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EU on the RIO+20 summit

The first Earth Summit took place twenty years ago in Rio. The global community created this summit because they wanted a more equitable and sustainable model for the course of human development. These days, sustainable progress has been made and the world has changed a lot. The RIO+20 summit will have different challenges than last year. They need to think about the changing global landscape, the international economic crisis, rising population levels, global resources and the still unacceptable level of poverty in the world. So there is a great responsibility on the community of state to make new strategies on this RIO+2O summit  and search for more inclusiveness and sustainability.

The irresponsible behavior of the financial sector, lax regulatory oversight and deep-seated imbalances were the causes of today’s economic crisis. These deep-seated imbalances need to be corrected if we want a more sustainable growth for the world. And  it’s not just the global economic imbalances but also the imbalances in the ecological footprints. And although, in the 20th century, the quality of life rose very much, this came at the price of unsustainable use of scarce global resources like fuel, metals, minerals, timber, water and ecosystems.

A Challenge in the world of today is to work together, especially when you realize that by 2050, the world population will have reached 9 billion. If we don’t work together and think about how to best use our precious resources, we will need two planets to sustain us. It’s up to the RIO Summit to take the discussions about stable economies and increased growth, discussed at the G20 Summit in Mexico, and include an inclusive and sustainable path to reach these goals.

The EU really wants a concrete Rio agenda so they can discuss all their goals and targets for key areas that underpin a green economy. They want to talk about water, the oceans, land, ecosystems, forests, sustainable energy and resource efficiency. And the goals they have are all linked to sustainable growth, poverty, social development, food security and nutrition. But the EU won’t be able to make their case at Rio if they don’t get the support, engagement and mobilization of both the public and private sector. So it’s up to RIO+20 to strengthen engagement of the private and civil sector, because these are the real engines behind our economies in sustainable development.

The  Millennium Development Goals make that the EU remains committed to achieve their goals. And they are also ready to engage in a discussion on Sustainable Development Goals suggested by some G77 countries. An example of their commitment to global sustainability is the EU Sustainable Energy for All Summit that was organized, in coordination with the UN, in Brussels on April 16 of this year. A new EU Energizing Development initiative was announced. This initiative should provide sustainable energy services to 500 million people by 2030. And the European Commission is currently also establishing a technical assistance facility to provide governments with the expertise to engage in reforms and to develop their own National Energy Access Strategies. The EU wants to mobilize at least 400 million euros over the next two years to go into these two strategies.

Because we are in an economical crisis, we need to find innovative ways of developing financial assistance. A valuable resource to fund development could be a global Financial Transaction Tax. This could also ensure that it’s not just the financial sector that needs to pay a contribution to the economy. So the revenue generated by a European Financial Transaction tax should be put into the future EU budget to help ensure that the EU continues to be one of the world’s biggest providers of development assistance.

UN Conference on sustainable development

On the last conference on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro 20 years ago, countries could sign the UN framework convention on climate change. This convention should have stabilized global annual green house gas emissions at 1990 levels. And since the industrialized nations have done  most polluting to the atmosphere, the convention has placed the biggest responsibility to lead by example on these countries. And now that the United Nations is holding another conference in sustainable development, it are these rich countries that need to prove the most.

But the convention isn’t really working. Annual global emissions have continued to rise and the rich countries didn’t lead so far. Rich and poor countries took pledges for action by 2020, but it still seems like the world is heading towards a global warming of 3°C or more. That means there will be temperatures that the earth hasn’t seen for about 3m years.

While approaching this new summit, poor countries are sceptical. This is because it are always the rich nations that express lofty ambitions but they don’t seem to be able to keep up to their promises. An example is the Kyoto protocol that the US and Canada signed, and they weren’t able to honor their signature.

So these rich countries will need more than just words to restore the trust of poorer countries. They are tackling climate change but they are taking their time and in the meantime, they are also criticizing the developing world. But they don’t realize that these ‘poor’ countries are also taking steps in finding solutions to climate change. Some of them, like China, India, Mexico, Brazil and other emerging powers, even have ambitious plans to tackle problems like deforestation and emission. So it’s normal that they’re sceptical when looking to the richer countries since they are the ones who are actually implementing their plans.

And it’s not fair. These poorer countries are most exposed and vulnerable to the impact of climate change, but they have done least to raise the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases. So they must, with the small budgets they have, fight poverty, develop and grow economically and now also manage the risks of climate change. But when they invest in a low-carbon economy, they will also need a clear and credible policy and they can start building new technologies and markets. This will all help to create the only truly sustainable growth path for the future and it might even help these developing countries to get out of the depression of their own making.

So it is up to the rich countries to accelerate their own actions but also support the developing countries with technologies and resources.