Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The current state of environmental negotiations - by Felix Dodds

Felix Dodds is the founder of Stakeholder Forum, which works closely with UN agencies preparing the "green economy" campaign leading up to the Rio+20 Earth Summit in 2012. His blog's gloomy Nov 2010 analysis is underlined by recent statements: US negotiator Todd Stern's prediction that COP-17 would fail (Business Day 21 Jan 2011) and UN Sec-Gen Ban Ki-Moon ending his direct role in climate negotiations (Guardian 27 Jan).

"We know from the UNEP GEO4 Report, the IPCC, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment that the problems we are facing have not reduced but become more acute -- not as a result of the lack of proclaimed government commitments to action, but due to their dismal performance in implementing their agreements.

Indeed, if governments had implemented the many conventions, treaties and declarations they negotiated from Stockholm to Rio to Kyoto to Johannesburg, we would be well along the road to sustainability and then we would be better placed to address the challenges we now are facing.

But governments have not done enough by far to carry out their commitments, particularly as to helping finance developing countries' movement towards sustainability.

This failure has only added to the anger of most developing countries at the continued broken promises and has undermined their ability to make commitments of their own.

As a result, we now face challenges on a number of fronts: I want to highlight five:
1. Human societies are living beyond the carrying capacity of the planet;
2. Climate change has emerged as an out-of-control driver;
3. There is now becoming an increasing link between environment and security;
4. Governments have still not given the UN the mandate, the resources or the institutional capacities required to monitor and enforce international agreements;
5. The still-prevailing, consumption-based economic model is not only failing to deliver progress to enormous numbers of the world's population, but is seriously threatening the economic stability of all nations, and compromising the prospect for any of us to live on this planet sustainably.

Despite all that, I do believe that these issues can be positively influenced by Earth Summit 2012. We still have time to change direction, but this time there can’t be any more failed promises. Successfully addressing the challenges we face will require an ambitious and creative agenda and us all working together governments, intergovernmental organisations and stakeholders.

The green economy in the context of poverty alleviation and sustainable development

The current economic model, which has brought unprecedented prosperity to the more developed countries and to particular people in those countries, has only deepened the disparity between them and most developing countries.
graph courtesy of 8020vision.com
The parallels of the ecological problems with the financial crisis are clear. The banks and financial institutions privatised the gains and socialised the losses. We are doing the same with the planet’s natural capital. According to WWF, we are operating at 25% above the biological capacity to support life and that is before adding another billion people by 2020. We are going to see an even greater ecological crunch in the years to come

Our present lifestyles are drawing down the ecological capital from other parts of the world and from future generations. We are increasingly becoming the most irresponsible generation our planet has seen.

The past 30 years have been characterised by irresponsible capitalism, pursuing limitless economic growth at the expense of both society and environment, with little or no regard for the natural resource base upon which such wealth is built.

Today, the principal goal of our economy must be to improve the lives of all the world's people and to free them from want and ignorance - without compromising the planet itself.

An economy that integrates sustainable development principles with responsible capitalism can produce enough wealth to meet the needs of people in all nations, equitably and sustainably.

Earth Summit 2012 can clearly draw a roadmap to set the world on the path to a new “economy” that is sustainable, equitable and accessible to all.

Emerging issues

Environmental and security issues are becoming increasingly intertwined. The "environment-security/insecurity nexus" covers such overlapping issues such as climate security, energy security, ecosystem destruction, biodiversity loss, food security, water security, health security – all of which are contributing to an increase in environmental refugees. All this was reflected in the chairs' text [see the summary by IISD] from Prepcom 1."

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