Environmental Pillar of Social Partnership
- Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
- Stakeholder type: Major Group
- Submission Document: Download
- Additional Document:
The Environmental Pillar of Social Partnership in Ireland welcomes the opportunity to
contribute to the Rio +20 Conference on Sustainable Development. The Environmental
Pillar is one of the 5 National Social Partners established by the Irish Government to
enable civil society interaction with government. The Environmental Pillar is an advocacy
coalition made up of 27 national Irish environmental NGOs.
The major outcomes of the Rio Conference in 1992 ?The Earth Summit? included the Rio
Declaration, Agenda 21, and the Sustainable Forest Principles. For the first time at
international level, it was agreed that economic development must incorporate principles
like environmental sustainability, public participation, human rights and poverty reduction.
The outcomes of the Earth Summit made it clear that protection of the environment was
essential for the well-being of societies and the economic systems that they create. The
fundamental concept of sustainable development has evolved since and is best described
by means of the ?Russian doll model?. This model shows human society evolving from
and entirely reliant on the environment from whence it came. It also shows the economic
systems that were created by humanity as a subset of human society and one that can be
and has been changed to suit the needs of the time.
Human Society emerged from, and is entirely reliant for its survival on, the natural
environment. Economic systems are created to serve society and can be changed by
society. Human society on its present course, with a rapidly growing population, and with
an economic system based on an ever increasing use and abuse of natural resources, is
destined to destroy the natural systems on which it relies.
In recent developments, a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth has been
drafted and the Ecuadorean Constitution (2008) and Bolivia's Law of the Rights Of Mother
Earth (2011) both now recognise the Rights of Nature.
?in an interdependent living community it is not possible to recognize the
rights of only human beings without causing an imbalance within Mother
Some progress has been made since 1992 including through the elaboration of regional,
national and local sustainable development strategies, the adoption of a binding
agreement on Climate Change, the progression of the Convention on Biological Diversity
and associated international, national and local biodiversity Action Plans, and the
ratification of the Aarhus Convention on environmental democracy by 44 states in the
UNECE region. In developing countries, the Rio Declaration allowed for the incorporation
of Human Development considerations and greatly influenced the Millennium
Development Goals (MDG) agenda. However wealth is increasingly concentrated in the
hands of a small percentage of the population, undermining the sense of solidarity
necessary for concerted efforts to resolve the global crises of poverty, environmental
degradation and economic chaos.
Overall, though, 20 years on, tangible change has been negligible as evidenced by the
collection of global crises today: crises in democracy, global economics and finance,
climate change, accelerating biodiversity loss and food security. While much has been
achieved through the MDGs, sadly over 1 billion people continue to live in absolute
poverty worldwide while the international framework which is expected to help them is
fragmented and incoherent. Agenda 21 has largely been paid only lip service, and has
failed to integrate the key challenges of sustainable development in to various sectors.
The Convention on Biological Diversity has driven some progress and raised profile of the
global biodiversity crisis however biodiversity loss continues at an unprecedented rate.
The Sustainable Forest Principles are still not being implemented or progressed.
Even though the agenda for the Rio +20 conference is somewhat restrictive and lacking in
vision, the 20th anniversary still represents a major opportunity for states to re-commit to
and prioritise the fulfilment of the principles which underpin the Rio Declaration and to
agree and implement a programme which moves humanity forward in that direction.
However, political will to fulfil commitments has waned since 1992 and the institutional
framework for making real progress on sustainable development is inadequate.
For this to change, the involvement of major groups and stakeholders will be critical in the
preparatory process and in the conference itself, as civil society will play a central role in
gathering support and momentum for dealing with the global challenges discussed there.
Civil society will also bring knowledge, expertise and resources as well as advocacy skills
that will promote the environmental and developmental priorities and obligations, helping
to ensure the following outcomes as the absolute minimum required to tackle the many
crises facing humanity and nature:
1.1 an explicit expression of the need for a seismic shift in the prevailing economic
model to one based on the understanding of the limits to growth, together with an
outline mechanism for moving towards a new model;
1.2 a reiteration of commitment to implement the principles of sustainable
development contained in the Rio Declaration of 1992, together with timelines for
1.3 a clear statement that sustainable development will underpin the narrative for a
?post Millennium Development Goals? framework;
1.4 a declaration of the rights of nature.
2. Responses to specific questions
2.1. What have been the main successes/failures in
progressing sustainable development since the Earth Summit
in 1992; what are the key remaining gaps and how do you
think Ireland should best address these issues?
2.1.1. Cross-cutting Issues
If humanity is to survive and flourish then the kind of radical thinking that marked the
Earth Summit needs to be turned into action. Twenty years on, the public and the public
authorities at all levels of governance still need to be informed and educated about the
real issues that face them. The ?bread and circuses? that make up much of what is
provided by both the public and privately owned media, together with their continual
reference to members of the public as ?consumers?, drives society further towards the
brink of social and environmental collapse. The continual and inexplicable emphasis on
basing all decisions on the pursuit of continual GDP growth underlies this myopic drive
towards the destruction of our life support systems. The measurement of our success as
a society needs a new yardstick based on well-being and environmental integrity. We
need to measure qualitative not quantitative growth.
The main failure then has been the lack of integration of the principles of the Rio
Declaration and Agenda 21 in to all sectors and policy drivers (e.g. finance, construction
and development, energy, transport planning, agriculture and forestry.
By contrast and taking Principle 10 of the Declaration as a positive example of where
action has occurred, the UNECE countries together with the Environmental NGOs
developed the Aarhus Convention in 1998. This regional convention has had and is
continuing to have significant impacts on EU governance as well as on that of the 44
Parties. However Ireland, some 13 years later, remains the only EU country yet to ratify it.
Despite this latter fact, in 2008, Ireland decided to be the lead country in the
establishment of the Aarhus Convention Taskforce on Public Participation a body that has
the potential to lead the way in developing all aspects of civil society engagement with
decision-making, at a time in history when it is absolutely essential to develop new ways
of having conversations.
The implementation of agreements and commitments on Sustainable Development
emanating from the Earth Summit has been disappointing. Compliance and enforcement
procedures are at best inadequate and in most cases non-existent. RIO+20 presents an
opportunity to revisit agreements and commitments made in 1992 and to consider how
we will deliver on these, both collectively and individually. Furthermore governments will
be expected to make firm commitments on how to tackle emerging issues.3
Ireland could lead the way by for example in promoting compliance and enforcement
procedures/mechanisms, and new approaches to tackling emerging issues. Ireland must
show the political will to fulfil commitments made in 1992.
The establishment of Comhar as the National Sustainability Council with its 5 stakeholder
pillars was one of the shining lights in the general gloom during the property bubble
?boom?. Sadly the Council is to be disbanded in December 2011. Some of the functions
and resources of Comhar are to be transferred to the National Economic and Social
Council (NESC). Whilst it is a major step forward that the issue of sustainability is now to
be discussed and researched in NESC which is an advisory body directly to the
Government, it is currently unclear how much of the valuable work initiated by
stakeholders within Comhar will continue, including the Biodiversity Forum, and the
The Biodiversity Forum exists to monitor the implementation of the National Biodiversity
Plan. The new Plan has recently been signed by cabinet and is due to be published very
soon. The National Biodiversity Plan outlines Ireland?s actions to fulfil CBD commitments
that arose from the Rio Earth Summit to halt the loss of biodiversity, as well as actions to
be taken by various state agencies to address the biodiversity commitments and some of
the major ECJ rulings against Ireland on compliance with the Birds and Habitats
It is enormously important to continue to facilitate stakeholder participation in the delivery
of the new National Biodiversity Plan and in the monitoring of the implementation of the
plan. The Forum has been run as a working group of Comhar and as such will now need
to be housed and appropriately resourced elsewhere if Ireland is to ensure successful
delivery of the NBP actions.
If, as proposed, Comhar is being subsumed in to NESC, then the Biodiversity Forum
should also be run as a working group of NESC. This would be likely to facilitate
improved participation of the social partners in the implementation of the National Biodiversity Plan. Similarly, the Ramsar Committee should also be considered in the new
ENFO (the Environmental Information Office), once an international example of best
practice in information dissemination, was effectively axed in all but name in 2009. ENFO
was a well known and utilised source of environmental information. If we are to see
growing public awareness of the likely impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss and
degradation of essential services provided by the environment (?ecosystem services?), then
a well-resourced environmental awareness strategy is needed to replace ENFO. The roll
out of additional ENFO points is a welcome development although these will need to be
more active and more dynamic in their approach to disseminating environmental
information and education than is currently the case.
Environmental NGOs have been very successful in providing environmental education, in a
manner that facilitates real public engagement at minimal cost. This should point towards
greater resourcing and inclusion of these groups in the making and implementation of an
environmental awareness strategy. Involving the public in decision-making requires as a
prerequisite both active and passive availability of information. Involving the public is
essential to the effectiveness of the hard decisions that will have to be made over the
2.1.2 General Areas of Concern
Some general areas that have not received the attention they badly need include:
126.96.36.199 Implementation of European environmental law has been extremely poor in
Ireland, with 6 ECJ cases currently open against Ireland for failures to
implement wider ranging environmental safeguards including EIA and
biodiversity protection. This is a strong indicator of Irelands lack of strategic
and resourced approach to strengthening sustainable management of our
natural environment and is one of the key isues that needs to be addressed by
Ireland to achieve the SD objectives.
188.8.131.52 GDP is a totally inadequate measure of progress or development. Unfortunately
there is very little political will or commitment to change this, nor a sense of
urgency to achieve goals set in 1992. There is still no widely accepted
environmental index or measure.
184.108.40.206 We rarely see equity mentioned as a necessary ingredient for achieving
220.127.116.11 There needs to be greater investment into public involvement in sustainable
development. The institutional framework to catalyze this is very important at
local, national and international levels.
18.104.22.168 Education, information and participation generally relies more on the informal
sector than the formal sector we need to work to change this.
22.214.171.124 Business and Industry are central to our lives and there are great opportunities
as well as great obligations. Since RIO 1992 there has been much erosion of
state influence and regulation.
126.96.36.199 The social partners must be actively involved in greening the work
188.8.131.52 A policy framework to make technology available to Less Developed Countries
is needed. This would for example contribute to a sense of equity.
2.1.3 Energy and Climate
Since 1992, Ireland has made limited progress in the area of clean energy and actually
gone backwards in terms of climate change. Current projections indicate that Ireland will
only meet its Kyoto obligations as ?a direct result of the current economic recession? and
is likely to miss annual obligations under the EU?s 2020 target after 2015.4
Advances in the share of renewables in Ireland?s energy mix are welcome but are clearly
not sufficient in terms of delivering overall greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Energy
efficiency measures are also progressing but need to be accelerated if Ireland is to meet
its international emissions reduction targets.
Energy policy must integrate climate change concerns if greenhouse gas reduction targets
are to be met. Energy policy should also address the challenge of energy security. In 1990
Ireland imported 68% of its energy and this has increased to 89% in 2008, peaking at
91% in 2006. Moreover, Ireland is heavily dependent on the importation of oil and gas
which leaves it very vulnerable to increases in the prices of these commodities on the
The work of the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland in promoting the move away from
fossil fuels and reducing energy inefficiencies has been a positive if limited force. Work
on an energy ?pay as you save scheme? should lead to a pilot soon.
2.1.4. Local Agenda 21
The establishment of the County and City Development Boards as the engines of Local
Agenda 21 would have been a positive step, but the limited terms of reference given to
them left them largely without an environmental remit. Efforts made by the
Environmental Pillar to introduce Sustainability into the actions of these bodies are
generally being greeted by the members of the Boards with interest and by some with
enthusiasm. However, unlike the movement to add social inclusion to the work of the
CDBs, there is no significant support from Government for the move to incorporate
sustainability into their Terms of Reference.
Sustainable Development: A Strategy for Ireland, published in April 1997, provided for
local authorities to complete Local Agenda 21 Plans for their areas. Each county council
and county borough was to have a designated Local Agenda 21 Officer, and these were to
be networked at regional and national levels. Sadly this strategy achieved very little, and
needs to be reviewed and replaced with a new strategy at the earliest possible time.
There are good examples of local authorities taking local initiatives, such as Dublin City
Council, Roscommon County Council etc.
The role of county and city based Community Forums needs to be enhanced in order for
the wider community to engage with the governance structures more effectively at the
2.1.5. New Directions for Ireland
Instead of trying to get from the earth as much as we can, as fast as we can, paying as
little as we can to get it, we must start trying to nurture it, like we would a bountiful
garden. Ireland with a relatively small, well-educated population should avoid
GM food crops and Hydrological Fracturing ?fracking? (for oil/gas) are examples of
technologies that give short term monetary gains to a few, and cause long-term
problems/crises for humanity, biodiversity and planet. The Earth is the living system that
sustains our species. All living systems have their limits; and the complex biosphere that
supports us is gradually being pushed towards a number of very serious tipping points.
2.2. What contribution can the current focus on the green
economy contribute to advancing sustainable development,
particularly from an Irish perspective?
2.2.1. Green Economy
A ?green economy?, by itself, does not incorporate many of the other core
principles of sustainable development. A ?sustainable? development model must
not just respect environmental boundaries, but also promote social justice,
reduce poverty and inequality, encourage inclusive and participatory decision-
making and be based on clear principles and mechanisms for accountability.
Furthermore, the definition of a green economy proposed by the UNEP and
supported by the European Commission does not represent a significant
departure from the current economic model which is driven by the over-
consumption of scarce natural resources. While the promotion of the ?green
economy? may well move states towards sustainable development, its reliance
solely on efficiency (as per Europe 2020 Strategy) fails to address the
fundamental change required to move to sustainability.
A green economy can be seen as one which is low carbon, resource efficient
and socially inclusive. Our existing economic model and our current focus on it
will not deliver a green economy.6
Many hi-tech aspects of the ?business as usual? Green Economy include the use
of ?rare earths?, the reserves of which are in countries with large indigenous hi-
tech industries such as China, or in conflict zones such as the Congo. Other
reserves are in countries where the EU is attempting to undermine the
development of local industries through forcing the removal of export duties on
raw materials. There are many ethical and sustainability issues here. Ireland
must collaborate with the other states in tackling the many accelerating global
crises. The participants at the Rio+20 Conference must work to establish
mechanisms to protect the less developed countries and the global biosphere
from the kind of resource grabbing that is the latest expression of colonisation,
exploitation and empire building.
In a green economy market prices must adequately reflect environmental costs,
and fiscal policy must shift taxation from work to resource consumption.
184.108.40.206. A ?green? economic system must promote social equity, gender
equity and inter-generational equity.
A truly sustainable ?green economy? functions within the limits of the
planet, and ensures a fair distribution of resources among all countries and
social groups - as well as between men and women. We need an economy
that provides incentives for zero-waste, low-carbon economies that
enhance and restore the natural environment, while also providing new
?green? livelihoods, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for
women as well as men. The 10 Year Framework Programme (10-YFP) on
Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP)7 implementation should
be an important part of the basis of for the development of Green
2.2.2. Climate and Energy The green economy should represent the internalisation
of climate change and clean energy issues into each national economy, in
addition to other environmental concerns. The focus on the benefits of moving
towards a low carbon, energy efficient economy and the accompanying
business opportunities is important but should not detract from the fundamental
objectives of avoiding catastrophic climate change, decarbonising the energy
sector and addressing the risks of energy security.
2.2.3. Agriculture The agricultural sector in many parts of the world needs thorough
review from the perspective of the green economy and maintaining food
security for all, preserving the natural capital of the land and its biodiversity
resources, and promoting resource efficiency. There is a particular need to
manage and conserve water resources better. New targets are needed in these
areas. Effective measures for better, more transparent functioning of
agricultural markets should be introduced. The volatility of and unacceptable
increase in food prices must be combated. The use of renewable resources in
energy production must not happen at the expense of global food supply.
Security of food supply should be ensured by maintaining stocks at regional
level. We should also aim to make more use of residual biomass from
agriculture and food production. The protection of soils as a fundamental
resource should take centre stage in the debate on food production.
2.2.4. Marine Environment The marine environment is characterised by pollution,
overfishing and overexploitation of other marine resources. Conference
participants should mandate the competent UN bodies to initiate a new
international process to strengthen and coordinate existing mechanisms for
protecting the marine environment and to protect fish stocks, marine
biodiversity and other marine resources more effectively than under existing
arrangements. The introduction of Marine protected areas over 20% of the
world?s oceans should be a high priority. This would create an estimated 1
million jobs worldwide and contribute to preserving fish stocks and establishing
a sustainable fishing industry and marine food resource.
2.2.5. Natural Resource management and Biodiversity protection are key
issues of environmental sustainability, underpinning agricultural productivity,
tourism, climate change adaptation. Ecosystem services are enormously
valuable and currently undervalued in Ireland despite making a huge
contribution to flood alleviation, climate regulation, soil fertility, water quality
and fisheries, to name but a few.
2.3. Can the green economy contribute towards Ireland?s efforts
in assisting developing countries and what priorities should
we be addressing in this regard?
2.3.1. As a wealthy country, Ireland should take the lead in developing a genuinely
green economy. The benefits for developing countries are multiple but include:
220.127.116.11. Avoidance of the negative impacts of climate change
18.104.22.168. Avoidance of destructive and exploitative extraction of natural energy
22.214.171.124. Technology transfers that allow developing countries to ?leapfrog? to a low-
carbon economic model
126.96.36.199. Demonstration of a successful, low-carbon developed country
188.8.131.52. In order to achieve a truly green economy, we need better regulation of
international financial actors and financial flows.
2.3.2. Specific instruments to achieve a greening of the economy:
184.108.40.206. New indicators for well-being. It is in the interest of youth and future
generations, that bold steps will be taken towards a green economy in the
context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. In order to
achieve the transition to green economies, the actual political
implementation of concepts such as new indicators for measuring
development and the internalisation of external costs must be
ensured and backed up by effective governance systems.
220.127.116.11. Planetary boundaries must be assessed and made the basis of decision-
making on the using of best available scientific knowledge, whilst always
taking into account the precautionary principle.
18.104.22.168. The introduction of a global Financial Transaction Tax, to contribute to
financing protection of our global commons and of sustainable
development and investments in green and inclusive economies. E.g. a
?Robin Hood Tax? or a ?Tobin Tax?
22.214.171.124. Eco-efficiency instruments are important, but there is also an urgent need
for ?sufficiency? instruments (social innovation, caps on resource use
etc.), especially in the Northern countries to tackle the over-consumption
of - and excessive pressure on - natural resources.
126.96.36.199. If a green economy is to be a tool for achieving sustainable development
and poverty eradication we need to highlight the importance of improving
national environmental governance. Achieve sustainable development will
require making policy decisions that involve balancing competing interests
and reaching good compromises. If decision making processes are secret,
non-participatory ad unaccountable, a few selected and powerful interests
will influence policy and developmental decisions. Principle 10 and good
national environmental governance which recognizes coordination,
efficiency, transparency, engagement and accountability becomes a
foundational and enabling requirement for the success of a green economy
and sustainable development.
2.3.3. Independent Technology Assessment The need for a Multi-stakeholder
technology assessment for existing and emerging technologies mechanism that
guarantees prior informed consent and rights of communities impacted by the
financial flows, timely information, effective participation, and redress
mechanisms. At Rio+20, Ireland should commit to such an agreement for
assessment and monitoring of new technologies before their widespread use ?
2.3.4. Nuclear & uranium lifecycle control
Based on the UNEP foresight report, governments must start developing legally
binding mechanisms to address the cost of decommissioning and clean-up of
nuclear power-plants, nuclear waste and uranium mines. Currently, most
countries have no funds to pay for decommissioning of closed nuclear power-
plants or containment and clean-up of uranium mining tailings, causing long-
term, inter-generational and partly cross-border pollution and security risks for
water, food, and eco-systems. To this end there is a need to develop a global
strategy to address the risks that nuclear energy and the whole uranium cycle,
such as mining and waste disposal, pose to global environment and human lives
and health, and decide on an effective and rapid global government response.
188.8.131.52. the establishment of a UN rapporteur on uranium and nuclear risks.
184.108.40.206. the establishment of a global financial mechanism to redress and clean-
up of damage and pollution of nuclear and uranium lifecycles;
220.127.116.11. the establishment of an independent institutional framework to
document, monitor and assess the environmental damages and risks of
nuclear and uranium activities and increased lifecycle control. Such an
institution must assure effective public participation, transparency and
access to information.
2.4. What impacts can the EU 2020 strategy, and in particular, the
Resource Efficiency Flagship Initiative, have on advancing
sustainable development in Ireland and what priorities
should Ireland establish in implementing the Initiative?
Energy is a key input into any economy. As such, efforts to improve efficiency in
energy consumption should be a priority for the Irish government.
Implementation of the EU Resource Efficiency Flagship Initiative in Ireland
should focus on increased investment in R&D in clean energy technologies.
Priorities should include:
18.104.22.168. A serious effort to integrate all sectors of the economy/govt. depts. behind
this initiative and develop a coordinated strategy and action plan in
through a fully transparent, consultative and adequately funded process.
22.214.171.124. A serious effort to move quickly and ensure adequate funding is in place.
126.96.36.199. Society must be encouraged and empowered to participate actively at all
stages of this initiative from design stage to evaluation and monitoring
2.4.2. The Irish government should set strong energy efficiency targets and create
regulatory certainty to ensure the necessary investment.
2.4.3. A strong and effective climate law will ensure a whole of government approach
to climate change mitigation that moves away from a silo mentality within
departments. The three main planks of climate legislation are targets, carbon
budgets and an expert committee on climate change. Legislation should contain
and be supported by Climate Change Strategies.
2.5. How should we pursue improvement of governance under the
four headings below? Which areas should be prioritised? Is
strengthening UNEP necessary? Do you think that changes
are also needed in the way sustainable development is
managed at the UN level?
188.8.131.52. The UNEP needs to be strengthened and allocated sufficient resources in
order to fulfil its remit.
184.108.40.206. A serious effort to put in place procedures for compliance and enforcement
of environmental law is urgently required. Compliance was not mentioned
in the Helsinki outcome document.
220.127.116.11. The proposal for an International Court for the Environment should be
2.5.2. Sustainable Development Governance which needs to be
reinforced and mainstreamed within the UN system.
18.104.22.168. Strong International Environmental Governance is needed. This can be
22.214.171.124.1. Upgrading UNEP with new responsibilities and resources, proposals
126.96.36.199.1.1. Upgrade from a programme to a specialized agency
188.8.131.52.1.2. Strong programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production under
184.108.40.206.1.3. Further strengthen the Trade and the Environment activities of UNEP
220.127.116.11.1.4. Further strengthen civil society participation in UNEP, by applying the
Aarhus Convention Guidelines on ?public participation in
international environmental policy processes?
18.104.22.168.1.5. Upgrade the mandate of Panel of Natural Resources (under UNEP), to
govern better the use of natural resources and the fair distribution
2.5.3. International Environmental Governance is weak, largely
due to institutional fragmentation, and needs to be
strengthened. Over the past decade attempts to improve
environmental governance have been made ? most recently
as part of high-level consultative group under the aegis of
UNEP; however, progress has been difficult.
22.214.171.124. Establish a trusteeship for the transitional governance of the global
commons until they are adequately governed by legally binding rules.
This should have a clear mandate to negotiate effective structures at
national and international levels for the governance of global commons.
126.96.36.199. A Strong Technology Assessment Body. The need for inter-disciplinary
approach, the application of precautionary principle and the rights of the
impacted communities must be at the heart of the work of the
188.8.131.52. Rio+20 presents a unique opportunity to develop institutional arrangements
necessary to the effective implementation of the precautionary
184.108.40.206. Decision-making based on best available science urgently requires
systematic research on planetary ecological boundaries, which must be
used for the assessment at the international level of the impact of
emerging practices and technologies.
220.127.116.11. Decision-making needs to be framed by the system perspective of
sustainable development impacts. Furthermore, the development of an
insurance scheme for social and environmental risks would enable to the
pricing of such risks.
18.104.22.168. Establish an ombudsperson for future generations at the UN level, e.g. as
part of a strengthened mandate for UNEP or in combination/rotation with
other UN bodies
22.214.171.124. Establish an ombudsperson for future generations at national levels with
the mandate to work independently from the heart of government
monitoring and ensuring that long-term goals and the rights of future
generations are guaranteed in all policy decisions and their
126.96.36.199. A serious effort to put in place procedures for compliance and enforcement
of environmental law is urgently required. Compliance was not mentioned
in the Helsinki outcome document! The proposal for an International Court
for the Environment should be considered.
188.8.131.52. Citizen Enforcement: In many countries, law enforcement officers are
spread thin, with little ability to prioritize among serious environmental
issues. For that reason, a number of progressive governments have
created citizen suit provisions allowing for citizen enforcement of laws.
2.5.4. International Economic and Social Governance is addressed
by a number of institutions, international financial
institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and
World Bank, regional development banks, and other bodies
such as the World Trade Organisation.
184.108.40.206. In order that a truly green economy is established based on the
fundamental principles of sustainability then these bodies will at the very
least need to be radically reformed and given new terms of reference.
Whilst such important bodies are operating on the GDP growth model with
a few green tinges, it will be very difficult for open economies such as
Ireland?s to break the downward spiral. Ireland should therefore work to
create this change.
2.5.5. Non-State Actors (the ?Major Groups?) have an important
role which include indigenous people, women, youth ,
workers, farmers, local government, the scientific
community, business and industry. Their role and impact
has been limited in scope and there is a need to strengthen
it. There is a need as well to strengthen the role of business
which is already active in committing to greening their
operations, with many companies are embracing
sustainable development in their operations and corporate
220.127.116.11. A successful transition to a sustainable economy depends on it being
accepted and supported by civil society. The involvement of civil society
will be critical in the preparatory process for Rio+20, in the conference
itself and in the follow up to the conference. CSOs bring knowledge,
expertise, credibility and advocacy skills to the table. In this regard,
Parties and Signatories to the Aarhus Convention are required to enable
the involvement of the public in international fora. Ireland should take a
lead on this by including its civil society representatives in the national
2.6. 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?
2.6.1. The focus on the Green Economy as a major part of the conference would be a
hopeful one if it includes any radical thinking. However if the business as usual
input of the EU is a sample of the level of ambition for the conference then the
Environmental Pillar would have very low expectations.
2.6.2. The political document adopted at Rio+20 to be (a) visionary (b) build on the
Rio Declaration, Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of implementation, (c)
identify the gaps in achieving the goals set by these decisions and (d) spell out
concrete steps that will be taken by governments in the next decade to fill these
2.6.3. To focus on particular targets Ireland should for example support the move for
three new framework conventions
18.104.22.168. Regional conventions for the implementation of Principle 10 of the Rio
22.214.171.124. Corporate Social Responsibility based on the ISO 26000 outcome
126.96.36.199. Develop the Precautionary Principle into a framework convention to include
issues on emerging technologies, bio-engineering and nano-technology.
188.8.131.52. Maintaining or achieving adequate food security, energy security, and
resource security for all current and future generations in a world of
increasing population and limited natural resources is one of the biggest
new challenges facing the world in the century ahead. Ultimately,
qualitative economic growth is needed that helps to eliminate poverty and
social injustice whilst preserving natural resources for future generations.
Establishing institutional structures for meeting this challenge should be a
central issue for the 2012 summit.
2.7 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?
2.7.1 In order for any of these proposals to succeed there is a need for a major
shift in the awareness and understanding of the issues that need to be
resolved. Time is not on our side. The oncoming climate chaos and the
likelihood of the 6th great extinction barely register on the political horizon.
2.8 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.);
2.8.1 Environmental law, at International, regional and national level(s) is not
working .We need law that is affordable, intelligible, accessible, predictable,
and clear to all - Law that is legally certain.
2.9 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?
2.9.1 An international court for the environment,
2.9.2 Ombudsman for the future generations at a national and
2.9.3 Governance The rights of access to information, public participation, and
access to justice are essential to sustainable development. The 1992 Rio
Declaration provided for these rights in Principle 10 and Agenda 21 helped
the move towards establishing these rights in many countries. Renewed
commitment is needed to establish these rights in every country. The use of
regional conventions following the example of the Aarhus Convention in the
UNECE region should be prioritised to enable this. The Rio 2012 Summit
provides an opportunity for governments to transform Principle 10 from
aspirational goals into actionable rights. Governments and civil society
should use the opportunity to commit together in adopting, implementing,
and exercising these rights in support of sustainable development. The 2012
Summit?s focus on the theme of improving institutional frameworks should
galvanize nations to improve their national environmental governance,
develop international instruments giving legal force to Principle 10, and
implement these principles into international bodies? decision-making
processes. The lead on this latter point should be taken by the parties and
signatories to the Aarhus Convention8 .
2.9.4 Robust International Framework. The main aim of the conference
should be to establish a robust institutional framework within the UN system
for implementing the conference decisions, a framework which would have
on-going responsibility for promoting sustainable development throughout
the world and for driving an action programme to green the global economy
over the coming years. The emerging concept of a new top-level
Sustainable Development Council, involving all the countries of the
world, that would report directly to the General Assembly and integrate and
strengthen the work currently done separately in the UN ECOSOC and CSD
should be supported by Ireland.
2.9.5 Measuring progress towards a greener economy: Parameters need to
be established that give a clear indication of the progress that is being made
towards greater sustainability. Methods should be developed for measuring
economic progress in terms of improvements in human welfare and quality
of life, with reference to the fight against poverty, the creation of decent
working conditions and preservation of the natural environment. In
particular, methods must be agreed for measuring the use of various kinds
of natural capital in the soil, water and different ecosystems that results
from economic activity.
This also raises the question of the current disconnect between consumption
and the environment which has led to the struggle to find a ?value for the
environment. This lack of valuation and subsequent bypassing of the market
has translated into increased environmental vulnerability with a marked
degradation of ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity. Thus, it is necessary
to allocate consideration to this by using previous models and studies, such
as The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study (TEEB)9, to develop
a means by which the value of the environment can be measured using tried
and tested methodologies, so as to decrease the current environmental
degradation that is occurring due to its lack of market value. A healthy
biodiversity is crucial to the economic success of Ireland with the National
Biodiversity Data Centre stating that Biodiversity accounts for ?2.6 billion of
Ireland?s economy annually from the goods and services it provides.10
Therefore in our current economic context it is imperative that we
document, understand and take advantage of our rich biodiversity, and for
this to occur a new method of managing natural capital must be initiated.
The same arguments apply globally.
2.9.6 A timetable for establishing a system to measure progress towards
a green economy should be agreed at the summit
For further details please contact Michael Ewing, Coordinator of The Environmental Pillar.
Postal Address: Environmental Pillar of Social Partnership. Knockvicar, Boyle, Co
Roscommon, Republic of Ireland.
Telephone: 00353 (0)71 9667373
Mobile: 00353 (0)86 8672153