European Youth Forum
Introduction The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as “Rio+20” as it comes 20 years after the 1992 “Earth Summit”, will be profoundly significant for young people. During this conference world leaders are expected to renew a political commitment to sustainable development, assess the progress made to date in sustainable development policies and make profound, binding decisions to address new and emerging challenges that threaten the progress and development of young people and future generations. The conference will aim to overcome the often disconnected but equally important dimensions of sustainable development: social, environmental and economic sustainability. A coherent and interlinked strategy is needed in order to make real progress.
Current and previous generations have put our future at risk. Concerted and cross-cutting action is required in the name of inter-generational solidarity, the future prosperity and health of humankind, and the preservation of our bases of living. With this in mind, this resolution will closely analyse the two core themes of the conference, the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty reduction; and the institutional framework for sustainable development, and will evaluate them from a youth perspective, and emphasise the need to actively involve youth in the development, adoption, implementation and evaluation of policies at all levels. It will also propose a number of actions that need to be taken to safeguard the economic, social and environmental future of everyone, including the young people of today.
Green Economy in the Context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication
The importance of the Rio+20 Conference in pushing forward the sustainable development agenda and addressing the shortcomings of the past 20 years is difficult to understate. In the light of the failure of multiple recent summits and major conferences dealing with environmental issues and bearing in mind that – despite the urgency – a “green revolution” on a global level seems unlikely to be achieved in just one 3-days summit, binding agreements must be made in Rio to ensure that young people will be able to live in stable environments in years to come.
A “green” rhetoric and minor financial adjustments to facilitate a moderate increase of investment in renewable energy and technologies that may slow climate change are not enough. The environmental, legal, structural and economic measures decided upon in 2012 must be governed with regard for young and future generations around the globe, rather than aiming to placate the demands of the time in the most moderate way.
The recent global economic crisis has yet again discredited unsustainable economic practices that have little regard for future consequences. Employment opportunities need to be developed in new sustainable industries and technologies. In recent years some work has been done to invest in green entrepreneurship and encourage the growth of sustainable consumption and production patterns. In this regard the work of young people and other actors in changing traditional business paradigms from a simple focus on economic capital to a focus on social and environmental capital should be embraced.
There must also be a new educational focus on sustainable development, recognising the need to instil the sense of common responsibility for our future, enabling change in consumer patterns and thus production patterns and develop international solidarity. Through education for sustainable development, young people in particular can reflect on their role and responsibilities in a global society and on the contribution they can make to social justice.2 Making this a reality presents a number of economic and political challenges and will require significant institutional restructuring, but it is clear that only major action will be enough to address global economic, environmental and social challenges , such as the increasing social and health impacts of climate change.
Green industries provide an opportunity for job creation and economic growth for both developed and developing countries. In Europe alone, by increasing investment from 18% to 22% of GDP towards green industries, in particular the reorientation of the energy grid towards renewables, a construction boom could be generated that would increase economic growth rates by up to 0.6% a year and create a further 6 million jobs.3 The move from fossil and other finite energy resources to clean renewables also has huge potential benefits for developing countries. However, is important to stress that not all forms of renewable energy production are sustainable, especially when related to deforestation, the loss of biodiversity, impacts on food production and security and social exploitation. The European Youth Forum therefore calls for a change in perspectives and major global economic restructuring to accelerate the transition to sustainable and green industries. To do this, governments must continue to develop and adapt the current financing mechanisms to allow for further research, development, technological cooperation and adaption. These industries must remain open to young people and seek to harness the creativity and innovation of a new generation that is more dedicated to attaining sustainable development. There must also be greater exchange and openness with regards to research, policies and practices on sustainable development issues, particularly between industrialised, emerging and developing countries.
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