Local Green Economies Show Europe the Way to Rio+20
European leaders must take a strong, unified position on the future of international environmental policy and ensure that next year's Rio+20 summit does not just result in statements of good intent but in concrete actions and tangible targets.
Malmö, Sweden, 4 October 2011 - European leaders must take a strong, unified position on the future of international environmental policy and ensure that next year's Rio+20 summit does not just result in statements of good intent but in concrete actions and tangible targets.
This was the message of President Mercedes Bresso from the Committee of the Regions, the EU's Assembly of Regional and Local Representatives, ahead of next week's discussion in the Environment Council on the position Europe should take at next year's United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in Brazil.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) presented a discussion paper at the seminar in Malmö, Sweden, on the role of local and regional authorities in the transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy.
Speaking at the event, Mercedes Bresso urged Europe to continue to take the lead on sustainable development and secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development.
"I was at the 'Earth Summit' in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and I am still impressed by the momentum that that conference gave to the concept of sustainable development. But the world still faces major environmental challenges, and the goodwill of 1992 has more often than not failed to translate into concrete action. That is why the Committee of the Regions supports the call for Rio+20 to adopt a Green Economy roadmap that sets targets and appropriate indicators, and formulates actions to achieve these," she said.
Ms. Bresso, who will represent the Committee in Rio next year as part of the EU delegation, added that the roadmap must be bold and establish a new way of quantifying sustainable development, in particular looking at indicators other than GDP, which is not an accurate measure of the ability of a society to tackle issues such as climate change, resource efficiency, quality of life or social inclusion.
"As Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said only yesterday in India that, 'the transition to a Green Economy will not happen by itself'. Action and supporting measures will be needed at city, regional, national and international levels," said Ms. Bresso.
Building on UNEP's Green Economy Report, which outlines pathways to a green transformation of ten economic sectors, ranging from agriculture to tourism, Derek Eaton from UNEP presented a discussion paper at the seminar on the role of local and regional authorities in a Green Economy.
"It is the regions, cities, municipalities and local communities that are in a key position to advance a substantial shift to a Green Economy. They know the particular demands of their people, local culture and structures of the economies to tailor the Green Economy concept to local circumstances," said Mr. Eaton.
UNEP also emphasized the role of the Committee of the Regions and the Covenant of Mayors, stating that "cooperation and a common vision amongst regions is also a vital part of ensuring an effective transition to a Green Economy".
The Committee of the Regions' draft opinion on Rio+20, which was adopted at the Malmö seminar, places significant emphasis on another key issue that governments will address at Rio+20: the challenge of rapid urbanisation.
Urban areas are now home to over 50 per cent of the world's population and account for 60-80 per cent of energy consumption and 75 per cent of carbon emissions, which affects climate change and exerts pressure on fresh water and energy supplies, biodiversity and ecosystems as well as public health.