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May 25, 2012
More Stakeholders Call for Meaningful Action at Rio+20
    by Robert Kropp

The International Institute for Environment and Development outlines a three-point plan to ensure that government negotiators account for the needs of local communities through sufficient aid and realistic valuation of natural capital.

The Rio+20 Conference on sustainable development will be held next month, and key stakeholders outside governments are working to ensure that a necessary urgency accompany the talks.

As reported earlier this week, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) wrote to government negotiators recently, warning that the transition to a sustainable global economy must occur at a faster pace.

A report published this week by WBCSD further warns "that the relentless pressure of our economy is exceeding the resilience of the biosphere. Unless we radically adapt the way we use our natural capital, the very basis of our well-being will break down."

Also this week, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has added its voice to calls for meaningful action at Rio+20. A report authored by IIED director Camilla Toulmin urges negotiators to "begin with the wellbeing of ordinary people and judge the effectiveness of actions taken by governments and corporations by the extent to which they provide tangible answers to the needs of the many, not the few."

"Rio+20 should not be the place for wise leaders to design a global plan that cascades downwards through regional, national and local implementation," the report argues. Instead, world leaders should consider the three-point action plan outlined in the report.

First, "local control of natural assets is the surest route to increasing investment in, and sustainable use of forests, soils and water." Toulmin stated, "When governments recognize the rights and organizations of local communities, they encourage long-term decision-making, and sustainable management of key assets. It's also a better option for outside investors, since returns need to be balanced to generate long term stable outcomes."

Second, proven examples of local climate change mitigation "demand actions higher up the chain to secure long-term results, as well as access to flexible and assured funding to address adaptation priorities, develop long-term adaptation strategies and build climate resilience," the report continues. That is, more money is needed. However, the report continues, "The traditional bilateral aid agenda does not deliver sufficient and secure funds for the challenges faced by low-income countries, which are now grappling with both a wide development deficit and damage from increased climate stress."

"Decentralized energy supplies, new approaches to urban density, inclusive business models, and greater accountability in global institutions are among the building blocks of resilience to the shocks tend to hit the poorest and most vulnerable communities hardest," Toulmin said.

Third, "We need to change the way we measure progress and address the market failures that today's false environmental accounting allows to endure," Toulmin said. "The first and most urgent steps are a significant and rising price on carbon, and an end to fossil fuel subsidies."

According to the report, "where growth in total income is pursued at the expense of distributional concerns, you can find that high levels of inequity erode away the social cohesion and institutions that are vital for the health and strength of our societies."

The report recommends that Rio+20 negotiators consider the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) proposed by the governments of Colombia and Guatemala earlier this year. Identifying a wide range of possible sustainable development objectives, IIED states that they must address the three points of the report's action plan.

"The environmental, social and financial crises that face us are interconnected, and so are their solutions," Toulmin said.


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