European Students' Forum (AEGEE)
- Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
- Stakeholder type: Major Group
- Submission Document: Download
- Additional Document:
European Students? Forum
Contribution to the Outcome Document
United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 2012
November 1, 2011
Focus and scope of the input to the Outcome Document
AEGEE - Europe focuses its input on the shaping of a green economy and sustainable lifestyles. This document deals with a set of practical actions judged as required for a timely transition to a sustainable future for the planet Earth and its future generations. A variety of actors are involved in this process. These actors interact in a network structure. Below both actions and structure are treated and a number of interventions are recommended.
Networked Institutions: inter-disciplinary, inter-ministerial, and inclusive decision-making
Several inputs to the Outcome Document have asked for a better focus other than the ?Institutional framework? for sustainable development, which is argued to be overly general or unclear. We propose to focus on the decision-making tools and approach used within and across the institutional spheres of government, industry, university, and civil society. Regardless of the different institutional functions they have, there are common grounds for reforming their decision-making. This has implications in terms of network structure within and across these institutions.
The process of deciding on future actions shall encompass the three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental sustainability. Accordingly, the indicators used to support decision-making need to include these three dimensions. For instance, ?Green Public Procurement? is developing new indicators to include environmental sustainability in the public procurement processes. These types of integrated measurements shall be diffused to other institutions and settings. Any organization specializing in such activities has a profitable advantage to exploit. Yet, in order for these measurement and practices to be widely diffused, the networks across different institutional spheres should be increasingly integrated in order to share practices and knowledge on the development and use of such indicators.
Decision-making shall become increasingly networked. Collaboration and integration of knowledge perspectives are key to a knowledge-based world. This is because no single actors may have full access to necessary knowledge and resources for decision-making and implementation of programmes and actions. The three pillars of sustainable development are inherently different from a knowledge and socio-cultural perspective. These perspectives need to be integrated. Therefore decision apparatuses shall become more horizontal, inter-disciplinary, inter-ministerial, and inclusive of multiple stakeholders.
How to enable these decisions on structural changes? Network analyses of decision-making relations should be increasingly adopted to foster more agile structures where information flows and decisions are taken more efficiently. This is all about surveying and visualizing networks within and across different institutions, so that interventions to increase the agility of these networks can be implemented. Network science and analytic tools are readily accessible and well developed for practical use.
Connecting the disconnect between Youth Organizations and Companies
"Youth will be one of my topmost priority in my second term as Secretary General for the next five years" (UN Secretary General, 2011).
More than 50% of the world?s population is constituted by young people under the age of 30. This includes the current and future youth. More than a quarter of the world's population is aged 10 to 24 and accounts for 1.8 billion people (UNFPA 2011). Most of this young population is concentrated in developing countries.
Policy-makers and civil society argue, to a different extent, that youth shall be the ?latest engine? of a green economy and active citizenship. Yet, young people at large currently play a marginal role in the building of a green economy.
Youth are daily users of a range of products and services in developed as well as developing countries accounting for a large share of the so-called ?bottom of the pyramid?. The user role co-evolves with lifestyles which are one of the key drivers of current societies and economies. A green economy shall be built upon green lifestyles co-mingling with new patterns of product design and use. Young people are carriers of new lifestyles. They are able to think out of the box. They can be a source of innovation for establishing greener lifestyles and impulsing the transition to a green economy.
The user experience, flexibility and creativity of young people may turn out to be a widely accessible resource to capitalize on. Youth organizations are increasingly interconnected worldwide and often tied to universities and public organizations locally. To different extents, they are also naturally connected with other organizations within the civil society. Yet, there is still a key disconnect between youth organizations and producers.
Youth organizations may collaborate with companies adhering to the UN Global Compact and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in order to identify new ways of using or adapting their products and services, and green needs these companies could satisfy. Networks of collaborations need to be established and backed with institutional support at the international, national and local level in order to provide legitimacy to their activities. The overall outcome is the collaborative shaping of new patterns of production and use, and the education of future generations to establish a greener society and economy.
Training and incubation of social entrepreneurship and youth-led sustainable development are increasingly available within youth organizations and other civil society. Some inititiatives are also backed with the support of companies which recognize the potential of youth and their ideas. These trends need to be recognized and increasingly supported by International Organizations within the UN system and beyond. This institutionalizaation may generate further public and private funding of such kind of activities, and a higher connectivity among youth organizations and companies. Overall, the above considerations show a potential to be unleashed: the link between innovation and youth employment in the shaping of green economy and lifestyles.
Economic and tax-based incentives
A system of economic and taxation-based incentives shall be created to support the transition to a green economy. This system is to be linked to both production and consumption patterns. Its first aim is to foster greater adoption of clean technologies, products, and services by making them more economically convenient vis-à-vis competing ones. Its second aim is to foster cleaner production by making ?environmental dumping? and carbon emissions expensive. The system could use an adaptive system that adjusts the levels of taxes and incentives by covering most of the budget required for the incentives via the environmental tax revenues.
This system would be highly beneficial on the market, as it would make environmental friendly products spread more easily among consumers. A deregulated market can only play a limited role in supporting the green economic revolution, if not adequately supported by an innovative fiscal system: even in the most advanced societies, early adopters account for a limited market share, and significant effects on the environment can be achieved only when the masses adopt the innovative and more environmental friendly solutions. The system would also have a beneficial effect on the production system, as it would cause a race among companies to continue technological innovation, to raise occupation in R&D and to increase efficiency and environmental compatibility of products, thus not waiting for the market to adjust to the available supply, but continuously driving innovation in a virtuous cycle.
Certainly these measures are difficult to be set up. This is due to the tensions between environmentally-friendly incentives and free economic competition both on the consumption and production sides. These tensions are linked upstream to international trade and Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) flows and need to be fixed. This will result in increasing case-based law feeding the transition to green regulatory settings at the local, national and international levels. It is necessary for WTO law to move forward from the status quo.
A carbon tax would be part of the needed policies, to implement worldwide, to readjust the panel of energy resources, and to internalize the environmental effects of production cycles. This becomes even more urgent given the on-going degradation of environmental conditions, and the need to act quickly on the market to rebalance the panel of resources used in energy production and other production cycles. Besides, a carbon tax, together with the system of incentives described above, would reduce the consumption of new materials, and support an efficient system of reuse and recycling, reducing the need for landfills and the contamination of adjacent land and water resources.
Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
It is necessary to define the imposed reductions in Greenhouse Gas Emissions and to respect such a plan. A plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be architected, including a timeline with intermediate steps and a system of enforcement that are applied to countries that do not comply with this regulation.
A strategically important field includes the definition of standards for energy efficiency. It is necessary to define a system of legally-binding standards for energy efficiency in all fields: energy production and consumption, production cycles, heating and air conditioning, consumers? appliances, insulation of buildings, transportation, etc. Technologies that do not comply with the energy efficiency standards should be banned from the market. Energy efficiency standard should be revised no later than every 3 years to define the following steps and deadlines.
Transportation on average accounts for one third of energy consumption and pollutant emissions worldwide, and is responsible for severe health damages to the world?s population. We ask to the current leaders a strong commitment to reorganize the transportation sector, and set up the basis for the long term investments that will ensure rebalancing the mode share for short and long distance travel, reducing the prevalence of private vehicles and other polluting means of transportation. To do this, we ask a strong commitment to give priority and to support the development of public transportation systems and reduce accessibility to destinations by cars. A possible way of financing the required investments in this sector would be the introduction of an ?environmental fee?, which could be set at 0.05$/liter which would be charged in every country, and that would generate significant revenues to be used entirely to finance investments in public transportation.
An important role is associated with the definition of education programmes, to develop an environmentally-driven culture, and to understand that the creation of a better future, first of all, goes through the respect for the environment. These programmes need to be coupled with investments in the green economy. Further education, both formal and non-formal, should develop on the links between lifestyles, environmental protection, poverty eradication, and economic development.
Support to research and development
It necessary to prioritize funding for R&D aimed at advancing science and technology to the benefit of the three pillars of sustainable development. Research on systems (e.g. city, transportation, water cycle system etc.) should be increasingly funded, requiring higher inter-disciplinarity, coherently with the institutional structure proposed above.
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