Northern Alliance for Sustainability
  • Date submitted: 28 Oct 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: Northern Alliance for Sustainability
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Green economy (2 hits),

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Next year, in June 2012, world leaders and civil society meet for the Rio + 20 conference. While the global economy faces increasing challenges and the planetary environment is under stress as never before, it is clear to us that these twin challenges must be tackled together. Rio + 20, with its? focus on the transition to a green and sustainable economy, offers a unique opportunity to make a new programme for genuinely sustainable development globally, nationally and locally. At present the lack of commitment to the Rio + 20 event from governments is alarmingly weak. We, as non-governmental organisations within global civil society, want to increase the engagement of governments while ensuring that discussions before and in Rio + 20 take a positive and forward-looking view of a global Green economy and lead to real commitments and lasting change.

This paper is a contribution to this process. It sets out a set of goals and priorities for action by governments and others. It draws from many sources and discussions including the recent declaration from the UN DPI conference held in Germany in September 2011. We invite all organisations concerned for sustainable development and the success of Rio + 20 to discuss and support these goals.

1) Commitment to Rio + 20

Despite some progress made since the UN Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, human-induced loss of biodiversity, global climate change, desertification, deforestation, acidification of the oceans, and many other problems continue.

The current economic model promotes unsustainable consumption and production patterns, facilitates an inequitable trading system, has failed to eradicate poverty, assists exploitation of natural resources towards the verge of extinction, and has induced multiple crises on Earth. The urgency to change the roots of our economic model has to be stressed. As civil society we want to promote fair and equitable sustainable development for all with respect for the limits of our common ecological and social capital.

We urge governments to send their Heads of State or Government with the commitment to End the Rio+20 conference with a roadmap and politically binding targets for each country to meet an agreed set of goals: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and agree on a strategy to achieve them. Agree on a set of principles, linked to the Agenda 21 principles, to frame the transition to a Green and Fair Economy.

2) The transition to a green and sustainable economy

We recognise that:

Our current economic models suffer from a series of market and institutional failures. It does not need reform but replacement. A true ?green? economy within a sustainable society requires policies that make the step from efficiency toward sufficiency. So far there is little sign that the technology and efficiency approach can lead to the reductions in the use and waste of both renewable and non-renewable resources on the scale that is needed to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, detoxifying our environment and enable us to live within global limits.

The steps taken so far fail to meet the scale and urgency of the problems humanity is confronted with: as such the approach taken to achieve sustainable production and consumption so far has been too weak. We call for a stronger approach to sustainability. We need technological innovations and efficiency gains and we need to make them universally available but we have to recognise that these will never be enough to achieve an economy that stays within the limits set by nature and by the social capital we have.

We urge leaders to face the facts: if we really want to halt the path of destruction that we're still in, then we need this stronger approach to sustainability. That means we need sufficiency policies for countries that are currently consuming beyond global limits. We have to stop telling consumers that they need to consume more in order to save the economy. Despite agreements at Rio 1992 and Johannesburg 2002 there has been a clear failure to integrate environmental, social and development priorities into economic policies. Social engagement and other elements of ?well-being? that are at the core of sustainable development are still not taken into account when making economic policy. We have to shift from economic growth and more consumption to more well-being for all and more equal opportunities to consume in ways that foster social values and stay within the limits set by nature.

We urge governments to:

Establish national roadmaps for a green and sustainable economy, based on the fair share of natural resources and CO2 emissions. Policies for sustainable and humane agriculture need to be an important part of this, given its fundamental importance with regards to food security, food sovereignty, livelihoods, human health, animal welfare and environmental impacts.

Establish on a global scale a set of Millennium Consumption Goals (MCGs) for the period 2012-2031 towards establishing an intergenerational right to equitable consumption opportunities. Over-consumption needs to be capped and gradually lowered in order to give the necessary environmental space for under-consumers to meet their basic needs. Rethink the financing of social security systems currently based on continuous economic growth, which perpetuate the crisis, and with this rethinking start to move towards an economic model that is grounded in sustainable development principles;

3) Improved and new forms of governance to enable that transition

We recognise that:

The crises we face are multiple and complex, and that existing institutions are inadequate to tackle these challenges to humanity. Changes will be needed at every level, but action at the global and intergovernmental level will provide critical leadership in this process of change.

We urge governments to:

Establish a global sustainable development coordinating mechanism and parallel institutions at the national level, empowered to pursue system-wide policy coherence for Bretton Woods and UN institutions to advance sustainable development principles, pathways, and policies in a coordinated manner. A Council of the UN General Assembly on sustainable development should ensure that governance for sustainable development is at the top of the UN agenda. Upgrade UNEP to the status of specialised agency in the UN system.

Upgrade the International Panel of the sustainable use of Natural Resources. To implement the MCGs and a "resource capped economy? this panel has to define the sustainable extraction limits on a series of resources and define the fair share of distribution/capping of these resources.

Establish an International Environmental Court to implement environmental justice on a global scale. Crimes against the environment should be considered as a criminal offence and should be treated as such by this court. End the criminalisation of environmental movements and activists where this is occurring. Establish an Ombudspersons for Future Generations at global, national and local levels, who will advocate for sustainable development, serve as an auditor at the heart of governments and deal with citizens complaints. Develop regional or international conventions to take forward Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration to ensure access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental decision-making. Develop a Precautionary Principle Convention to assess new and emerging technologies, armed with the legal power to ban technologies that put the planet at grave risk.

Develop and resource National Councils on Sustainable Development to drive the transition to green economies and develop a national sustainable Green economy roadmap for each Member State of the UN by 2017. Other governance levels should do the same.

Recognise that meaningful coordination and participation processes among civil society organisations require reliable and stable resources; we therefore urge a steady increase in the funding for such processes achieves a better balance between core- and project-based funding.

Many of the specific points in this text are taken from the declaration of the 64th Annual UN DPI/NGO conference in Bonn (3-5 Sept 2011).
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