By Patrick van Leeuwen
This summer world leaders will meet in Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), also known as ‘Rio +20’. At stake is no less than the creation of ‘a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication’.
For that to happen we will need an institutional framework for sustainable development, a tangible expression of political will.
Rio will be a success if there is agreement on a green economy roadmap with specific goals, objectives and actions at international level, and a reformed United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for strengthened international environmental governance.
Future economic growth is more likely to be fastest in emerging economies like China, Brazil, Russia and India. By 2050, the world population will rise to 9b, with 2b from developing countries alone.
Demand for resources like energy, food and water will have to be met. But if we continue to behave and produce the way we have always done it’s unlikely that we’ll significantly reduce global warming, provide equal and stable access to food, or address fresh water shortages.
The High Level Panel on Global Sustainability set up by the UN and co-chaired by President Zuma recently published a report entitles ‘Resilient People, Resilient Planet – A future Worth Choosing’. They say ‘Today our planet and our world are experiencing the best times, and the worst of times. The world is experiencing unprecedented prosperity, while the planet is under unprecedented stress. Inequality between the world’s rich and poor is growing and more than a billion people still live in poverty.’
European Environment Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, said at a Rio+20 meeting in March ‘business as usual is simply not an option, there will be no jobs if there is no growth; there will be no growth if it is not green growth; and there will be no green growth unless we take care of our resources.’
He’s right in saying that sustainable use and management of our natural resources doesn’t deplete our natural habitat, and doesn’t exert pressure on the environment will deliver on what the green economy ultimately seeks to achieve – a world in which future generations don’t pay for the mistakes we’ve all made. It’s about shifting attitudes and behaviour so that sustainable consumption and production patterns are everyone’s responsibility.
Please start now: conserve water, re-cycle grey water, harvest rainwater – it’s really just about each and every one of us taking responsibility.