Looking to Rio+20: ENVI argues a holistic approach and radical changes are needed to achieve sustainable development

In a debate at the European Parliament Environment committee (ENVI) on the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) that took place on 13 July, MEPs (Members of Parliament) have reaffirmed the importance of Rio+20 to give new impetus to sustainable development but also acknowledged the difficulties to bring about real change. In efforts to find a common EU position ahead of the Conference, ENVI has been responsible for providing a resolution to the European Commission’s Communication “Rio+20: towards the green economy and better governance”.

Referring to the Commission communication on Rio+20 MEP Vittorio Prodi (S&D) called it a reductionist and over simplistic policy document. In his view, our civilization is not sustainable as our economic development is based on excessive production and consumption whereas the Earth has limited capacity. Therefore there is a need to go beyond the concept of green economy as put forward in the EC’s communication; radical changes and more decisive actions are needed if we want to achieve a sustainable civilization he explained.

MEPs also stressed the importance of adopting a holistic approach to sustainability; the three dimensions of sustainability (social, economic and environmental) have to be treated as one and not separately as has been the case in past and present policies. Better coordination between environment policies and human rights was emphasized by MEP Sandrine Bélier (Greens/EFA), who stressed this should be incorporated in the EU’s position towards Rio. Referring to the Europe’s need for raw materials MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz (EPP) pointed to the importance of involving regions and citizens in developing countries in order for them to benefit from extractive activities. The need to use additional indicators other than GDP or going even beyond GDP to measure sustainable development was also highlighted by a number of MEPs.

Andrzej Kraszewski, Minister of Environment of the Republic of Poland, outlined the presidency’s priorities towards environment and sustainable development in the meeting. He stressed climate protection was the presidency’s first priority arguing “if we do not bear the cost now, future generations will have to pay”. He also pointed to the necessity for countries who produce the largest amount of CO2 (such as USA and China) to take action on climate policy in a global legally binding agreement. He did however acknowledge this was unlikely to happen at UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP-17) taking place in Durban at the end of this year. Responding to a question on the scope of Rio+20, Mr Kraszewski shared his doubts on the likelihood of a successful conference as he did not fully believe if we were ready for the ‘mental leap’ necessary to bring about sustainable development. He emphasized the fact that we agreed on specific actions and now they have to be turned into reality.

The Polish presidency will have to ensure the EU adopts a common and strong position for Rio+20 before 1st November, the deadline for input into the Rio+20 zero draft document. After this date, negotiations to find an agreement between countries will toughen. The conference will be held in June 2012 under the presidency of Denmark, who will therefore have the important task to strive to make the conference a success.


Article originally published by Eurostep.org

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