Communication from the European Commission: "Rio +20: towards the green economy and better governance"

On 20 June, the European Commission issued a Communication preparing the ground for the EU’s position at the Rio+20 Conference. As a basis for more dialogue with European Union institutions, civil society, business and countries globally, the Communication sets out the initial views on potential concrete outcomes. The Council will adopt the final conclusions for the Conference during an Environmental Ministers meeting on 10 October, just ahead of the agreed UN deadline of 1 November for all inputs for the outcome document.

While presenting the Communication, Jakub Wejchert, DG Environment, European Commission, mentioned that the Commission wished to provide clear tools for the transition to a green economy that would be relevant to all countries at all stages of development. He indicated that it should only be viewed as the first step in the EU negotiation process in establishing a common position for Rio+20. The EU’s efforts have now started to integrate the sustainability dimension into many other policy fields as well, including water efficiency in agriculture, the use of renewable energy in transportation, and sustainable consumption and production. The bloc’s priorities aim to promote smart, inclusive and sustainable growth by developing more resource-efficient, greener and competitive economy.

The Communication maps out the what, how and who of the transition to a green economy, proposing specific actions that could be implemented at the international, national and regional levels, including:

1. Investing in sustainable management of key resources and natural capital (what): water, renewable energy, marine resources, biodiversity and ecosystem services, sustainable agriculture, forests, waste and recycling.

2. Establishing the right market and regulatory conditions (how): eco-taxes, removing environmentally harmful subsidies, mobilizing public and private financial resources, investing in skills and green jobs.

3. Improving governance and private sector involvement (who): reinforcing and streamlining the existing international governance structures.

On 7 July, the European Economic and Social Council (EESC) held a hearing entitled "European Civil Society on the Road to Rio+20," which brought together members of civil society, the Commission and business interests. During the meeting Jakub Wejchert presented the Commission’s Communication, providing space for civil society to react. Sally Nicolson (WWF) pointed out that the concepts of equity and social justice were missing from the Communication. She further stated that "a green economy is not a magic bullet. It will not automatically bring prosperity for the poor and achieve the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] unless economies are properly managed, natural capital effectively and equitably governed and basic access of distribution and access tackled." She also voiced concern around the issue of partnerships as being part of an outcome of Rio+20, indicating that previous failures, as well as successes, in environmental partnerships should be scrupulously evaluated.

While welcoming the Commission’s Communication, Yorgos Altintzis (International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)) emphasized that "the principle of equality must be enshrined in the green economy." Mr. Altintzis further called for the elimination of tax havens, a commitment to a social floor and the launch of a global Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) to be outcomes of Rio+20. "The current economic model has not provided decent lives and jobs for the masses as well as caused environmental depletion. Rio+20 should seek to redress this balance by implementing far reaching reforms within which the principle of equality is a must."

Read the Europstep article here .

Note: Today almost all EU member states have their own national sustainable development strategies in place. For a comprehensive update on national strategies please visit: http://www.sd-network.eu/?k=country%20profiles

Click here to access the Communication.

For more information on the European Sustainable Development Network and Strategy please visit: thttp://ec.europa.eu/environment/eussd/

For more information on EU’s growth strategy click here .

For more information on EU’s position on Rio+20 please visit: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/international_issues/rio20_en.htm

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