First Intersessional Meeting - Highlights of Side Events


First Intersessional Meeting, New York, 10 ? 11 January 2011

10 January

Introducing Business Action for Sustainable Development 2012

Convened by the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the side-event provided a platform to introduce BASD 2012 (Business Action for Sustainable Development) to the participants of the first Rio+20 intersessional meeting. Chaired by Mr. Chad Holliday, Chairman of Bank of America and former Chief Executive Officer of Dupont, BASD 2012 is a temporary and inclusive coalition to coordinate the business contributions to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development 2012 (Rio+20).

The side-event brought together over 70 representatives from business, civil society, governments, the UN system and Rio+20 major groups and focused on the achievements of the private sector in addressing economic, social and environmental goals and its role in mobilizing support and contributing to a successful Rio+20 preparations and event.

Panellists in the event included: Mr. Chad Holliday, Chairman of Bank of America and Chair of BASD 2012; Mr. Georg Kell, Executive Director, UN Global Compact; Ms. Martina Bianchini, Vice President, Government Affairs and Public Policy, Dow Chemical and ICC Green Economy Task Force Chairperson; and Mr. Peter Paul van de Wijs, Managing Director, Communications and Business Role Focus Area, WBCSD.

Moderated by Mr. Tariq Banuri Director, Division for Sustainable Development/CSD Secretariat, DESA, each members of the panel made remarks noting the important role of business as solutions providers in the sustainable development agenda. A special announcement was made by Mr. Oded Grajew, Chair of the Board, Ethos Institute for Business and Social Responsibility to create an initiative garnering the work of business and proactively collaborating with business, civil society, and governments ahead of Rio+20.

Mr. Chad Holliday introduced BASD 2012 which represents the constructive business voice in the Rio+20 process by not only coordinating the business input to the formal Rio+20 process but also demonstrating real progress made since the original Rio conference. Mr. Holliday emphasized that it will be crucial for business and other stakeholders to engage in the Rio+20 process early on and continue to have proactive dialogue ahead of Rio as a mean to achieve a global agreement. He emphasized that concrete international frameworks and processes as well as certainty on regulation from national governments are what moves business to action. He added that BASD2012 is an inclusive partnership that plans to work with interested business organizations to build positive and constructive business input into the Rio+20 process.

Mr. Georg Kell emphasized the crucial role of market-based solutions in realizing a low-carbon future and reiterated the importance of scaling-up innovative and transformative solutions. He stressed the importance of accelerating the integration of ESG issues by companies globally, thus mobilizing widespread, practical action towards global sustainability. Mr. Kell called on governments to set the right incentives to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions and reward responsible business practices.

Ms. Martina Bianchini introduced ICC?s Taskforce on Green Economy and emphasized the role of business and industry in adopting the Green Economy model. She stressed that difference is made at the sectoral level and underscored the need to balance short-term and long-term strategies to meet both social and environmental challenges. Moreover, she reiterated the importance of setting global business and industry perspectives and principles to accelerate the transition to a Green Economy.

Mr. Peter Paul van de Wijs stressed the important role of business as a part of the sustainable development agenda and that sustainable development is an effective long-term business growth strategy. He urged cooperation and creative partnerships between governments, business, and civil society, to address global sustainability challenges.

Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development ? Reforming Sustainable Development Governance

This event focused on the institutional framework for sustainable development and how sustainable development governance could be reformed as an outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or Rio +20).

Two papers were presented: ?Sustainable Development Governance toward Rio +20: Framing the Debate? by Jan-Gustave Strandenaes, and ?Global Governance in the 21st Century: Rethinking the Environmental Pillar? by Dr. Maria Ivanova. A third presentation was given by Lalanath de Silva on enhanced implementation of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration.

Mr. Strandenaes? paper focused on reforms needed for good governance. Recommendations included: Elevating the Commission on Sustainable Development to a UN Council on Sustainable Development. This could be undertake in a similar as the reform of the Commission on Human Rights in the Human Rights Council; Establishment of a High-level Segment within ECOSOC; Revitalising the Task Management system to ensure strong and coordinated participation by the UN System in the CSD; Re-establish the Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development (IACSD), perhaps as a sub-committee of the Chief Executives Board (CEB); Enhancing the role of civil society in the reform mechanisms;
Strengthen the linkages between sustainable development governance mechanisms at the national, regional and local levels; Rio+20 could give birth to process leading to Conventions on Precautionary Principle, Corporate Social Responsibility or Rio Principle 10;
Making a commitment to a long-term and resilient strategy.

Dr. Maria Ivanova?s paper identified systemic problems within the sphere of international environmental governance (IEG) and made recommendations for reform on that basis.
The problems she noted included: Outdated development model based on an unsustainable patter of consumption and production; Outdated moral and ethical paradigm; Policy-implementation disconnect in light of differing perspectives and weak global governance structures; Fragmentation in the international environmental governance (IEG) system;
Lack of accountability in IEG frameworks; Scant financial resources to support IEG;
Significant capacity gaps and an authority deficit at the national level amongst the relevant ministries..

Based on analysis of these challenges, recommendations included: UNEP tasked to serve as a Global Environmental Information Clearinghouse; Focus on UNEP?s Capacity Building Program on information, matchmaking and direct service provision; Strengthen and utilize the Environmental Management Group; Strengthen governance by creating an Executive Board at UNEP; Consolidate financial and accounting reporting; Conduct a holistic review of global environmental governance and UNEP?s role.

Mr. de Silva emphasized the importance of greater implementation of Principle 10 of the Rio Convention and ?Access Rights? (access to information, public participation and access to justice.) Creating enforceable access rights is not unprecedented. Governments in Europe supported the development of the Aarhus Convention. This Convention, adopted in 1998 under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) entered into force in 2001 and has 44 European and Central Asian Parties.

Given the ?Eurocentric? nature of the Aarhus Convention, Mr. de Silva suggested that Rio +20 could encourage the development of similar mechanisms in different regions.

The event featured two Respondents: Michael K. Dorsey, Assistant Professor at Dartmouth College Environmental Studies Program, and Takashi Otsuka, Senior Coordinator at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. They emphasized points ranging from, lack of funding, lack of space for sustainable development governance in political economy, diffuse focus on sustainable development matters, and the risk of global conventions becoming a ?race to the bottom.?

The floor was opened for questions, with statements echoing points previously made: increased funding, diffuse focus and a spectrum of perspectives of stakeholders, bridging implementation gaps, planning on the country/local level and speculation as to what Rio +20 will achieve. Innovative tools, particularly social media, were also brought up as a means to implement policy on access to information.

11 January

One Planet Living at Rio+20

The side event hosted by BioRegional considered the one planet living approach and ten principles framework developed from BioRegional?s practical experiences as a simple way to plan, deliver, communicate and mainstream sustainable development and the green economy. Speakers presented case studies and then discussed if it could be used as a communications theme and engagement tool for Rio+20, starting by looking at the sustainability of the event itself.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP said ?For a number of years I have been following closely the development of the concepts, the ten principles and the way this initiative has been able to inspire across many countries?. In many ways the green economy is what you have articulated in your ten is about tomorrow?s jobs, markets, products and our capacity to feed and sustain 8 -9 million people on this planet. BioRegional and one planet living are in the vanguard of developing these concepts. Do work with us and take the lessons to the international policy arena?

Sue Riddlestone, Director and co-founder of BioRegional said ?we need one planet living, where we live high quality lives within our fair share of the earth?s resources and leave sufficient space for wildlife and wilderness. The projects we have developed with partners give us a positive vision for the future in many different locations and situations and show how it can be done cost effectively.?

Case studies were presented by speakers from local and national government and businesses. Geof Syphers of Codding Enterprises described a new sustainable community in San Francisco and how new products and small businesses had been kick started in response to implementing the one planet living approach.

Rachel Bradley of B&Q, part of the third largest home improvement group in the world, gave examples of how the approach had led to creative thinking which is improving the business bottom line, for example, trying to achieve zero waste led them to develop a re-usable kitchen worktop packaging system which has cut costs.

Colin Hall of the London Borough of Sutton said the scope of the one planet principles has enabled wider engagement than just the environment team. Social services can see how their work relates to sustainability through the health and happiness principle.

Jane Stratford of the UK Department of Environment (DEFRA) spoke of the success of the One Planet 2012 sustainability strategy for the London Olympics and voiced her support for one planet living as an accessible concept and communications tool which is tangible for the public and a positive approach which could help renew political commitment at Rio+20.

Delegates said they liked the concept and suggested incorporating the nine planetary boundaries and human responsibility to care for the Earth.

Making the Rio+20 conference sustainable was then the theme of a panel and audience discussion. The main carbon impact at the COP15 in Copenhagen was aviation (87%). Could technology enable global participation through mini-Rios with live broadcast of the meeting, virtual meeting rooms and social media? Could the UN trial this and other suggestions in the preparatory meetings? There was support for a leaving a positive legacy in Rio by creating sustainable jobs and homes. Many ideas were generated and are shown on the next page. These ideas will also be sent to the UN organisers.

A green economy that works for all: green jobs, decent work and sustainable investment

The Panel discussion focused on creating ?A green economy that works for all: green jobs, decent work and sustainable development?. The panel acknowledged that moving towards a green economy entails adjusting to new patterns of natural resource use and conservation while also creating jobs to sustain livelihoods. The ILO and its constituents of employers? and workers? organizations, and governments are addressing a just transition through the ILO agenda for Green Jobs. Jobs are said to be green when they help reduce negative environmental impacts ultimately leading to environmentally, economically and socially sustainable enterprises and economies. The panel discussed various policies that address labour market adjustments and the need to generate new and sustainable sources of employment and income.
Mr. Peter Poschen, ILO, identified two challenges defining the 21st Century: Environment, being the ability to avert climate change and life-support on earth; and also the social challenge, being the ability to provide decent work for all. This dual challenge also provides an opportunity for a ?2nd Great Transformation? through green growth and clean development. The transformation will impact enterprises and workers which is why the social effectiveness of such policies will determine its sustainability. Citing the effects of various natural disasters around the world, he indicated that there is no alternative to a green growth transformation. The environment and the workplace are two sides of the same coin since often times environmental disasters start as a result of major industrial accidents, i.e BP, Exxon, Chernobyl, Bhopal. The ILO global programme on green jobs provides advisory services to countries to address these compounding challenges. Green jobs can be created in all sectors and types of enterprises, in urban and rural areas, developed and developing countries and several examples of projects already underway point to this reality.

Ms. Laura Martin, Director, Sustainlabour, said that in order for green jobs to play a key role in the transition to a low carbon economy and socially inclusive development, they need to be decent jobs which provide adequate incomes, social protection and respect for workers rights and give workers a say in the decisions which will affect their lives. The green economy must develop social progress, not based on GDP figures alone, but by the ability to satisfy long term human needs. It must also be based on equity at the national level as well as between developing and developed countries. Much better regulation is needed to ensure prices and markets are conducive to promote greener growth.

Ms. Norine Kennedy, United States Council for International Business, indicated that the business community has been working towards green jobs through cleaner production and the minimization of waste since 1992. The current challenge is to define a green economy, which requires a multidisciplinary approach with the involvement of labour, environment, and social actors, all of whom do not automatically interact and may be working from differing definitions. The issue of the green economy must be internalized within the private sector in order for it to be sustainable. A starting point for policies on green jobs begins with good jobs policy. She cautioned against signaling out which businesses are ?green or brown? but rather focus on the greening of industry in general by providing solutions and identify potential sectors which could create more green jobs. She suggested that a ?To Do? list for business may start with skills upgrading, identifying current and persisting challenges, offering training support, and education.

Looking to 2012, the panelists concurred that green jobs are a reality and will play a key role in the transition to a green economy. There is opportunity for more and better jobs that also promote social inclusion in the process. However, positive outcomes will not come by default. A strong link must be made between the green economy, growth and strengthening governance. There is a need to design coherent policies that transcend governments, include social partners, map employment/income opportunities and risks in order to determine where to target interventions for inclusive growth, design coherent policies with multiple line ministries and engage stakeholders in social dialogue in order to promote more democratic industrial relations, improve transparency and build democratic institutions for a just a just transition.

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