Facing the limits of democracy and states: Rio+20 has not secured the planet. Rio+20 a festival is for sustainability
Rio+20 is not a commitment to the ecology of the planet. Keeping ‘common and differentiated responsibilities ‘ in the Rio+20 text, and having commitments to Sustainable Development Goals and a Commission for Sustainable Development may seem elusive but these provisions could chart a course for the transition to sustainability.
There were major sessions on Sustainable Development Goals at Rio today.
The event ‘Measuring the Future we want’ on measuring sustainable development goals was hosted by Helen Clark. New Zealanders along with hundreds of people flocked to this side event. Countries such as Sweden and Ecuador and Bhutan are leading the way in accounting for human and ecological wellbeing already, and the presentations inspired the possibilities of taking bold steps to implement these measures for taking responsibility for the future of people and planet.
While we pour over the text to see what is finally there and what isn’t, we miss the larger issue that a navigational path to global responsibility for the planet has not been set. The challenge of Oceans parallels the challenges of sustainable development. Oceans encompass vast areas beyond national jurisdiction just as governance for the planet requires the capacity to move beyond national interests of states to take on responsibility for the planet. We have not yet achieved a means to address global interdependence. We do not have a means of accountability for offences which threaten the security of vulnerable states, such as Bangladesh and Small Island States.
At a Small Island Developing States side event today that became crystal clear when it was noted that wealthy countries will put resources into building sea walls, carbon trading and other practical and financial adaptive measures to protect themselves. These will make no difference to climate emissions. These forms of adaptation do not require us to dismantle coal mines to stop emissions and take actions to address climate risks and impacts on vulnerable states such as areas and oceans.
Sustainable Development Goals can be a means to provide a accountabilities and incentives to make the transition to a green economy. The challenge ahead is to further develop measures such as the Human Development Index to account for environmental wealth, for the benefits of natural resources to be distributed fairly, and for economies of stewardship. The big challenge of SDG’s is to measure the integration of social, environmental and economic spheres, and to incentivize sustainability in corporate practice. Integrated reporting is a key strategy. Challenges were made to the idea of the Green economy and one woman replied ‘it is a lot better that the red economy of a bleeding earth’.
An achievement of Rio+20 is having sustainability of oceans on the outcome agenda. Oceans again provide a metaphor – they represent a frontier of the unknown. The danger is that we govern according to what we know and by and by the quest to control resources. A framework of responsibility in governance could allow for the limits of knowledge while establishing accountability now to safeguard the future?