The Future We Want: 100 Days to Rio+20

Today marks the countdown to Rio+20.

100 days to go to a conference and a summit that UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon has described as a “once in a life time opportunity”.

Whether this event, coming 20 years after the historic Rio Earth Summit of 1992, delivers transformational change will depend on governments, but it also depends on you.

If the UN Conference on Sustainable Development 2012 or Rio+20 is to make a difference it needs all citizens to be on board-from women and indigenous peoples to farmers, youth, city fathers and mothers, political leaders and captains of industry.

It will not happen on its own.

The official UN slogan is “The Future We Want”-the future you want may be many things.

But it cannot be a future based on the status quo.

A lot has been achieved in the past two decades from putting the health of the ozone layer back on track in order to spare the Earth from the sun’s deadly ultra violet rays to meeting the poverty related Millennium Development Goal on access to safe water.

But the fact is that a lot remains to be done, it is at best a work in progress.

Far too many of the dials on the sustainability dashboard are or are heading into the red including the buildup of greenhouse gases to the plight of the world’s fisheries and youth unemployment.

According to UNEP’s report, “Keeping Track of our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20” – produced as part of UNEP’s “Global Environmental Outlook-5 (GEO 5) series”:

Global C02 emissions continue to rise due to increasing use of fossil fuels, with 80 per cent of global emissions coming from just 19 countries. Yet, the amount of CO2 per US%1 GDP has dropped by 23 per cent since 1992 underlining that some decoupling of economic growth from resource use is occurring.

Meanwhile, the ocean’s pH declined from 8.11 in 1992 to 8.06 in 2007 and 13 per cent of the world’s land surface, 7 per cent of its coastal waters and 1.4 percent of its oceans are protected.

Food production has continued to rise steadily at a pace exceeding population growth, but higher agricultural yields depend heavily on the use of fertilizers. And while increasing irrigation infrastructure can raise crop yields, it puts further pressure on freshwater availability.

This is happening in a world of seven billion people-1.5 billion more than in 1992-set to rise to over nine billion by 2050.

One of the two overarching themes of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development or ‘Rio+20’ is a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Is there a smarter and more intelligent way of implementing sustainable development-one that grows economies but with positive social and environmental outcomes? UNEP believes there is.

The other is an institutional framework for sustainable development-in short do we have the best structures and institutional arrangements to deliver a sustainable century.

It is time to raise your voice, like the unprecedented voices raised and actions taken 20 years ago across all sections of society.

The UN’s Department of Public Information would like to hear it along with your solutions, vision and ideas for the Future We Want in order to inform Rio+20 and the wider world.

Original article published at

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