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Put planet and its people at the core of sustainable development, urges report

Mark Tran, Guardian
Social and environmental costs need to be integrated into measurement of economic activity, a new UN report said on Monday as it urged world leaders to focus on the long-term resilience of the planet and its people.

The report from the high-level panel on global sustainability calls for a set of sustainable development indicators that go beyond the traditional approach of gross domestic product. It recommends that governments develop and apply a set of sustainable development goals that can mobilise global action.

At the report’s launch during the AU summit, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, made it plain that sustainable development is a top priority for his second term of office.

“We need to chart a new, more sustainable course for the future, one that strengthens equality and economic growth while protecting our planet,” he said.

Ban established a 22-member panel in August 2010, co-chaired by Finland’s president Tarja Halonen and Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa. The group was tasked with producing a blueprint for sustainable development and low-carbon prosperity.

The panel’s final report, Resilient People, Resilient Planet: a Future Worth Choosing, contains 56 recommendations to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy as quickly as possible.

Halonen stressed the importance of placing people at the centre of achieving sustainable development.

“Eradication of poverty and improving equity must remain priorities for the world community,” she said. “The panel has concluded that empowering women and ensuring a greater role for them in the economy is critical for sustainable development.”
(30 January 2012)

UN panel aims for ‘a future worth choosing’

Richard Black, BBC
Growing inequality, environmental decline and “teetering” economies mean the world must change the way it does business, a UN report concludes. Health and education must improve, it says. Subsidies on fossil fuels should end, and governments must look beyond the standard economic indicator of GDP.

The High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability was established in 2010 by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Its report will feed into discussions leading to the Rio+20 summit in June.

… The panel’s 22 members include heads of government and ministers past and present, including Barbadian Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Australian Foreign Minister and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and India’s Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh.
They also include Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Norwegian Prime Minister who led the Brundtland Commission in 1987. …

The panel’s diagnosis:

  • The number of people living in poverty is declining, but the number hungry is rising
  • Inequality in wealth distribution is rising
  • Access to clean water is increasing, but 2.6 billion people lack access to modern sanitation
  • By 2030, demand for food will rise by 50%, for energy by 45% and for water by 30%
  • Women are too often excluded from economic opportunities
  • The financial crisis was partly caused by market rules that encourage short-termism and do not reward sustainable investment
  • The current economic model is “pushing us inexorably towards the limits of natural resources and planetary life support systems”

(30 January 2012)

UN paints bleak picture of sustainability

Eleanor Hall, The World Today, ABC (Australia)
ELEANOR HALL: But we begin today with a warning to governments around the globe – not about debt but about the world’s resources.

The United Nations has issued a grim report warning that time is running out to ensure that there is enough food, water and fuel to meet the needs of the globe’s growing population.

The authors say the price of failure is 3 billion people condemned to poverty, and they’re calling on governments to tackle sustainable development with a greater sense of urgency and political will.

Michael Edwards has more.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon launched the report in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, a country which knows the consequences of poverty and famine.

BAN KI-MOON: Ecosystems are under stress. Economies are faltering. The human appetite for resources keeps growing. We need to chart a new, more sustainable course for the future – one that strengthens equality and economic growth while protecting our planet. Sustainable development offers our best chance to change course.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: The report, prepared by a panel co-chaired by the leaders of Finland and South Africa, is a sobering read.

The world’s population is set to grow from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2040, and it says food production isn’t keeping pace. The world will need to increase its output by 50 per cent to have enough to feed everyone.
(31 January 2012)
Audio at original.

U.N. pitches Rio+20 talks as a departure from political strife over climate change

Colin Sullivan, E&E
This summer’s sustainable development conference in Brazil, known as Rio+20, is emerging as an overt attempt by U.N. officials to shift away from the divisive politics of climate change to a broader debate on the green economy and how to bring it to developing nations.

On the heels of arguably little movement on an international climate pact during U.N.-sponsored talks in South Africa, Mexico and Denmark, officials here now say they view Rio+20 as a way to get past intractable policy fights between developed and developing nations over greenhouse gas emissions cuts, to focus on core issues like trade and technology.

… “Climate change … has very strong resistance from sectors that are going to be substantially altered, like the oil industry,” Ambassador Andre Correa do Lago said. “Sustainable development is something that is as simple as looking at how we would like to be in 10 or 20 years.”

The diplomat went on to admit that the political situation in the United States is a key concern, as contenders for the Republican nomination to the White House have vied with each other over the past year to distance themselves from policies to trim greenhouse gases. Add to that Capitol Hill’s failure to deal with warming, as well as discord with more advanced developing nations like China and India, and what seems to be emerging here is a strong desire for a new approach.

… Lucas Assuncao, a Brazilian at the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development and a key figure in pre-Rio talks, said … “We are talking about a shift on par with the Industrial Revolution,” he said. “We need to help the losers cushion losses and adjust, and to ensure that the poor and marginalized do not become more so.”
(31 January 2012)