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Rio+20 : Submission
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Thamesbank
Information
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Submission Document: Download
  • Additional Document:

Thamesbank

C/o Netherbury

Meadow Close

Bridge, Kent CT4 5AT

United Kingdom

Submission to Rio 20 on behalf of Thamesbank

1. Introduction

Thamesbank submits the following contributions to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, for inclusion in a compilation document to serve as a basis for the preparation of a zero draft of the outcome document. This submission sets out our views on how to make the United Nations Conference more effective in terms of addressing water issues. Although our group exists to better protect the Thames River from the current and future threats facing the river from pollution, over development and misuse of resources, our long term aim is to ensure that all water bodies under Rio 20 are given similar protection if true Sustainable Living is to be achieved.

Thamesbank was set up over10 years ago to campaign for the sustainability of the River Thames? ecosystem. We have always applied the Rio 1992 sustainable principles and aim to create an international example to secure a genuinely sustainable future for the river, the communities that live and work around the river, and for the ecosystems which depend on it. However, sustainability of the River Thames has continued to deteriorate. We need effective and adequate measures from Rio to ensure water bodies like the River Thames become sustainable.

The river is facing unprecedented challenges . New riverside developments, longer-term plans for the Thames Gateway, are stresses likely to increase as a result from climate change, and the challenges posed by the 2012 Olympic Games are all going to impact on the river. In particular, we are concerned about the proposal to build a 22km long cesspit for rainwater (a vital resource) and sewage by the Thames when other recommended more sustainable approaches have not been adequately explored by the Government or its agencies.

2. ?Sustainable Development? should be changed to ?Sustainable Living?

?Sustainable Development? should be changed to ?Sustainable Living?. Sustainable Development is a misnomer and an inappropriate word because it suggests that development is something that has to be achieved in order to achieve sustainability whereas true sustainability is about changing all our existing living practices to become sustainable in a world with finite resources. Development in the developed world has gone too far - it is not sustaining our planet. We should not be advocating a similar mistaken journey for the so called undeveloped countries or for ourselves.

3. Planning and why Sustainable Living must be made to determine every planning application

In the UK, planning decisions are made across the land that adversely impact upon the natural environment and water on a continual and cumulative basis. Environmental laws and other planning considerations do not effectively mix. The environment usually loses to economic considerations, those considerations which are sadly still based on the failed and outdated growth domestic product theory. That is why Thamesbank wants to see the concept of Green Growth embedded within the concept of Sustainable Living as part of the outcome document. What we mean by Green Growth is illustrated in the paper by Peter Head entitled ?Total community retrofit - an accelerated model for the UK to reach its climate change obligations by 2050? (attached). Consequently, every planning decision must be based on Sustainable Living. The process, outcome and later operation of each and every planning permission must equate with Sustainable Living. This means in practice that each permission granted must be carbon negative for the process, the outcome and for its operation. The consideration of water is obviously fundamental to this process.

4. Case Study - The Thames -Why water bodies need an overarching integrated statutory sustainable management body to achieve sustainability

Thamesbank is concerned that the Rio 20 process may not give adequate consideration to water issues in developed countries where water issues may wrongly be considered less important. The River Thames is of vital importance and that is why we include it here as a case study. It is under strain from excess sewage, water extraction and development yet there is no overarching integrated body statutory or otherwise to ensure that all aspects of the Thames are properly managed to secure water cycle sustainability. We need such a body and other water bodies do too. We believe that without such a body, the River Thames will not achieve Sustainable Living. To illustrate our growing concerns, we attach the recently published Selborne Commission Report1 on the 22km Thames sewage/rainwater cesspit proposal. The Report voices concerns about the sustainability of the proposal but how will these concerns be properly addressed without there being one overarching integrated statutory management body solely in charge of the River Thames ecosystem?

5.Enforcement mechanisms

Parties, organisations and ordinary individuals need to be able to enforce environmental laws and agreements on an international level otherwise Rio 20 will fail and our water bodies will continue to deteriorate. We second and adopt the proposals submitted by Wildlaw UK below:

Working Group - Technical Subgroup

This Declaration could be enforced by:

i) an international environmental court such as the proposed International Court for the Environment which advocates wider access to environmental justice.

ii) adoption of domestic laws which recognise and protect the rights of nature, e.g. the Bolivian Law of Mother Earth and the Ecuadorian Constitution.

iii) recognising the rights of individuals and civil society groups to enforce the rights of nature, e.g., by widening interpretation of the provisions of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention).

iv) creating institutional mechanisms to promote and advocate the rights of nature such as Bolivia?s proposal for an ombudsman for Mother Earth, or a Commission for Nature?s Rights, similar to the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the U.K.

v) Respecting the provisions of the World Charter and Earth Charter which set out duties and responsibilities for the respect and protection of Earth and the 'greater community of life and future generations?.

Dido Berkeley/ Emily Shirley/Graham Stevens of Thamesbank

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