With 7 billion inhabitants on planet Earth, it is becoming clear that we are reaching the limits of our planet. The capitalist logic of unlimited growth is unable to answer this challenge and it is high time to reflect on our current development path. We are at a crossroads: we can either change our economies and lifestyles to more sustainable patterns, and thus increase human welfare, foster global justice, strengthen gender equality and preserve systems that support life on Earth for future generations, or we can continue with the current consumerist, neo-liberal status-quo and fail all the above.
Nearly 20 years after the Earth Summit in Rio, the challenges and opportunities of sustainable development are more relevant than ever. Sustainable development today entails going beyond mere economic growth and ensuring environmental protection and social equity as part of one agenda. Progress cannot be made in any of these areas, without achieving lasting leaps forward in the others.
A critical evaluation of the Summit's outcome
Two weeks after the second global Summit in Rio, GEF and the EQUO foundation engaged in a critical reflection process on the results of the Summit.
The workshop counted on the participation of members of the European Greens and the EQUO community who attended the Summit and could transmit the general atmosphere of the meeting as well as the main results of the conference. Those included the Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout, member of the delegation of the European Parliament, Reyes Montiel, the president of Foundation EQUO, who also attended the parallel conference of the peoples, and Oriol Solà, member of the official Spanish Ministerial delegation. Furthermore, Arnaud Pinxteren, from the Brussels regional parliament, and Gudfridur Lilja Gretarsdottir, president of the environment and transport Committee of the Parliament of Iceland, gave a vision from different local perspectives. Also Cecilia Carballo, an expert on international cooperation and member of the Foundation EQUO, gave a critical overview of what happened in Rio.
These lectures alternated with interactive sessions with the participants. There were discussion groups about the two major topics of Rio+20 - global governance on sustainable development and environment, and green economy. In the afternoon the group was divided to discuss five important issues of the Summit: Energy, Water, Food, Gender and Participation. This part of the workshop included experts from EQUO on these subjects plus representatives of civil society like Fundacion Ipade (international cooperation), Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and Union General de Trabajadores (UGT), among others.
Green Economy discussions
During the workshop some interesting discussions were raised.
- A shift in paradigms is needed to allow an equal use of resources.
- Change in economic indicators to include environment. From taxation to work, to taxation for resource use.
- Transparency concerning international lobbies. The role of civil society to counter lobby groups is essential.
- There is a need for a deep transformation of the rigid UN system, by accounting for citizenship demands instead of private interests, as a bottom up change, but also top down.
- There is a need to implement more legally binding agreements with better survey, with special attention to caution, transparency and CBDR principles.
- There is a need to implement equity principles among generations, with woman as a pillar for political change.
- By implementing effective mechanisms for citizenship participation, other institutions can have major contributions as well: local organizations and networks, local institutions must have much more weight, especially when general agreements are hard to reach, as it is more feasible to agree on more reduced spaces. These smaller decisions can be further validated.
- Much more support to Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency must be achieved.
- Education as a major pillar on resource consumption, specially dedicated to new generations incorporating to a transition model.
- Green taxes are an essential tool to be implemented; internalization of environmental costs, stopping consumption mechanisms, and close production-waste circuits.
- Education is a fundamental with tools like ecological footprint.
- Participation, a new kind of ethic banks, time banks, fair trade, citizenship ethics, cooperatives, are elements of green economy because they make citizenships more independent from transnational companies.
The general conclusion of the workshop was that the results of Rio+20 were far below the expectations, without clear commitments from the states to develop agreements, budget and structures able to fulfill the millennium objectives in due course, and that even the language of the official declaration was too weak for the dimension of the crisis we face at a global scale.
In words of Gudfridur Lilja, Rio+20 bigger problem was the way how Green Economy was understood, still based in the supposition of continuous growth. Instead of that, she added, we should be looking for new economic models that take in account that we are living in a finite planet.
The presence in the workshop of the MEP Bas Eickout and local politicians from Belgium and Iceland was decisive to discuss the implications of Rio+20 at the European level. One of the conclusions was that the Summit demonstrated, once again, that the European Union is in an international crossroad. Different needs and interests among countries, plus rivalry between agencies and programs interfered on achieving the main goals of Rio+20.
- Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA Member of the European Parliament, Netherlands)
- Gudfridur Lilja Gretarsdottir (Member of Parliament, Green-Left, Iceland)
- Reyes Montiel (President, EQUO Foundation)
- Arnaud Pinxteren (Member of the Brussels Parliament, Belgium)
- Pilar Baraqueta (EQUO Euskadi)
- and others
For more information, please access the event webpage (in Spanish) here.
Date: July 6th, 2012,
Venue: Madrid, Spain
Language: Spanish, English