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CA - Jour 3: 22 février 2012

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SCP for a Systemic Change: from Rio to Rio +20 and Beyond

Rationale for the side event:

  • Use of resources could triple by 2050 if current trends continue – there is an urgent need to change our consumption and production patterns.
  • Resource depletion is increasing global tensions while there are important welfare gains to be secured from resource efficiency.
  • The added value of the Ten Year Framework of Programmes is as a shared platform to scale up, replicate and interlink SCP activities world wide, providing tools and helping to mainstream SCP
  • The adoption of a Ten Year Framework of Programmes on SCP at Rio would be one very concrete outcome from this summit

Regional and national SCP action plans are being developed and countries have started to realize the importance of achieving SCP. SCP is a cross-cutting issue, spanning environment and development, supply chains and the entire life cycles of products. It requires innovative and yet often low tech solutions to recycling which can create new products and revenue streams, turning waste into resources. There are many business opportunities in SCP. The question is how to scale up solutions, as we face environmental, resource and financial crises and the need for development.

SCP is about doing more and better with less, increasing welfare gains from economic activity. For example, efficient water management also contributes to human welfare and the MDGs. On the demand side there is a need for a holistic approach to raise awareness among citizens and tackle the impacts of consumption, changing our interaction with the world we live in. SCP is a becoming a core component of sustainable development policy in many regions and sub-regions including Europe, LAC and ASEAN. It is clear that activities and strategies on SCP at both regional and national levels support each other. Regional round tables on SCP including those which have grown out of the Marrakesh Process are important in this regard. Political leadership is necessary, especially at national level, to drive policy making and engage all stakeholders, including business.

In terms of business, the most important contribution is that of scale. For example forest certification is growing at 30% per year since 2005. Walmart working through its supply chain is more powerful than the US government. Another example of the role of business is that LAC countries are identifying policy frameworks for SCP, with business and support of international organizations.

Good SCP policies are based on inclusive national and regional dialogues and consultation. The International Resource Panel is providing the science to support policy making in this regard. While resource efficiency is slowly increasing in the global economy, per capita consumption is also increasing. There is therefore a need to implement decoupling to address this fact.

The way forward

SC is entry point to change lifestyles – how do we use this to move forward?

While the Ten Year Framework of Programmes will be very useful, support is also required for work programmes on empowering the consumer to buy sustainable products, and for promoting sustainable production in manufacturing and industry, mobility, and food sectors. Some certified goods such as sustainable palm oil are facing saturated demand in some markets. There is a need economies of scale and possibly trade preferences to provide incentives for sustainable products. The approach to achieving SCP must take into account the need for sustainable trade, as supply chains cross boundaries. Also required is the coordination at national and international levels on trade aspects of SCP.

Institutional structure of most national governments was set in the 1950’s, however cross-cutting issues like SCP are hard to manage in this structure. Perhaps there is a need for a fundamental change to these institutional structures. In addition, innovation in the sustainability of products is a key way to move forward on decoupling. Issues of scale are important especially in developing countries, and therefore the promotion of "people’s economy and solidarity" to work with the people and scale up, and boost SMEs. There is need to switch to consuming value in goods and services not volume for which consumers must be engaged.

Sustainable consumption proves to be the most challenging part of the SCP equation.