20 Conference, formally known as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), will take place in Brazil on 20-22 June 2012.

The summit marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which was also held in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Organisers say that the conference will focus on two themes: a green economy in the context of sustainable development poverty eradication; and the institutional framework for sustainable development.

Seven priority areas have also been identified, including: decent jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans and disaster readiness.

Heads of states from more than 100 nations are expected to attend the summit.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Biofuels goals 'may lead to food shortages'

By Bernard Appiah,, May 21, 2012

Parts of the developing world, particularly India and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, will suffer food shortages if their planned biofuels targets are implemented by 2020, a study has warned.

The study, which looked at 25 countries and geographical regions, including Latin American and the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States, found that the targets will also affect national wealth.

"Our results suggest that the impacts would be significant in developing countries like India and Sub-Saharan Africa," the researchers, based in Ethiopia, Italy and the United States, wrote in the May issue of Agricultural Economics.

"We find that an expansion of biofuel production to meet existing or higher targets would slightly reduce GDP [gross domestic product] at the global level but with mixed effects across countries or regions," they added.

More than 40 countries have made commitments to meet at least ten per cent of their transportation fuel needs with biofuel by 2020.

Using a simulation model for different economic factors, including type of feedstock, the researchers found that the expansion of biofuels would cause a moderate decrease in world food supply, and more significant decreases in certain developing countries.

Lead author Govinda R. Timilsina, a senior economist with the World Bank, told SciDev.Net that the impacts of biofuels depend on a country's economy, energy, and agricultural sectors.

"Countries that do not produce enough biofuel feedstock but have ambitious biofuel targets — such as India's 17 per cent mandate — would not benefit, because they would have to import most of the feedstock," he said.

Timilsina said unless unused fertile lands in developing countries are utilised, more farmers may convert food cropland into biofuel feedstock, which could lead to a decrease in food supply and high food prices.

But José Goldemberg of the Institute of Electrotechnic and Energy at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, told SciDev.Net that the study's findings are "technically controversial", given the substantial evidence that the hike in food prices in 2008 was mainly due to the increase in cost of crude oil, and that increased biofuel production does not lead to shortage of food supply and soaring food prices.

"In São Paulo, there has been increase in sugarcane production in the last ten years for generating ethanol, but food production has not decreased," he said, adding that biofuel production is unlikely to cause decreased food supply in countries in Africa and Latin America.

Thomson Sinkala, chairman of the Biofuels Association of Zambia, added that the link between biofuels and food is country-specific. In many African countries, he said, feedstock for biofuel production costs less than its equivalent for food. "It is unlikely that a food crop based-feedstock producer would want to sell their produce at 40 per cent below what they can fetch in the food market."


Friday, May 25, 2012

Focus on Rio+20: CSOs of Beyond 2015 on why the event is crucial & how to get involved

By Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness blog

CSO colleagues active in the Rio+20 working group of the Beyond 2015 campaign share their insights on the importance of the event for civil society and how to get involved.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, on the 20 - 22 June 2012, is a hugely important opportunity for global civil society. With just a month to go, many CSOs have been involved and many more are coming onboard as momentum builds. But will all this hard work deliver for the poorest people while securing environmental sustainability?

A once in a generation chance

The Rio Earth Summit of 1992 set an ambitious agenda for global change. 20 years later, future problems have become global crises; the world needs to think once again about ‘the future we want’, and the ideas and policies needed to deliver it. That’s the task for Rio+20: shaping the global agenda for years, if not decades, to come.

But building the future we want must be a participatory process, calling on the abilities and ambitions, skills and experiences of everyone. The environmental problems and social issues at the heart of the Rio+20 agenda often affect the poorest first and worst. Civil society can amplify the voice of the marginalised, neglected and powerless and the vehicle through which this silent majority can create change.

For these reasons, civil society has to engage strongly with Rio+20, even if the Rio process has been slow and painful. The Rio Principles recognise this unique role, and enshrine the right of global civil society to engage in these debates.

Building a green and fair economy

Rio+20’s discussions turn on two issues: the ‘green economy’ and the institutional framework for sustainable development. Civil society is best placed to bring the concerns of the poorest people, as well as ideas for action, to the debate, in critical partnership with the state and the private sector.

As Nanette Antequisa, of CSO ECOWEB in the Philippines, says, " It is very important for civil society to influence the Green Economy framework, otherwise it may become more centred on the economy and growth component than the green side. The Green Economy framework seems to be so centred on technologies that are largely controlled by big business than by the people ".

She continues: “ Without civil society, growth and environmental benefit of green technology might become the major concerns only of Green Economy while food security, sustainable livelihoods, safety and disaster-resiliency benefits from bio-diversity and natural resources might not be given much value. With the focus on green economy, it is worrying that important provisions of the conventions during the 1992 Earth Summit like the Convention on Biological Diversity may end up neglected or totally abandoned. Civil Society could put forward the people’s agenda on the Green Economy framework and may ensure better enforcement of the Rio Earth Summit conventions ."

The institutional framework for delivering sustainable development relies on building and maintaining political will at all levels, another vital function of civil society. “ Rio+20 is an important part of the process to renew political will for sustainable development and to highlight poverty and other global social ills in a world that has the capacity to respond effectively to them ,” argues Kimbowa Richard, of the Uganda Coalition for sustainable Development (UCSD).

While the outcomes of Rio+20 are being downplayed, civil society has the knowledge and experience to ensure what’s on the table really can work for the poorest. “ It’s an opportunity for making sustainable development and poverty reduction an inter-phasing agenda and an opportunity to put forward civil society’s perspective on the real challenges in achieving the MDGs and the proposed Sustainable Development Goals ,” Richard says.

Getting involved

Many of the most innovative, imaginative and ambitious policy solutions have come from civil society and this input has been essential to help move the discussion onwards. Many CSO are engaging through the Major Groups represented at Rio+20, or through networks such as Beyond 2015 which unite northern and southern CSOs with a common agenda.

These networks are using Rio+20 as an opportunity to raise sustainable development and the environment up the international agenda, and using it to catalyse energy and enthusiasm globally to ensure action for sustainable development continues for the long term.

“ It’s important for us to engage with civil society from around the world to have stronger influence on the outcomes so they’re more reflective of people’s agendas for sustainable living, and ensure that engagement with government delegations locks in progress ,” Antequisa says.

Just the beginning

Sustainable development has to be the concern of a new generation beyond Rio+20 itself. This means continuing the conversation locally to mobilise support for sustainable development, particularly highlighting the challenges and opportunities for both people and the environment. It means taking forward the debates about how development aid can and must create more impact towards sustainable development that reduce poverty and ensures environmental sustainability. And it means building a global platform to ensure sustainable development is the responsibility of all.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Break the mould

By Joost Kanen, May 11, 2012

Sustained low carbon prices in the EU Emissions Trading System have been blamed on the ongoing economic crisis – but there may be more fundamental design issues at play, argues Joost Kanen

The economic crisis and lower energy demand are adding to the oversupply of EU allowances (EUAs) in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), but other, more structural flaws that have to do with the design of the programme are augmenting these problems. Of course the EU should still be lauded for its pioneering carbon market, but it’s time to raise the bar as new carbon markets come into existence in California, Australia and China – some of which are better designed than the EU ETS.

There are several design errors in the EU ETS. The first and foremost is that the EU ETS is imbalanced because the buy side is far more concentrated than the sell side. One could almost speak of an oligopsony situation at the moment.

One cause of this is that allowances are allocated to installations instead of to companies – often one company has many installations, and in various countries. Yet the economic actors in the carbon market are not installations but companies.

The second cause is that the electricity sector is really the only sector that is substantially short in EUAs. The volume needed by electricity companies is far larger than the volumes of the sellers and their long positions, and this puts market power in the hands of the buyers. Every buyer may need 20 sellers to match his demand, and this creates a large negative price bias.

The short position is not only concentrated in the electricity sector but also in one country: Germany. Actually it is mostly German electricity generators, which own many installations both in Germany as well as in many other EU member states, who are short. This is unlikely to change much in the 2013–20 third phase.

In addition, there is also concentration in timing of the trading. The cause for this is the discrepancy in the storage value of goods between the carbon market (EUAs are valid for eight years and can be banked, borrowed and rolled over) and the underlying electricity markets (electricity can’t be stored and has to be traded instantaneously), which creates concentrated trading in specific periods and volatility in the carbon market as it is far smaller than the underlying electricity markets. In particular industrial companies, that often see the EU ETS only as a regulatory burden, will postpone their market activity. The electricity companies make the market. This all causes trading to be concentrated in specific time periods, spot markets that are illiquid and price formation that is unclear and volatile.

The buy-side concentration, the size difference and the concentration of trading also allows the electricity companies to incorporate the carbon cost into the price that it charges its customers. This undermines the carbon market as this is done via concentrated electricity companies, which are often still monopolists in their own national electricity markets, and it lowers the visibility of the carbon market to citizens.

A second problem with the EU ETS is that it only applies to large-scale organisations, thus creating a disconnect with individual citizens, who often wish to contribute themselves to reducing emissions. The scale threshold for participation also puts off entrepreneurs and innovators that are often in smaller start-up companies. The scale aspect is logical from an organisational perspective, but it hides the politics driving the EU ETS. The inclusion of road transportation, as in the Californian programme, would bring emissions trading down to the level of citizens and make the political effort that is driving the EU ETS much more visible. This is important to continue the political support for carbon trading as a policy instrument.

Thirdly, the EU ETS is unfriendly for innovations, especially for those (often large-scale) innovations that have not been put on the government agenda by industry lobby groups. Grandfathering – the process of giving free allowances based on historical performance – financially rewards existing/old technology. Rewarding old technology increases barriers for innovations that haven’t been lobbied for, were unplanned and thus don’t receive EUAs for free.

In Phase III of the EU ETS, grandfathering continues for industry, while auctioning increases for utilities, which simply pass these costs on to their captive customers. The prospects for innovation will be little improved, given this continued free allocation to industry, while the passing through of costs to consumers also deters innovation. What should have been done is auctions to electricity generators but neutralise the indirect cost pass-through by compensating their customers (including industrials), and at the same time start auctioning to industrials, creating more balance between the buy and sell side in the ETS, making it less of a paper market, and spurring industrial innovation.

Finally, the EU ETS is too much of a financial game, without enough focus on the production infrastructure itself. Many countries love to stimulate their financial sectors, but a financial market is only a support for the underlying real economy. The ultimate aim of the EU ETS is to cause changes and innovation in the production infrastructure in Europe and, via export of newly developed low-carbon technologies, also in the rest of the world. Auctioning to industry will have that effect, not giving free allowances.

We believe that the California ETS is better designed than the EU ETS. The California programme is regulated more from the demand side instead of from the production side. The California ETS includes transport, is less exclusively large-scale, and avoids carbon leakage by placing the cap closer to the end-consumer. For example, allowances in the California ETS will be grandfathered to electricity distributors which will auction the allowances to electricity generators from inside and outside the state border, and the proceeds of these auctions will be used to compensate electricity users for increased power prices.

Besides the above-mentioned design errors, there is of course also the political uncertainty surrounding the ETS itself and the form of the extension of Kyoto Protocol after Durban. This negatively affects carbon price formation and investment decisions. But political uncertainty can never be avoided in an artificial market like the EU ETS. Policy interaction with the EU ETS also negatively affects carbon prices, especially the national renewable energy targets and the energy efficiency goals.

The EU ETS is in bad shape but can be improved and it can be done in a more sophisticated manner than just cancelling 1.4 billion EUAs, as has been talked about.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Volta Lake Settlers: Caught In A Development Paradox

By Daily Guide, May 19, 2012

The relevance of the Akosombo and Kpong hydro-electric power plants on the Volta Lake cannot be overemphasized when cataloguing the factors that have helped transform the Ghanaian economy to its present gleaming status. Yet, while the country revels in the opportunities presented by electricity, indigenous communities around the Volta basin are caught in an economic destitution that threatens their very existence, Raphael Adeniran writes.

The lower peripherals of the Volta Lake run down the edge of several towns and villages, including Torgorme, a small community in the North Tongu District of the Volta Region. As the sun sets, mild river current splashes water gracefully on the banks where young David Megbeawotor and his playmates are washing their feet after trudging almost six kilometers to pick a couple of measly mangoes.

Directly opposite Torgorme, on the other side of the lake, lies Amedeka, another small town bordering the Volta Lake and in the ebbing sunlight splashing gleefully in the river is Bright Aziebu, a 14 year-old Junior High School pupil who wants to become a medical doctor when he grows up. His counterpart in Torgome, David Megbeawotor, will like to be a mathematician.

For these boys, the prospect of emerging out of their villages as accomplished professionals is something worth working hard for. Apparently, David and Bright are oblivious to the perilous socio-economic quicksand that the people in the lower Volta Basin are caught in; the fact that they will have to grow up in this part of the country greatly reduces their chances of reaching their future ambitions.

What many people may not be aware of is that the people living in the lower Volta Basin have endured the harshest economic conditions in the country for more than 30 years. This predominantly agrarian and fishing society has watched helplessly as its soil is washed away by the perennial flooding caused by the damming of the lake and have had to get to terms with declining fish stocks due to the disruption of the lake's ecosystem.

'The people living downstream from the dam are all subjected to abject poverty, whereas the whole nation is benefiting from the hydro dam,' says Ebenezer Dzabaku, a native of Amedeka who was forced by the plight of his people to write a book in December 2011: 'The Volta River, Electric Power Generation and Poverty at the Crossroads'.

Suffering In Silence
Ebenezer Dzabaku, at one time, worked as an electrical engineer at Volta River Authority (VRA) but resigned to pursue various personal agenda, including mounting a crusade to expose the plight of the people of the Lower Volta Basin to the entire country.

His book paints a very bleak picture of the situation, particularly at the Lower Volta catchment area. Expectedly, the book has jolted the VRA to attention. VRA is the entity formed to manage the entire structure of the Volta River's resources and its development.

Mr. Dzabaku's preoccupation with the Lower Volta Basin, rather than the entire Volta Basin—upstream at Akosombo and downstream at Kpong—may strike a casual observer as odd. The facts are compelling: The Akosombo dam, which was built around 1961 and 1965, is at the upstream of the Volta Lake. Its construction displaced more than 80,000 farmers and the flooding from the dam's construction destroyed over 8,500 square kilometers of farmlands. But Ghana's first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, ensured that displaced indigenes were properly resettled and a comprehensive development plan was designed to give the people a second lease on their lives.

Akosombo and its resettlement area have been fairly developed because the VRA's actions are backed by legislation- the Volta Development Act, Act 46 of 1961.

The legislation compelled the VRA to develop the lakeside area for the health and well-being of the 'inhabitants, and the people living adjacent thereto'.

In fact, the VRA was to assume a local government and planning function at the Akosombo area. 'The Authority shall take measures to enhance the natural beauty of the lake side area by the planting of trees and otherwise; and shall be responsible for the development of the Akosombo township in a manner as to prevent the growth of slum or other conditions likely to be injurious to the health and well-being of the inhabitants,' says section 13 of the Act.

Indeed, all through the legislation, the focus is based on the upstream side of the lake. There is no perceptible mention of the downstream (Kpong Dam) side in the legislation, probably because Kpong was constructed after the legislation was enacted. Even after several amendments to the Act, Kpong seems to have been ignored.

The much younger Kpong dam, which was constructed in 1981, also displaced several thousands of people who faced resettlement crisis, unlike the upstream side (Akosombo). Because there is no specific legislation compelling the VRA to give the people a lease of life after they lost everything to the dam, the VRA uses its discretion.

Dzabaku is the general secretary of an advocacy group, the Akuse-Amedeka Citizens' Association. He told DAILY GUIDE that in the face of the extreme economic hardship faced by the people, his group will force for a legislative amendment that will capture the catchment area of the Kpong Dam. According to him, all efforts will be employed to force the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare to initiate an amendment move. If these efforts fail, they will have no option but to head for the courts.

There are over 18 traditional areas in the Lower Volta area, with a population exceeding 30,000 people. At the time of the construction, those who were directly affected by the dam numbered 7,000. These numbers have since multiplied over the past 30 years and the growing pressure on limited resources is increasingly causing agitations.

'Our entire livelihood is gone, we don't have anything to stand on to develop ourselves,' laments Augustine Kofi, a resident of Amedeka who survives by picking litters off the banks of the Volta from trash.

An indigenous group, known as Forest Green, made several plans to hit the streets to drum home their plights, but the Akuse-Amedeka Citizens' Association appealed to their sense of good judgment.

'Our goal is to be more flexible with government and the VRA to address the issue,' says Dzabaku.

In August 2010, the association petitioned the President, John Evans Atta Mills, for a special fund to be created for the Lower Volta area. The president acted on the petition and wrote to the Chief Executive of the VRA, Kweku Andoh Awotwi. However, the VRA has failed to consider the issues raised by the citizens, says Mr. Dzabaku.

'The VRA has not been informative- perhaps lending credence to perceptions that the VRA does not put value on the problems brought on the people by the Kpong hydroelectric dam,' he adds.

Earlier on, in 2005, several Members of Parliament around the deprived community raised their voices to seek redress for the downtrodden community.

D.T Assumeng, Parliamentarian from the Shai-Osudoku, B.D.K. Adu, MP for Okere constituency, C.S Hodogbey of the North Tongu constituency and Clement Kofi Humado of the Anlo constituency, among others, were all unanimous in their views of the need to pay more attention to the plights of the people of the Lower Volta Basin.

The Minister of Energy at the time, Professor Mike Oquaye, noted the various observations and responded: 'This certainly will receive the appropriate attention. The Volta River Project is of immense importance to this country and we all take seriously matters related thereto.' The Minister alluded to the fact that the Act establishing the VRA should be given a second look. However, since 2005, nothing concrete has been done, says Mr. Dzabaku.

The Demands
Meanwhile, the people are making several demands that they believe will put them back on track. Among these demands include the need for further compensations; an initiation of alternative livelihood projects by both government and VRA; access to lands for farming and the revamping of certain collapsed industries such as the Kpong demonstration farm that stocked livestock, rice mills and meat processing plants.

For these people, the resuscitation of these projects will spark commercial activities in the area and stem poverty and its associated urban drift of its youthful population.

The Lower Volta people are also demanding basic social infrastructures in the area. For one thing, they need functional drainage system that will save them from the perennial flooding that threatens to wash their lands away.

They also need proper coastline protection mechanism; occasionally, the lake bursts its banks and head straight inland. The ensuing erosion creates significant discomfort for the people. A few of the buildings in both Togorme and Amedeka, for instance, have been washed away by erosion. 'We've never experienced this kind of erosion. If you look at our buildings, when you see them they are deteriorating. Some of them are about to fall down,' laments Christian Ananigo, an assembly man at Togorme.

The people feel they should get some preferences on electricity—probably free or subsidized electricity—due to their sacrifices and the proximity to the generating plant. Incidentally, the people are subject to paying the same bills as everybody else. Consequently, many people do not have access to electricity because of the cost components. 'We sacrificed the land for the construction of this dam but we are not the beneficiary of the dam,' complains Mr. Ananigo.

Gertrude Koomson, the head of Public Relations at VRA, thinks otherwise. 'What I can say is that natural resources are made available to all citizens: royalties may be paid to chiefs and communities, but electricity provision is a national issue,' she says.

'For us to give electricity to those who have given their lands and have already been compensated is like people in Obuasi [Ghana's biggest Gold mining town] saying that you took our lands to mine, and so we deserve to be given some of the gold. So areas where there is no oil, there is no gold, there is no electricity in Ghana, what happens to them?' Mrs. Koomson asks.

'By the establishment of VRA, they are supposed to be a power generation company; they are not supposed to be engaged in the distribution of electricity. There is a national institution- the Electricity Company of Ghana- which distributes electricity to households. I think it will be very wrong for VRA to even be getting into that area of business,' says Emannuel Amelor of the VRA's environmental department.

'Most of the demands that you come across when you get to the communities are based on the fact that because the facilities are near them, they need special treatment. The moment we begin to comply with such demands, this country would be disintegrated. The common good must be shared equally because there are certain areas of the country which are not endowed with such facilities,' Mr. Amelor emphasizes.

The Paradox
In 1961, when the VRA was established, it was carved as an integrated development entity that generated power to sell and to manage other commercial subsidiaries. As a result of this mandate, the VRA set up hotels, schools, lake transport businesses, farms, agro-processing factories etc which would have transformed the lower basin enclave into an economically buoyant area.

In a 1977 feasibility report that served as the basis for the construction of the Kpong Dam, the drafters envisaged monumental transformation of the entire area.

'The presence of a modern hydroelectric station at Akuse [Kpong dam] will, in the long term, act as a catalyst for new enterprises to come into the area. This has already been demonstrated at Akosombo and sites of many hydroelectric plants throughout the world,' says page 88 of the summary of the Kpong Dam's 1977 feasibility.

But over 30 years down the line, the planned industries and projects have either collapsed or never materialized. The few, whose operations peaked years ago, are now totally dormant.

'Rice from that farm [Kpong Farms] was number one,' Mrs Koomson reminisces fondly.

At a later stage in the operation of VRA, government became aware that VRA was using its power generation resources to cross-subsidize these other subsidiaries.

Hence, in 2009, the regulator of the power sector, the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), forced VRA to shed some of its businesses because they were not power related and were adding to the power generator's cost of operations.

'There are times that we produce power at 13 cents and we are forced to sell at 7 cents. In fact the electricity we are all enjoying is subsidized, that is the bottom line,' says Mrs. Koomson.

In its bid to conform to the new regime, promising entities such as the Kpong Farms, which hitherto created several jobs for people in the areas, were closed down. The Kpong Farms have been lying fallow for over 10 years now.

Socio-Economic Imbalance
Meanwhile, as the people wallow in poverty, they constantly make reference to a thriving VRA township a stone's throw away, which appears to be a utopia of sorts.

Perhaps, the locals are right to look up to this well-endowed VRA Township. Essentially, the mini town housing VRA staff comes with all the basic social amenities that a town could dream of: a good drainage system, good schools, constant flow of water and electricity, good roads etc.

Mr. Dzabaku believes the contrast is a form of apartheid. According to him, some people from the indigenous community foray into the VRA town to scavenge on leftovers and scraps, but are treated as intruders. 'The way VRA harasses and arrests the youth of the area, now they are becoming aggrieved and if nothing is done now, tomorrow would be too late,' Ebenezer Dzabaku complains.

'There are people who work in VRA who don't know Akuse and Amedeka communities. They live their township; go to Accra and work, whereas when it rains, the whole towns in the community are flooded.

'If they know that good roads and good buildings are good for them who are working on peoples land, what about the local people?' he asks.

'They are depriving the people of living in dignity. If this continues, one day the repercussion will be too bad for the nation,' warns the secretary of the Akuse-Amedeka Citizens' Association.

The People's Rights
All over the world, it is a general standard that when hydro projects of such magnitude are developed, the entities mandated to manage them have an obligatory right to do something to address the needs of the indigenous people whose livelihoods have been altered. 'Before major projects like this are done, the institutions managing them have a mandatory right to do something,' Mr. Dzabaku explains.

To him, the various interventions that VRA has made so far are meager hand-downs compared to what it should have been obliged to do for the people. 'It is using its corporate social responsibility to shirk its obligatory rights. We say that every hydro dam construction brings about so many negative effects all over the world. Because of that, governments make sure that prior studies are conducted to take the effects into consideration.'

Currently, the tussle between the locals at the Lower Volta Basin and the VRA is subtle, with all parties going strictly by the rules of engagement even though there has been a time lapse of 30 years. Now the people are coalescing into formal advocacy groups to discuss their plights. If the process drags on any longer, it is unclear what other actions the highly agitated people will take.

Youngsters like Bright Aziebu and David Megbeawotor, with such bright ambitions, are waiting in the wings to take over the struggle from the older generation. Perhaps, they may not need to struggle when the time comes. However, if the situation persists and they have to, would they be tolerant enough to toe the same subtle line that several generations before them have?


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights's Resolution on a Human Rights-Based Approach to Natural Resources Governance

By "Own the EDGE" - Rio + 20 NGO Major Group Newsletter

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (the African Commission) held its 51st Ordinary Session in Banjul, Republic of The Gambia, from 18 April to 2 May 2012.

Altogether four hundred and seventeen (417) delegates participated at the 51st Ordinary Session. Of these, one hundred and two (102) represented twenty-three (23) States Parties, forty five (45) represented National Human Rights Institutions, four (4) represented International and Inter-Governmental Organizations, two hundred and fifty-six (256) represented African and International NGOs, and ten (10) represented African Union Organs.

The 51st Ordinary Session was preceded by a three-day meeting of the NGO Forum, organized by the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, which was held from 14 to 16 April 2012. Two hundred and twenty (220) participants attended the NGO Forum – 204 from Africa, 4 from the Americas, 1 from Asia and 11 from Europe. The NGO Forum examined the human rights situation in many countries in Africa, and expressed concern over specific issues, such as election-related crises, freedom of expression, armed conflicts, environmental degradation, failure in constitutional obligations, the continuing inequalities and challenges faced by women in most countries, the situation and conditions of people living with HIV/AIDS, and the situation of human rights defenders on the African continent. For a full report of this conference please visit here.

Considering its mandate to promote human and peoples’ rights in Africa under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter), The African Commission has made an Human Rights-Based Approach to Natural Resources Governance, the resolution ACHPR/Res.224 (LI) 2012 that calls upon States Parties to:

i. Reaffirm that, in accordance with the Rio Declaration and African Charter principle of State sovereignty over natural resources, the State has the main responsibility for ensuring natural resources stewardship with, and for the interest of, the population and must fulfill its mission in conformity with international human rights law and standards;

ii. Confirm that all necessary measures must be taken by the State to ensure participation, including the free, prior and informed consent of communities, in decision making related to natural resources governance;

iii. Recommit themselves to vigorously fighting corruption at all levels of decision making by strengthening and enforcing criminalization of corruption, decisively ending impunity and ensuring asset recovery and repatriation for illicitly expatriated capital;

iv. Ensure that respect for human rights in all matters of natural resources exploration, extraction, toxic waste management, development, management and governance, in international cooperation, investment agreements and trade regulation prevails, and in particular:

- Establish a clear legal framework for sustainable development as it impacts on natural resources, in particular water, that would make the realization of human rights a prerequisite for sustainability;

- Strengthen regional efforts, such as the 2009 ECOWAS Directive on Mining and the African Commission’s Working Group on Extractive Industries and Human Rights, to promote natural resources legislation that respect human rights of all and require transparent, maximum and effective community participation in a) decision-making about, b) prioritisation and scale of, and c) benefits from any development on their land or other resources. or that affects them in any substantial way;

- Set up independent monitoring and accountability mechanisms that ensure that human rights are justiciable and extractive industries and investors legally accountable in the country hosting their activities and in the country of legal domicile;

- Ensure independent social and human rights impact assessments that guarantee free prior informed consent; effective remedies; fair compensation; women, indigenous and customary people’s rights; environmental impact assessments; impact on community existence including livelihoods, local governance structures and culture, and ensuring public participation; protection of the individuals in the informal sector; and economic, cultural and social rights.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Living in a pollution-free world is a basic human right

By Mariann Lloyd Smith, "OWN the EDGE" - RIO+20 NGO Major Group Newsletter

Sound chemicals management underpins every aspect of a sustainable future and green livelihoods. Governments acknowledged that “sound management of chemicals is essential if we are to achieve sustainable development, including the eradication of poverty and disease” . Yet, two decades after the Rio Earth Summit, chemical contamination with toxic, persistent and bio-accumulative substances affects us all, with the worst impacts being experienced by the most vulnerable; children, indigenous peoples, peasant farmers and workers in the many hazardous industries. Children today are exposed to a wide array of toxic chemicals before they are even born. The majority have still not been adequately assessed for their impacts on human health and the environment. Nevertheless, diseases such as cancer, heart disease, reproductive and developmental disorders, asthma, diabetes and mental illnesses have all been shown to have links to pollution of air, water and food. Clearly, fundamental change is needed in the way we manage chemicals.

The WHO acknowledges that industrial and agricultural chemicals are responsible for many deaths and much disease. The tragic loss and significant cost burden is not borne by chemical producers or even shared down the product supply chains, but by individuals, communities and countries who can ill afford the bourgeoning costs of chemical mismanagement. Ensuring industry pays the true cost of its products through cost internalization measures based on extended producer responsibility and strict polluter pays is the most effective and equitable way of driving and resourcing chemical reform. For a chemical industry with annual sales of over $3,000,000,000,000 U.S. dollars, surely this is not too much to ask.

To achieve chemical reform, Rio+20 must see a global recommitment to SAICM and the 2020 goal of a toxic free future; initiate a plan for the next stages of international efforts to achieve this goal; and most importantly, ensure the means and resources to do this.

In the lead up to Rio+20, NGOs from the chemicals and waste thematic cluster will host a Toxics Free Future Forum in Rio City on June 11th with the aim to engage multisector NGOs (e.g., labor, environmental, indigenous, legal, health, women, consumer, farmer/agriculture workers etc) in planning for toxics work beyond Rio+20. In support of the forum, we have developed a NGO/CSO Global Common Statement for a Toxic Free Future. This commits us to a future where people have the right to enjoy healthy, green livelihoods, with safe communities and workplaces that are free from toxic threats to people, surrounding environments and to future generations. This is the sustainable future we want for our world and children.


More than 10 International NGOs/Networks have endorsed the NGO/CSO GLOBAL COMMON STATEMENT FOR A TOXIC-FREE FUTURE. This campaign was developed by IPEN to create greater awareness of the increasing amounts of toxic chemicals in the environment, our food, communities and children, and follow-up on the 2008-2009 Global Outreach Effort to raise awareness about the link between chemical safety and sustainable development.

The endorsers of this initiative have not forgotten the commitments made at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, and by occasion of Rio+20, they call on governments worldwide to take action to protect the public and ensure that everyone has the right to safe and secure communities and workplaces, free from toxic threats. Their AIM is to collect over 1,000 NGO/CSO ENDORSEMENTS from more than 80 countries, BEFORE the JUNE 11th Global Toxics-Free Future Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (prior to the Rio+20 Prepcom3 and Conference).

Join the list of endorsers: ANPED, IPEN, GAIA, FoEI, WEFC, HCWH, IITC, ISDE, CIVICUS . For more information, here


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Peoples's Sustainability Treaties NOW ON-LINE

Adapted from "OWN the EDGE" - RIO+20 NGO Major Group Newsletter

The Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties have emerged to provide a common platform for voices from civil society to be collectively expressed at Rio+20. The objective is to assist civil society actors to get organized, to generate a collective vision representative of the global people’s aspirations and wellbeing, to create an open and common platform to voice these visions, to agree on a pathway of sustainable futures, and to create collective civil agreements on a way forward through principled action.

Through joint stakeholder efforts the treaties calls for the realization of an alternative content outcome at UNCSD2012. The rationale of the this complimentary civil society engagement is to produce ‘Treaties’, a ‘Declaration’ and an ‘Action Plan’, which are to represent and demonstrate the collective visions of the global people and help advance a Global Movement forging sustainable futures for all.

The following draft treaties are now available for public comments. Please send your comments by 20th May 2012 to the coordinator of each treaty with a copy to

1. Peoples’ Sustainability Treaty on Consumption and Production
2. Peoples’ Sustainability Treaty on Equity
3. Peoples’ Sustainability Treaty on Sustainable Economies
4. Peoples’ Sustainability Treaty on Radical Ecological Democracy
5. Peoples’ Sustainability Treaty on Sustainable Development
6. Peoples’ Sustainability Treaty on Rights of Mother
7. Peoples’ Sustainability Treaty on Sustainable Development Goals

Individuals from any walk of life can participate as contributors, while any person or institution can endorse and commit to a treaty.

For further information please see and to partner, facilitate and contribute to the treaties, please contact Uchita de Zoysa (

Saturday, May 19, 2012

European Parliament Absent in Sustainability Summit

By Julio Godoy, May 7, 2012

The decision by the European Parliament (EP) to renounce its participation in the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development next month on the grounds that hotel costs are exorbitant has provoked sharp criticism from civil society organisations.

In a statement released May 7, and which almost went unnoticed, the chairman of the EP environment committee Matthias Groote said that the parliament declined to send a delegation to the Rio + 20 summit due to the "huge increase in the estimated hotel cost(s)", which he called "simply not justifiable."

But non-governmental organisations dismissed such arguments as "alibi" and the decision as the EP’s conscious failure to play its role as a fundamental check and balance institution within the European Union (EU), especially vis-a-vis its executive body, the European Commission (EC).

Belen Balanya, expert on international environmental policy at the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), told IPS that the EP decision to cancel "all participation in Rio is simply regrettable. I do not know how much effort they have put in looking for viable options to go or if it is more a decision that has other, obscure reasons."

The Brussels-based CEO is a research and campaign group working to expose and challenge the privileged access and influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policy making.

At the Rio+20 Conference, the 20 year follow up to the Earth Summit of 1992, world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, will come together to define a global policy agenda to reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental sustainability.

Balanya said that the Rio + 20 summit is "the end of a process which is going on for months, and the responsibility of the EP should have been to check and ensure throughout the process that the European Commission played an adequate role in the negotiations to promoted a change for more sustainable societies."

Balanya recalled that the EC has been mainly pushing "a bigger role for corporations in the Rio+20 Summit and related U.N. processes and the financialisation of nature, such as biodiversity."

This European policy "will further promote the privatisation of nature, benefitting only a small minority and will not attempt a change in the current model of consumption and production, therefore not helping to solve the environmental crisis."

"Such European policies will certainly not benefit the poor," Balanya added.

NGO representatives in Germany called the EP decision "odd." A Berlin-based German development expert, who asked not to be identified, told IPS, "The civil society organisations are sending delegates to Rio, without incurring in horrendous hotel costs."

Jo Leinen, member of Social Democratic group at the EP, and who was supposed to be part of the European delegation to Rio, called the parliamentary decision "regrettable"

In an interview with IPS, Leinen said that the absence of the EP at Rio + 20 "is a big deficit. We should be there, but there is a cartel of hotels in Rio that is abusing of the conference to demand irresponsible prices."

Leinen admitted that the European environmental policies are at best stagnating. "Europe is still the vanguard in global environmental and sustainability policies, but the present financial and economic crisis is changing the priorities."

"The EU must be better, in reducing resources consumption, in improving solidarity with the developing world," Leinen said. "But European governments now have other urgent problems to solve."

In the run up to Rio + 20, the European Union has actively promoted the concept of a green economy, but without actually defining what the term means.

European environmental groups and governments from developing countries, especially those represented at the Group of 77, have rejected the concept as merely a ploy by industrialised countries to pursue their own interests, particularly the expansion of foreign markets for technology, without taking into account the needs of the countries of the South.

In a recent analysis on the perspectives of Rio + 20, VENRO, the umbrella federation of some 120 development non-governmental organisations in Germany, called this "green economy" a fuzzy idea, of which "there is no a general accepted definition."

In the paper, VENRO points out that technology transfers and improved economic efficiency, defended by the European Union and U.N. institutions as part of this new green economy "do not necessarily lead to a reduced consumption of resources," an indispensable element of a truly sustainable economy.

Therefore, VENRO concludes, such a "green economy" does not constitute a new economic paradigm that would simultaneously guarantee sustainability and poverty reduction.

In the paper, VENRO pointed out that the first draft of a final declaration for Rio + 20, the so called "zero draft", has been rejected by civil society groups and developing countries alike, "since it does not question the fundamental tenets of a neoliberal economy, namely free trade and economic growth."

Balanya, of CEO, also urged the EU "to stop promoting this flawed concept of green economy, which involves the expansion of the logic of carbon markets to other areas such as water or biodiversity."

Balanya said that in general the European environmental policies, as "failing badly."

She explicitly referred to the EU's climate and environmental flagship policy, the Emissions Trading System (ETS). In theory, the ETS "provides a cheap and efficient means to limit greenhouse gas emissions within an ever-tightening cap. But in practice it has rewarded big polluters with windfall profits," Balanya pointed out.

Additionally, "It is undermining efforts to reduce emissions and guarantee sustainability with other policies."

Indeed, there is growing evidence that carbon markets are not a solution to tackling the climate crisis or moving towards a low-carbon, sustainable economy. In most cases, the ETS fails to make countries take responsibility for their own emissions, instead allowing them to offset emissions by buying permits from countries from the South.

"Besides, the European ETS is facing a crash in carbon prices to extraordinary levels," Balanya added. Low carbon prices render empty the EU logic behind the ETS, that prices will create scarcity of permits to pollute and will encourage corporations to reduce emissions, thus cancelling out other efforts to improve resource sustainability.

Balanya said that in general, "the EU has incorporated the discourse on sustainability in many of their policies and treaties, but it does not go beyond rhetoric." In reality, she added, the trade and investment policies promoted by the EU, as well as its environmental and energy policies, "are fuelling and locking in a very unsustainable model of production and consumption."


Friday, May 18, 2012

Water policy needs 'radical' change to protect people and environment

By Liz Ford, The Guardian, May 16, 2012

Ahead of Rio+20, a report is calling for a joined-up approach to managing the world's water, land and energy demands

The international community needs to "radically transform" the way it manages water, energy and land to ensure the needs of the poorest people are met and the environment is protected, according to the European Report on Development, published on Wednesday.

The flagship report, Confronting scarcity: managing water, energy and land for inclusive and sustainable growth, calls on the EU to adopt an integrated approach to managing the three elements to achieve universal access to water and energy, and sustainable food security.

An estimated 1 billion people are still undernourished, around 0.9 billion have no access to safe water and 1.5 billion have no electricity. The demand for water and energy is expected to rise by 40% by 2030 and by 50% for food. Badly managed or scarce resources tend to hit the poorest people hardest.

"Co-ordination failures between policies on water, energy and land need to be addressed to avoid the negative impacts of these interlinkages," said the report, which aims to "shape global action" in the run-up to next month's Rio+20 UN conference on sustainable development.

"A drop of water, a piece of land, or a kilojoule of renewable energy cannot be seen through the single lens of one sectoral policy or management system. What might appear to be an efficient policy in one dimension can be harmful for others," it said.

Achieving this joined-up approach will involve the public and private sectors, and the EU. The public sector would provide the regulatory and legal frameworks for change, including those that make for a more conducive environment for private sector investment, as well as some of the money. The private sector should create more sustainable practices in accessing and consuming natural resources, while the EU will support poorer countries through aid and its wider development policy.

Launching the report in Brussels, the European commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, said: "This report is particularly relevant and timely ahead of the UN Rio+20 conference and the international year for sustainable energy for all. Water, energy and land are crucial resources for development and human wellbeing, and scarcity cannot be overcome by piecemeal actions."

The annual report, compiled by the Overseas Development Institute, the European Centre for Development Policy Management and the German Development Institute, sets out ideas for governments, business and the EU to consider. To strengthen water security for poor communities, for example, it suggests that national governments are supported to implement integrated water resources management programmes.

It calls for a significant reduction in the environmental footprint of consumption in developed countries – though not exclusively.

The report also urges governments to ensure land investments contribute to economic development and that deals are not at the expense of weakening ecosystems or people's livelihoods. It argues for strengthened land tenure to protect customary and collective rights.

Initiatives that protect the environment, such as halting deforestation, should be rewarded with payments, says the report, offering as an example a scheme operating around Lake Naivasha in Kenya under which companies pay local smallholders who put their land to good use.

The sentiments of the report chime with an increased focus on joined-up approaches to the challenges of water, land, energy and food security. In March, the ministerial declaration from the World Water Forum called for a greater recognition of the links between water, food and energy in decision-making to improve the "sustainable management of these scarce resources".

In November, a report by the International Institute for Environment and Development made an explicit link between water and land. It said African governments were signing away water rights to land investors, who want to profit from water fees and improved agricultural yields and revenues. These "water grabs" show little regard for their impact on people, said the report. "Water managers must seriously consider the extent to which water rights should be linked to land in this way before setting a long-term precedent that could compromise sustainable and equitable supply to all users in the future," it said.

Wednesday's report comes two days after foreign ministers endorsed the European Commission's Agenda for Change policy, under which more money will be targeted towards the world's least developed countries and budget support will be made dependent on governments' human rights and governance records. The new agenda makes clear the EU's desire to see sustainable, inclusive growth and development, and to increase the involvement of the private sector, which includes allowing them access to development aid.

Critics have argued that the private sector role lacks clarity. "Will it be local firms in developing countries or foreign multinationals who get access to funds? EU countries need to make sure they don't divert essential aid support away from those most in need," said Olivier Consolo, director of the European NGO confederation Concord.

Last month, the EU pledged €50bn to support clean energy projects in developing countries.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rio +20 and The New Greed Economy

By Pat Mooney,Society for International Development

The 1992 Earth Summit produced a Book of Promises called Agenda 21 that included combating desertification, safeguarding forests, confronting climate change and committing the North to transfer sustainable technologies to the South. And the South agreed to a Biodiversity Convention to halt species loss and ecosystem destruction. As part of this last and most celebrated agreement, however, the Summit leaders agreed that governments would have sovereignty over all of the biodiversity within their borders at the time of treaty ratification. Five hundred years of colonial history forgotten…what we at the time called 'Amazonesia'. Anything living – species samples that the colonial powers had already squirreled away in their own botanical gardens, zoos, aquariums, herbariums and gene banks from everywhere in the tropical and subtropical world – was to be considered property of the former colonizers. The South’s diplomats in Rio didn’t realize that the North had not just 74% of the world’s zoos and aquariums but 93% of the world’s known terrestrial and aquatic animal species and that samples of perhaps 85% of all documented plant species were already thriving in the North’s botanical gardens and herbariums. Directly and indirectly, the North also controlled well over two-thirds of the crop species and genetic diversity in agricultural gene banks. In sum, at least 70% of the world’s quantified species diversity was already tucked away in the North.

South governments also accepted that biological materials could, in theory, be patented –including all of the biological specimens scooped up by the North’s collectors. Of course, the South still had in its rivers, forests and savannas the same samples that were sequestered in Kew Gardens or Brooklyn or Berlin, but the North had the know-how, the know-what and the means (and meanness) to monopolize.

Twenty years later, the single most important statistic for venture capitalists contemplating the Green Economy and the financialization of nature is that since only 23.8% of the world’s annual terrestrial biomass has been appropriated – or has entered the global marketplace – the 76.2% remaining is waiting to be monopolized by somebody. The big difference between 1992 and 2012 is technology. Whereas only the part of nature that was known to have value – especially to the agriculture or pharmaceutical industries – in 1992 was worth capturing, today synthetic biology and a host of surveillance and computational technologies can size up, seize and modify even the parts of nature not yet entered into taxonomy’s ledgers.

Rio+20 governing assumption is that that every social problem has a technological fix: hunger can be sated via biotechnology; the key to health is genomics; the answer to waning supplies of fossil carbon is synthetic biology; the solution to the limits to growth is nanotechnology; Twitter will take care of the democratic deficit and climate change can be calmed with geoengineering. Policymakers no longer need policies; they simply have to subsidize the private sector’s technologies.

New technologies including nanotechnology and synthetic biology allow industry to control the fundamental building blocks of nature. We are told that there are 10 billion different products for sale in cities like New York or Berlin but all of these products come from relatively few materials and just 100,000 chemical compounds that, in turn, come down to fewer than 100 elements in the periodic table. Products derived directly from nature are thought to be simpler still – fewer than a dozen ‘metabolic pathways’ lead to virtually every commercially significant biological product, and just four nucleic acids – A, C, G, and T – pair up to form DNA. Industry sees the control of these fundamentals as the key to controlling all of nature.

Patents have already been granted, for example, ceding control over about one-third of the elements of the periodic table when they’re used at the nano-scale, and some nanotechnology in patents apply to virtually every sector of the industrial economy from aerospace to agriculture and from pharmaceuticals to plastics. Likewise, patents are being granted to cover segments of DNA found in virtually every higher-order plant and in life processes and metabolic pathways critical to everybody from algae to oligarchs. In 1992, ownership over such things was almost entirely theoretical and thought by most to be fanciful. Now, it is commonplace. When a single patent can apply to radically different sectors of the economy or lock up biomass that can be processed to make everything from petrol and paints to plastics and pasta, we are, clearly, in the last stages of the Greed Economy.

When civil society met in Rio in 1992 we work together to create literally dozens of CSO treaties promising to collaborate to make a better world. We got nothing. Most of us could not conceivably find those treaties now. This time the message to the world's governments must be crystal clear and it is not a positive message it is an angry warning, 'No to the Greed Economy'.


United Nations Rio+20 Summit: Concerns Raised Over Lack Of 'Transformational Change'

By Jenny Barchfield, May 5, 2012, Huffington Post

The largest-ever United Nations conference, a summit billed as a historic opportunity to build a greener future, appears to be going up in smoke.

U.S. President Barack Obama likely won't be there, and the leaders of Britain and Germany have bowed out. The entire European Parliament delegation has canceled.

And with fewer than six weeks to go until the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development, negotiations to produce a final statement have stalled amid squabbling. Logistical snags, too, threaten to derail the event.

Though the conference's host city, Rio de Janeiro, is also slated to stage mega-events in the 2014 World Cup final match and the 2016 Olympics, its hotel infrastructure is still woefully lacking. With a total of 33,000 beds for the estimated 50,000-plus visitors expected to flood the city for the June 20-22 summit, the mayor has resorted to asking residents to leave town and rent out their apartments to delegates.

Critics contend such stopgap measures will prove too little, too late.

The conference is the follow-up to the U.N.'s 1992 Earth Summit, also held in Rio, which helped put climate change on the world agenda. Twenty years later, climate change remains such a divisive subject that the anniversary conference will focus instead on the more palatable topic of sustainable development: economic growth that meets humans' present needs without devouring resources to derail the future.

But even that has proven a hard sell.

Talks to hammer out the lion's share of the conference's outcome document have failed. The U.N. announced on May 5 that a last-ditch round of negotiations has been scheduled after two previous ones yielded a rambling, repetitive text.

A U.N. statement quoted Rio+20 Secretary General Sha Zukung slamming the text as "a far cry from the 'focused political document'" called for.

Sticking points include fears among developing countries that the conference's environmentalist economic approach could stymie their economic development. Other countries have "voiced concern over accountability and implementation of the commitments made," the U.N. statement said.

"This meeting should be delivering transformational change," said Daniel Mittler, a political director at Greenpeace who is heading the environmental group's 11-strong delegation at Rio+20. "What is on the table is business as usual — completely inadequate goals and a total lack of urgency."

The likely absence of top-tier leaders suggests that many governments have already written the conference off. German Embassy officials in Brasilia said earlier this week that Chancellor Angela Merkel had sent her regrets. As did British Prime Minister David Cameron, a British Embassy spokesman said. However, France's President-elect, Francois Hollande, and Russia's Vladimir Putin will be attending, the Brazilian government said Thursday.

Obama has not yet officially declined the invitation, but a U.S. Embassy spokesman said all indications suggested the president, in the midst of his re-election campaign, would also not attend.

The spiraling cost of accommodations during the conference has prompted other cancellations. The European Parliament scrapped its entire 11-person delegation because of the breathtaking rise in hotel prices, which a spokesman said were 10 times initial estimates.

The average cost of a room in Rio during the conference has risen to $818 per night, according to a report this week by Agencia Brasil, the state-run news agency. And some hotels are taking advantage of the shortage of accommodations by requiring guests to book for an entire week, even if they intend to stay for just three or four nights.

"The huge increase in the estimated cost of attending the summit is simply not justifiable at a time when many Europeans are faced with economic hardship," said Matthias Groote, a German legislator who chairs the European Parliament's environment committee.

In a Twitter post, the man who was slated to head the European Parliament's delegation, Holland's Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, urged the Brazilian government to "control the costs to avoid a huge failure."

The stratospheric prices could even spell cuts in the Brazilian government's own delegation. Agencia Brasil quoted House leader Marcos Maia as saying that taxpayers wouldn't foot the housing bill for the 100 delegates slated to take part in the conference. Only those who agree to pay for their own lodging would take part, the report said.

Maia also called for a parliamentary investigation into the rise in prices, and Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota told journalists the government was "worried about" it.

"We want Rio+20 to be inclusive," Patriota said, speaking Thursday in the capital, Brasilia.

The logistical meltdown is shaping up as a dress rehearsal for worse problems during the World Cup in 2014, when nearly 80,000 visitors are expected, according to the city's tourism authority. Even more people, some 200,000, are expected to visit the city during the Olympics.

World Cup organizer FIFA has already expressed misgivings about Rio's dearth of hotel rooms, even with hotel construction under way ahead of the 2014 soccer tournament. The Brazilian city is planning to build 17,000 more hotel rooms for the 2016 Olympics, 2,000 more rooms than the city had promised in its bid to host the games.

By comparison, London will offer 110,000 hotel rooms ahead of this summer's Olympics, more than three times Rio's current capacity.

Meanwhile, with a nearly 20,000-bed shortage expected during Rio+20, according to estimates by a group representing Brazil's hotel sector, Mayor Eduardo Paes appealed to citizens to rent out their apartments to delegates.

To facilitate what the city sunnily dubbed "home guest houses," the tourism authority had planned to launch a dedicated website by early April. The website is still not online.

Paes has also pushed to have the conference dates decreed a three-day mid-week holiday, with the closure of schools and public institutions, in a bid get cars off the streets and ease the city's notorious gridlock.

Nikhil Seth, director of the U.N.'s Division for Sustainable Development, defended the government's handling of preparations for the conference, which he said was the largest ever organized by the U.N.

"We were quite happy with all the interaction we had with the local government there and with the central government and the efforts they're making to make the logistics work," Seth said.

Seth insisted that the protracted pre-conference negotiations didn't bode poorly for the success of the event; despite the probable absences of Obama, Merkel and Cameron, it is still expected to attract some 135 heads of state and government or vice presidents, he said.

That could top the 2009 Copenhagen summit, attended by 110 heads of state or government and with about 15,000 delegates.

"Some want to see (the extra round of talks) as a dark cloud that shows the difficulties ahead. But it also shows the importance which all the countries attach to this outcome document and to the conference," Seth said.

For urbanist Vinicius Netto, Rio is once again resorting to stopgap measures instead of investing in lasting solutions.

"Instead of addressing the serious infrastructure problems, including urban mobility, the government is proposing to unplug the city and its economy," said Netto, a professor at the Universidade Federal Fluminense's architecture school.

The official explanations also didn't cut it for Greenpeace's Mittler.

"There is no question that the preparations for this conference have been a shambles in every respect," he said. "It will be very difficult for them to pretend that they have succeeded. But you can be sure that they'll try."