Preparations for the Rio +20 Summit - Environmental Audit Committee Contents


Conclusions and recommendations


1.  Globally, there has been inadequate progress on sustainable development since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. There is still far to travel. Some 'planetary boundaries' having been breached, and others approaching, make the task more urgent than ever. It is a difficult message to convey to an often sceptical audience, but that makes it all the more important that the Government use the run up to the Rio+20 Conference next year to raise the profile of the case for action, both internationally and at home. (Paragraph 18)

2.  The Millennium Development Goals have helped shape aid programmes, including the UK's, over the last decade. But, globally, their targets appear likely to be missed by their 2015 end-date, and they have focussed attention on what needs to change only in the developing world. The Government should support work aimed at launching new Goals - Sustainability Goals and Consumption Goals - at Rio+20, to shift the effort towards the sustainable development and sustainable consumption contributions that the UK and other developed countries now need to make. It should engage with other European countries to ensure that the EU pushes this agenda strongly ahead of Rio+20. (Paragraph 24)

3.  The green economy needs to embrace all its possible dimensions ('tracks') put forward by the UN. The Government should work to ensure that environmental taxes and regulation, and accounting for the value of ecosystem services, will be prominent in the green economy principles agreed at Rio+20. The Government should also work to ensure that those agreed principles represent a fair green economy, that fully reflects the social dimension of sustainable development and provides help to countries and groups of people disadvantaged by the transition to a green economy. (Paragraph 35)

4.  The green economy is more likely to succeed if the private sector is involved. Many companies have identified that sustainable development is in their own interests. But others need to be incentivised to act in the right way, to fully address the environmental and social aspects of sustainable development. The Government should push for Rio+20 to deploy the green economy 'tracks' which could provide such incentives, including taxation and ecosystem valuation, and to agree a mandatory regime for sustainability reporting by companies. In addition, the Government should involve business in the dialogue with stakeholders and the public needed throughout the Rio+20 process. (Paragraph 39)

5.  There is work underway in the devolved administrations which could contribute ideas on the Rio+20 themes as well as on how sub-national sustainable development governance could operate. The Government should collect that input and present it to the Conference. (Paragraph 40)

6.  The Government should examine the proposals from the International Court for the Environment Coalition, and in its response to this report set out its view of the pros and cons involved and state whether it intends to support any moves at Rio+20 to establish an International Court on the Environment. (Paragraph 44)

7.  In any revision of the UN governance machinery, form should follow function. The Government wants to see how the existing UN machinery might be strengthened, including the UN Environment Programme, before creating new bodies is contemplated. That is a reasonable line to take, but the Government should not insist on this if to do so would prevent agreement on more important issues at Rio+20, including agreeing green economy principles and possible new sustainable development and consumption 'Goals'. (Paragraph 45)

8.  The Government should focus its efforts on working up its input to Rio+20 ... on a narrower but important list of priorities for the Conference, that they can particularly champion. (Paragraph 51)

9.  It would be unrealistic to expect the imperative for economic growth not to be high on the agenda of many countries going to Rio+20, developing and developed. The Government should resist any moves there might be to use the financial situation to dilute the extent of the environmental and social aspects of the green economy discussed at Rio+20. Rather, it should emphasise at Rio+20 that environmental planetary boundaries will ultimately limit the room for growth. (Paragraph 53)

10.  Reflecting the commitment to tackle global warming demonstrated through the Climate Change Act, the Government could play a leading role internationally in championing planetary boundaries and other environmental limits. It could also use Rio+20 to showcase its work on valuing ecosystem services, including its recent National Ecosystem Assessment. (Paragraph 54)

11.  Within the UK, it is important that civil society is engaged. The Environment Secretary met NGOs and civil society organisations earlier this month 'to share views and inform the UK position' in preparing for Rio+20. That dialogue must continue in the run up to Rio+20, at the Conference itself and afterwards. But the Government now also needs to engage the public more generally, and in imaginative ways, to get support for the measures that need to be agreed at Rio and for their urgency. (Paragraph 55)

12.  Risks of challenging the Southern countries' role on the Rio+20 agenda do not, and should not, prevent the Government taking an appropriately strong leadership role of its own. The Prime Minister should attend the Rio+20 Conference in June, and make an announcement to that effect as early as possible, to demonstrate the Government's commitment to the aims of the Conference, within the UK and beyond. And a 'special envoy' should be appointed at the earliest opportunity, charged with bringing together Government thinking on the Rio+20 agenda from across departments but also acting as a focal point for discussion with and between civil society groups, schools, businesses and individuals. The 'envoy' should generate momentum and awareness ahead of Conference, and then be the focal point for carrying forward its outcomes afterwards. (Paragraph 59)


 
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Prepared 26 October 2011