- Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
- Stakeholder type: Major Group
- Submission Document: Not available
- Additional Document:
Input to Zero Draft for Rio+20: towards the Outcome of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
1st November 2011
Any proposal taken forward at Rio+20 must address the basis of human survival: biodiversity, ecosystem resilience and the importance of trying to address climate change, by sharply and immediately reducing emissions.
This means rapidly phasing out fossil fuel burning as well as protecting and, where possible and appropriate, restoring and trying to regenerate ecosystems. In fact it means changing our models of economic development from energy intensive to low energy models, with major implications particularly for industrialized economies.
As the Global Biodiversity Outlook, 2010, says:
The action taken over the next two decades will determine whether the relatively stable environmental conditions on which human civilisation has depended for the last 10,000 years will continue beyond this century. If we fail to use this opportunity, many ecosystems on the planet will move into new, unprecedented states in which the capacity to provide for the needs of present and future generations is highly uncertain.
We cannot ?eradicate poverty? without first attending to the basic needs of life: clean water, accessible and nutritious food and access to land on which to produce it. In addition we need to protect the ecosystems that are fundamental to the planetary ?web of life?
Furthermore, as the the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge
Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) says:
Climate change, which is taking place at a time of increasing demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel, has the potential to irreversibly damage the natural resource base on which agriculture depends. Climate change is affecting the distribution of plants, invasive species, pests and disease vectors and the geographic range and incidence of many human, animal and plant diseases is likely to increase. A comprehensive approach with an equitable regulatory framework, differentiated responsibilities and intermediate targets are required to reduce GHG emissions. The earlier and stronger the cuts in emissions, the quicker concentrations will approach stabilization.
Successfully meeting development and sustainability goals and responding to new priorities and changing circumstances would require a fundamental shift in AKST [Agricultural Knowledge Science and Technology], including science, technology, policies, institutions, capacity development and investment. Such a shift would recognize and give increased importance to the multifunctionality of agriculture, accounting for the complexity of agricultural systems within diverse social and ecological contexts. It would require new institutional and organizational arrangements to promote an integrated approach to the development and deployment of AKST. It would also recognize farming communities, farm households, and farmers as producers and managers of ecosystems.
These extracts emphasize the urgency of real and immediate cuts in emissions, which should be strongly emphasized by Rio+20.
Agroecological approaches to food production must be prioritised.
There are many potential, highly beneficial synergies to be derived from agroecological approaches. Many of them are already apparent in smallscale agricultural systems, pastoral and fishing systems and fisherfolk systems. They can help to address the need for more employment, provide more nutritious and accessible food, and boost local economies through local food production and markets, with the generation of additional employment around food production. Besides these advantages there are many more: the conservation and generation in situ of locally adapted varieties of fruits, vegetables and staple crops, regained control over food production at local level, closer contact between producer and consumer. And there are major ecological benefits too: adding organic matter to soils, improving soil structure and capacity to retain moisture, rebuilding the soil food web that is basic to the production of nutritious food and which has been so seriously undermined by industrial agriculture and related inputs. Agroecological approaches are basic to the concept of food sovereignty.. Agroecological systems can also play an important role in addressing climate change.
We urgently need political will and policy frameworks for all this.
However, we find the quality of debate leading up to Rio+20 disappointing. There is a lack of discussion about the fundamental issues mentioned above. The Rio+20 process needs to build on the insights gained in the conventions that were established in 1992 on climate, biodiversity and desertification.
We believe that the term green economy needs far clearer definition. Currently it is used very loosely, without explanation and becomes more like a slogan than a meaningful term. It often appears to seek to conflate two things that are currently in deep conflict: the ecology of the planet and the economic model that is based on externalizing the costs of the destruction of ecosystems, biodiversity, soils, water in order to generate profits.
The term sustainable development is ambiguous, but the term green economy is even more so. This means that we are not ready to discuss a ?green economy roadmap?. As noted above, we have to define what we mean by a green economy first. Unfortunately the time available to prepare for the Rio+20 meeting and to discuss the issues is so limited that the debate is unlikely to mature sufficiently in time. Key principles towards an acceptable definition include: justice, equity. equality, accountability, transparency, inclusivity, ethics. However, without the relevant policy frameworks, these also become mere slogans. Rio+20 should begin the process of developing such frameworks. Two principles derived from the Convention on Biological Diversity should be basic here: the Precautionary Principle should be applied to the evaluation of new technologies and approaches and the principle of Free Prior Informed Consent is also crucial to generate inclusivity and to ensure that the wisdom of indigenous peoples and local communities is able to inform decisions taken at international level. This must be genuine otherwise it risks being merely the Engineering of Consent.
Civil society in all its rich diversity needs to be included more centrally in discussions of how we move forward but it is difficult for civil society to participate effectively. This is a major issue with the Rio+20 process and in different ways is a problem for all the UN instruments that urgently needs to be addressed by opening more spaces for civil society participation.
Precautionary principle and technology development
Some see the development of technology as a way to address the multiple challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and the need to provide food and energy. However, we believe that applying genetic engineering, synthetic biology, nanotechnology or geoengineering as solutions is more likely to compound than solve our problems. We do not have sufficient understanding of the dynamic systems or climate and biodiversity for which these solutions are proposed. However our multiple crises are being used as a means to try and force acceptance of their use. In the face of increasing pressure to apply these technologies prematurely and inappropriately, we believe that it is urgent to apply the precautionary principle to such technologies for assessing new technologies before they are deployed.
Biodiversity and climate offsets and Payments for Environmental Services
Attempts are being made to solve problems our economic model has caused to the planetary ecosystem by developing market instruments such as climate (carbon) and biodiversity offsets and other ecosystem-related (e.g. water) offsets and market-based Payments for Environmental Services. This approach is deeply flawed and will not address our multiple crises. Carbon offsets at best maintain the same level of emissions, and more often increase rather than decrease overall emissions. Further, they are a distraction from taking meaningful action.
Biodiversity offsets risk fragmenting and undermining the integrity of ecosystems. The term ecosystem services is increasingly used instead of ecosystem functions. The term ?services? immediately connects to the idea of marketing such services and the idea that they can be priced and set in order of importance. However, ecosystems function as interactive wholes. We believe this market approach is extremely dangerous to biodiversity and the integrity and resilience of ecosystems.
Addressing the power of corporations
Many civil society organizations saw the Earth Summit of 1992 as an opportunity to prioritise discussion of how to control corporations. However, this did not happen. The UNCTC was absorbed into UNCTAD and work on the proposed code of conduct for corporations was suspended in 1993. At the Johannesburg Earth Summit in 2002, governments acknowledged the need for global rules for global corporations. Since then, it has become ever clearer that we need to control corporate power. Corporate social responsibility is not the way forward: we need binding regulation, not voluntary commitments that are more public relations than substance.
At Rio 2012, governments should agree to the development of a binding global instrument that ensures full liability for any social or environmental damage corporations cause.