International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
  • Submission Document: Not available
Keywords: Transport (1 hits),

General Content

a) What are the expectations for the outcome of Rio+20, and what are the concrete proposals in this regard, including views on a possible structure of the Outcome document?

This submission comes from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) ? a policy research organisation focused on sustainable development challenges and solutions, particularly in low- and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America (see

IIED hosts the secretariat for the Green Economy Coalition (GEC). We contributed to the GEC submission to the zero draft, and fully endorse the points put forward by the coalition.

We are currently losing the battle for sustainable development. The incremental changes in economic policy and governance that we have been able to bring about are not keeping pace with the more negative trends that persist, notably in the fields of environment, climate and energy and also in resource scarcity and inequality in access to water, food and fuel both between and within countries. The first Rio Summit 20 years ago achieved major progress in establishing new conventions and shared understanding of common goals and imperatives. But the prognosis for Rio 2012 is worrying: the failure of international climate change talks in Copenhagen in 2009, and the lack of momentum in other global negotiations have led to a decline in engagement in global environmental issues at the senior political and policy level.

Several influential countries show little interest in locking themselves into domestic policy obligations on environmental issues through international commitments, and routinely resist strong consensus agreement in UN fora.

Given the above, while the issues on the agenda for Rio are hugely important and timely, any progress in agreeing common commitments and frameworks for action is likely to be small in scale and of little significance in relation to existing challenges and future trends.

But this doesn?t mean that Rio 2012 can?t have major positive impacts on future policy and practice around the world. All countries recognise the need to shift energy use away from fossil fuels; to invest in low-carbon technologies and jobs; and to plan for a resource-scarce future. For many poorer countries, the impacts of climate change and resource scarcity are already putting pressure on society and economy ? and locally-relevant solutions are urgently needed, together with support from the wider world.

A high profile global event on green economy and sustainable development governance can have a major impact in:
? sharing lessons from good practice (and cutting out bad practice);
? allowing ?coalitions of willing actors? to freely form; and
? enabling high-level dialogue and agreement on the principles and tools needed.

b) What are the comments, if any, on existing proposals: e.g., a green economy roadmap, framework for action, sustainable development goals, a revitalized global partnership for sustainable development, or others?

The Rio 2012 event can pave the way for major impact in sustainable development if it provides the space to do three key things:
? showcase highly effective initiatives and policies that can be replicated and scaled up
? support ?coalitions of willing actors? in areas such as job creation, wealth accounting and valuation of ecosystem services, and government procurement policy and practice
? debate and move forward the principles and tools for future global collaboration, notably the post-2015 framework, when most of the Millennium Development Goals reach their target date

As far as the green economy roadmap is concerned, IIED believes that the institutional framework for a green economy requires real change in all countries. Priorities for attention include:
? Moving beyond GDP as the main means to define and measure progress in development
? Integrating environment into national budgets and policy frameworks
? Changing decision-making structures, recognising that powerful actors benefit from the status quo and that existing economic models do not adequately benefit the vast majority
? Empowering ?unrecognised? actors who already play key roles in ?greening? economies and can do more if supported effectively
? Encouraging sustainable practices by businesses, governments and consumers
? Changing environmental management and accounting to enable better management and use of environmental assets
c) What are the views on implementation and on how to close the implementation gap, which relevant actors are envisaged as being involved (Governments, specific Major Groups, UN system, IFIs, etc.);

The short answer is to focus on accountability. Rio 2012 will fail if its main output is a ?consensus text? that merely recalls past agreements, or simply reflects the lowest common willingness to change among participating governments. It is much more important to focus on implementing existing targets and strengthening accountability for action.

The summit must challenge countries to make shared political commitments to change, and to show how they will be accountable. It should also offer an attractive stage for showcasing their promises.

Despite concerns over the existing political context, we see a strong need for international consensus on sustainable development goals and the potential for ?green economy? and effective governance. In our ideal scenario, the very language that the world uses to discuss the economy would change. The big shifts that Rio 2012 could help the world to understand, commit to, and be accountable for, include:
A new way of understanding and supporting innovation. To break out of existing systems and infrastructures ? such as fossil fuel-based mobility, fragmented decision making, and national or local regulations to global challenges ? more radical innovation processes and pathways are needed. In many cases, innovation will have to involve many more stakeholders and industries to tease out bottom-up, community or workplace advances that can help reorganise society. It may be rooted less firmly in market contexts.

An end to financial practices that fuel environmental degradation and economic insecurity. The unconstrained expansion of the global financial sector has produced too many negative social and environmental returns. Strong international accords must be agreed to rein in dangerous speculation and instead encourage positive side-effects from economic activity. One piece of the solution should be a global commitment to sustainable employment through decent and green job creation.

Recapitalisation of our natural resource base. Leaving environmental protection in the hands of markets or governments has failed. What is needed now is a sustained global commitment, matched by robust financial mechanisms, to recapitalise eroded soils, depleted water bodies, degraded forests and fisheries; and to incentivise investment in the ?green infrastructure? that provides countless goods and services to society, from flood protection or timber to recreation and clean drinking water.

An alignment of profit with sustainable development. The more that sustainable development can be associated with profitability, the more likely it is that business will strive to deliver it. This will require getting not just the prices right but also the incentives. The WTO and other international trade and financial institutions often undermine efforts to move in this direction. But if the goals and values by which they operate are reframed these institutions can be important partners in achieving a more sustainable world.
d) What specific cooperation mechanisms, partnership arrangements or other implementation tools are envisaged and what is the relevant time frame for the proposed decisions to be reached and actions to be implemented?

Before entering into new arrangements for co-operation and partnership, the UN must assess the effectiveness of past initiatives. The ?Type 2? partnerships from the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development were in the main badly conceived and entered into with very weak accountability and clarity on mutual obligations between actors. Most quickly fell into disuse and by and large the only ones that can claim success would have happened anyway.

The following suggestions focus on the issues that require cooperation and partnership but their precise arrangements should be developed by the main actors involved. For each issue, we present why the focus is needed, suggest some specific mechanisms that could be used to encourage cooperation, and outline a relevant time frame for action.

Many involve transforming national institutions, which will require strong political commitment, capacity, and international support. Rio 2012 should challenge governments to assess the extent to which they can claim to address these issues, and also how they can effectively support and learn from others? efforts.

Redefine progress in development and how it is measured.
? Why? GDP has proven to be a grossly inadequate tool for measuring national development, and GDP-driven policies have led to many of today?s problems.
? Specific mechanisms: regional and global means to share lessons, experience, build common metrics and apply them in mainstream economic contexts.
? Time frame: over the next ten years countries should shift away from GDP to better models that internalise environmental and social costs.

Bring environment into national budgets and policy frameworks.
? Why? Industrial, economic, fiscal, agricultural, health, land use, Transport and many other policies can have impacts, both positive and negative, on ecosystems and the goods and services they provide. Achieving a green economy requires that environmental concerns and priorities are taken into account at all levels of national policymaking and spending, and are also integrated into the countless tributaries of development ? sectoral government ministries and departments, local government institutions, businesses, the media, academia and civil society.
? Specific mechanisms: as above.
? Time frame: varies according to country.

Change decision-making structures.
? Why? One barrier to change is that those who are setting economic and market policies believe they are well served by the status quo and so make invalid assumptions about others? demand for, and willingness to, change. The language and tools of public participation, while widely accepted in many areas of development, are rarely used in economic and financial planning. Yet there is much that such approaches can do to bring economic policies and decisions more into line with the widely-shared desire for a sustainable future. Decentralising decision-making processes can also help ensure that those affected by economic decisions have a say in them. In Brazil and several other countries, participatory budgeting, in which citizens are directly involved in setting budget priorities, has been used to ensure greater allocation of government resources to expenditures such as health care, with widespread impacts on well-being.
? Specific mechanisms: Primarily to be developed at national level.
? Time frame: shifting the ethos of economic measures and policies to be more inclusive, open and fair is a high-level challenge, so it?s hard to quantify targets and time tables.

Empower unrecognised actors.
? Why? Much of the contribution to the emerging green economy comes not from governments or mainstream businesses but from economic actors that are often overlooked, including the informal sector, local communities and social enterprises. For example, the Self-Employed Women?s Association in India has established a system in which poor women in the informal sector get organised, receive training and earn better wages by providing communities with electricity through renewable energy sources. Not only are the contributions of these actors rarely considered in economic planning, but in many countries some of them are systematically excluded, particularly those within the informal sector. In many countries, the government and others must find ways to identify, scale up and strengthen unconventional innovative initiatives, which have positive environmental and social as well as economic outcomes; and assure these actors a voice, rights, and legal and social protection.
? Specific mechanisms: both the UN and individual governments must promote sharing of innovative entrepreneurial tools and approaches pursued outside the formal business sector. It?s also vital to support rigorous independent assessment of the economic, social and environmental impacts of these approaches.
? Time frame: it would be useful to have a post-2012 focus on this area as part of the Commission on Sustainable Development?s future agenda.

?Tilt the playing field? to encourage sustainable practices by businesses, governments and consumers.
? Why? This means making ?good? behaviour cheaper and ?bad? behaviour more expensive. For consumers, a sustainable lifestyle should be the easy and right choice. But the reverse is more often true. So we need to level and then tip the rules in favour of positive behaviour and business practice. One good example is Germany?s ?feed-in? tariff that has given the country 200,000 green jobs and has significantly increased the amount of renewable energy used. By providing an incentive for people and companies to generate their own renewable energy and input the surplus to the national grid at a guaranteed premium, the playing field was tilted effectively in favour of both small- and larger-scale renewable energy production.
? Specific mechanism: the UN and governments should support analysis and dissemination of effective instruments to promote good practice, across a wide spectrum of contexts and actors.
? Time frame: depends on context and issue. Useful to have a UN-commissioned overview to frame future priorisation and sharing of practice in the next 2 years.
Specific Elements
a) Objective of the Conference: To secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assessing the progress to date and remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development and addressing new and emerging challenges.

Contributions could include possible sectoral priorities (e.g., (e.g., energy, food security and sustainable agriculture, technology transfer, water, oceans, sustainable urbanization, sustainable consumption and production, natural disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation, biodiversity, etc.) and sectoral initiatives that contribute to integrate the three pillars of sustainable development could be launched and endorsed at Rio+20.

The priority at Rio 2012 must be to relaunch the concept of global sustainability, focusing on responsible and equitable economic models and sustainable prosperity.

As a result of high-level political engagement in climate change policy, the concept of sustainability is now much more anchored in future economic and resource development. If climate change is the problem, sustainable development is the solution ? and ?green economy? is the means by which to achieve that solution. While future climate change accords are clearly necessary, it is new economic and governance goals and structures ? a ?green economy? ? that will drive sustainable development.

There is some momentum behind efforts to use Rio 2012 to start setting the framework for international co-operation that will succeed the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (see for example the work of the UN High Level Panel on Global Sustainability). The summit should play a key role in elaborating this framework and helping to establish credible and ambitious effort to put this new framework in place over the next four to five years.
b) Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication: views regarding how green economy can be a means to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions, and poverty eradication; what is its potential added value; experience to date, including what has worked and how to build upon success, what are the challenges and opportunities and how to address the challenges and seize opportunities, and possible elements of an agreement in outcome document on a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication

Attempts to make our economies fairer and more sustainable are essential if efforts to tackle poverty, now and in the future, are to have any chance of success. The last few years have seen a combination of crises that threaten our ability to spread prosperity and sustain our planet, and show no sign of abating. Climate change, environmental degradation, unemployment, poverty, insecurity and inequality seem to feed off one another. At their roots are prevailing ?extractive? economic models and governance systems that cannot respect nature?s potentials and limits.

It is now considered inevitable that climate change ? a by-product of unsustainable growth ? will threaten the lives and livelihoods of many millions, especially poor people. Past gains in development are already being reversed, with an expected loss of 5 to 20 per cent in World Gross Product by 2050, and 55?90 million more people living in extreme poverty and 100 million more suffering hunger.

Real ?tipping points? are looming in environmental, social and economic systems. The 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment revealed how the environmental foundations of development are threatened. It calculated that 60 per cent of ecosystems are now degraded with, for example, 75 per cent of marine fisheries fully or over-exploited, and a freshwater crisis imminent. In 2009 an authoritative paper in the journal Nature identified the world as having exceeded three of nine interconnected ?planetary boundaries?.

What is true for the environment is true for many development issues. The Millennium Development Goals stand out not only because they were adopted by heads of state at the Millennium Summit but because they are realistic and can be implemented. No insurmountable financial, institutional, cultural or diplomatic obstacle stands in the way of smooth progress towards their realisation. Yet as we approach the target dates, it appears that very few goals will be met.

Why, then, take the current wave of interest in ?green economies? seriously? There are several good reasons to do so now, despite the limited impact in the past:
1. The dominant global economic paradigm ? called the Washington Consensus or neo-liberalism ? collapsed with the economic crisis of September 2008, provoking the deepest global economic downturn since the Great Depression. Despite prominent, and increasingly desperate, efforts to put the economy back on its feet on the same basis as before, many governments, businesses and civil society organisations also believe that the crisis is an opportunity to amend economic organisation.

2. The economic collapse coincides with the growing fear of irreversible environmental crises, and a realisation that returning to environmentally-destructive growth would only precipitate these crises and undermine the economic foundations of recovery. Fear of climate change is the most visible of these, but it is likely that influential people will begin to take seriously the evidence that other crises are imminent. Most of the recovery packages claim ? at least in name ? various shades of green.

3. If a new economy is to be designed to control climate change, then attention will shift to imagining what that economy might look like and how we might get there. The emerging scenarios are attractive ? most proposals emphasise ?low-carbon? models, ambitiously reframing our approaches to generating and using energy, and promising a range of new green jobs, industries and business opportunities, especially for the first movers. The imperative stems from observing the jobless growth, the breakdown of social institutions and the rapid degradation of natural resources and ecosystems that appeared to be an inevitable companion of the form of growth followed by the neo-liberal agenda.

4. There have also been recent calls to shift economic goals towards resilience, rather than growth. Some of these also point to social justice and equity, and investment in good management of the environmental asset base.

All of the above provides a basis for Rio 2012 to challenge governments to recognise that short-term economic fixes will do little to tackle the structural problems facing the global economy ?and that there are real long-term benefits in rethinking why and how they use economic instruments to reduce volatility, increase resilience and improve wellbeing for the many rather than the few.
c) Institutional framework for sustainable development: Priorities and proposals for strengthening individual pillars of sustainable development, as well as those for strengthening integration of the three pillars, at multiple levels; local, national, regional and international.

IIED is less concerned with the institutional architecture of environment and sustainable development than with the key functions that must be performed. The challenges set out under c) above (views on implementation) all require urgent attention.

Two further areas of institutional uncertainty also demand immediate global attention:

Assessing the future role of development aid and climate finance. Over the coming decade climate finance from high-income to middle- and low-income countries looks set to dwarf official aid flows, but the links between the two are still very unclear. Climate-resilient poverty reduction will not be cheap: making the MDGs in Africa resilient to climate change over the next decade was recently estimated to be 40 per cent more expensive than in a non-climate change affected scenario. All countries should use the Rio 2012 summit to explore how climate finance can take on board lessons from aid effectiveness about the need to align with, and support, national development and policy.

Supporting better REDD strategies. There?s been a strong global push to create the means to pay for avoided deforestation but with insufficient attention to the complex systems governing rights to forest resources. This poses a significant hurdle to strategies for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). Dialogue involving key countries and relevant nongovernmental actors in Rio could lead to significant improvements in the management and use of REDD funding. In particular, it could increase recognition of the need for effective and accountable national governance to deliver clear and fair benefits for forest-dependent people while also helping to reduce global emissions.
d) Any proposals for refinement of the two themes. Recall that Resolution 64/236 describes the focus of the Conference: "The focus of the Conference will include the following themes to be discussed and refined during the preparatory process: a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development".

Various refinements have been put forward above. The answer to question b) in particular summarises the main ways in which IIED proposes to improve the focus of the Rio 2012 summit.

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