European Committee of the Regions (CoR)

1. welcomes the decision of the UN General Assembly to convene a United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development at the highest possible level in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro (UNCSD or “Rio+20” Summit), with the objective of securing renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assessing the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major previous summits on sustainable development, and addressing new and emerging challenges. It will do so in the context of two specific themes: a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development;

2. calls on all those involved in the Rio +20 conference and its follow-up to ensure the success of the conference and achieve real progress for sustainable development;

3. has emphasised on different occasions the importance of measures and changes to support and develop the work on sustainable development. The CoR is of the opinion that all players – global, within the European Union as well as national, subnational and local governments – have a shared responsibility in creating a sustainable society that is responsive to the natural resources available. The CoR’s members, cities and regions, have an important role to play in this and are to a large extent the driving forces in the work devoted to bringing about sustainable development, not least due to their proximity to EU citizens;

4. therefore calls for explicit reference to and empowerment of subnational governments and local authorities1 in all Rio+20 deliberations. Subnational governments and local authorities need to be actively involved in both in the preparation of, during the Summit and in its follow-up and implementation. Member States are encouraged to establish forums with subnational governments and local authorities for preparing for Rio+20;

5 . calls upon the European Council and the European Commission to work out a clear and unified EU position for the UN conference and ensure that the political agreements reached in Rio de Janeiro will also lead to concrete action; declares, in this connection that public involvement, competence and power on a local and regional level is a basic precondition for a sustainable society. In order to support this, the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality must be respected and developed between all layers of governance, from the global via the European Union’s planning and decision-making process to the national and sub-national levels. Subnational governments and local authorities must be recognised fully adequate partners in the efforts for a sustainable development, both when preparing for the UN conference and when implementing its results;

6. calls for explicit recognition by the Rio+20 Summit of urbanisation as one key emerging challenge the world needs to address. Urbanisation is of particular relevance to subnational governments and local authorities, as they are at the forefront of dealing with the challenges and opportunities it poses. Since the beginning of this century the majority of the world’s 6 billion people live in cities. World population may rise from the current 6 to 9 billion people by 2050 and some scenarios predict that 60 per cent of this population will live in cities by 2030. This trend is especially apparent in developing countries or countries in rapid transition. Sustainable urban development requires a holistic and integrated approach to managing economic, environmental and socio-cultural dimensions of development within a spatial and physical framework. The CoR recommends stronger efforts to develop and support sustainable urban development;

7. emphasises that ‘sustainable development’ is based on social, environmental and economic factors being in harmony and that combating poverty and social exclusion must be just as much a key concern of the Rio+20 conference as conserving resources, combating climate change and other goals of environmental policy;

8. would like to see greater efforts to produce, evaluate, present and disseminate good examples of sustainable urban development. There is a substantial demand for the exchange of experience and a transfer of knowledge, concerning both institutional factors and a holistic and integrated system approach in the planning and decision-making processes. Good urban governance, spatial planning, systems for land management, legislation and policies, financing, public and private cooperation, public participation, education, training and information are all areas in which there is a significant need for the exchange of experience and transfer of knowledge between cities and regions on a global scale;

9. wishes to emphasise how important it is to focus on and develop the connections and the interaction between cities and their surroundings. A growing population in cities results in heavy demands on production and supply of goods, for example foodstuffs, as well as the accompanying management of waste products and refuse. A concrete example of the need for greater cooperation between cities and their surroundings is the management of biological waste, where functioning systems are needed for the return of plant nutrients to agricultural land in order for the biological ecocycle to work within a closed loop;

10. believes that education, training and dissemination of information are of crucial importance to increase public awareness. The development of learning programmes is especially important for the transition that is needed, including not only technical knowledge on specific aspects, but also on a holistic and integrated system approach;

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