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Global Vision for Rio+20 and Beyond

The various mechanisms evolved through global negotiations to deal with shared environmental problems, such as climate change, fall short because they are not located within a larger debate on dealing with human well-being and instead focus only on limiting damage. The United Nations is best placed to support a common understanding on patterns of resource use that are in principle common for all by generating strategic knowledge, also leading to deepening coherence of the global agenda.

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Global Vision for Rio+20 and Beyond

Mukul Sanwal

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sustainable use of atmospheric, ocean and terrestrial natural resources, as well as assessing national strategies for making the transition to sustainability. While each country has its own vision of what is fair in defining the criteria for sharing the global commons, an analysis of patterns,

The various mechanisms evolved through global negotiations to deal with shared environmental problems, such as climate change, fall short because they are not located within a larger debate on dealing with human well-being and instead focus only on limiting damage. The United Nations is best placed to support a common understanding on patterns of resource use that are in principle common for all by generating strategic knowledge, also leading to deepening coherence of the global agenda.

The views expressed in this article are personal.

Mukul Sanwal (sanwals@gmail.com) has worked with the Government of India, United Nations Environment Programme and in the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat and is currently associated with the South Centre, Geneva.

T
he United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (2012) should be about big thinking beyond green growth, developing new levels of international cooperation and taking political decisions to change our relationship with the planet for a sustainable world. The initiative provides the opportunity to answer the question, how a continually growing economy can fit within a finite ecological system. What is new is the scientific evidence that the planet will soon not be able to absorb the waste carbon dioxide of industrial activity, urbanisation and excessive consumption. The policy response has to be a new form of international cooperation to equitably share the carbon space in the global commons,1 because of the effects on other drivers of human well-being. A low carbon green economy is now synonymous with sustainable development.

Global carbon management provides an integrating theme bringing together all natural resources – energy, biodiversity, water and food – as well as the global policy agenda. An equitable allocation of the global commons into national carbon budgets will link climate change (patterns of resource use), biological diversity (ecosystem services) and the Millennium Development Goals (conservation through local development). National carbon budgets are also the most appropriate currently available indicator for measuring the sustainable management of natural resources, the

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trends and drivers of national resource use since 1972 suggests that transforming societies towards living in balance with the natural environment will also lead to more equity.

1 Where We Are

There are three reasons why we need new forms of international cooperation for transformative change in order to directly address the modification of patterns of consumption and production necessary for equitable sustainable development. This shift will also blur the distinction between addressing climate change, conservation of biological diversity and eradication of poverty that emerged in the first Rio Summit in 1992.

Patterns of Resource Use

We need transformative change because we now have to deal with the limited capacity of the planet to absorb waste carbon dioxide, and the global commons are a strategic resource for all countries. Sustainable development/climate governance has now become a part of the political, economic and security debate because of the competition for scarce resources. Consequently, the central concern in international cooperation is equitably sharing of ecosystem services provided by the planet outside national boundaries.

There are five policy implications of current patterns of natural resource use. First, global resource use in the period 1900-2005 increased eightfold while per

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capita use doubled, because 20% of the global population used 86% of the resources (in 1998) and the bottom 20% used less than 2% of the resources (United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) 2011). In the context of global limits, the case for the wealthy to reduce resource use is obvious.

Second, it has been computed that twothirds of the global environmental impact has been caused by carbon dioxide (UNEP 2011), cities account for three-quarter of these emissions, and the construction sector accounts for more than a third of global material resource consumption. The strongest increase in resource use in the last century has been in construction material and minerals and ores (34 and 27 times, respectively), while oil increased 12 times and biomass only 3.6 times; during this period resource prices declined some 30% (UNEP 2011). The rate of resource use accelerated sharply in the period 1950-70 driven by establishment of urban infrastructure in the industrialised countries. While this urbanisation involved a population shift of half billion, in developing countries this could amount to over four billion with the attendant growth in emissions – in India over 500 million are expected to shift to urban areas by 2020. The global community has to recognise the increase in resource use, and carbon dioxide emissions, resulting from the scale of the infrastructure needed for everything from energy, housing, roads, trains, airports and ports to education and healthcare needed for urbanisation and eradication of poverty, as well as the fact that three billion poor lack adequate access to modern energy.

Third, carbon dioxide emissions are driven ultimately by consumption. Over two-thirds of global emissions of carbon dioxide occurred in developed countries in the period after 1970, caused by urban lifestyles, rather than from industrialisation and infrastructure (TISS 2010). In developed countries, while industrial emissions have remained steady since 1990, over two-thirds of carbon dioxide emissions are now coming from the services, households and travel sectors, they account for more than half the increase in global emissions since 2005, and it is expected that emissions from transportation (largely for leisure) will exceed half of global emissions in 2050 (International Energy Agency

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(IEA) 2007). However, global attention continues to be focused on the increasing emissions from generation of electricity, largely from coal, in China and India, where three quarters of the electricity generated goes for industrial production and any reduction in emissions will have a direct impact on economic growth.2 Unlike in developed countries (the United States also gets most of its electricity from coal) where consumption by households accounts for two-thirds of the electricity generated, and reductions will affect only (wasteful) lifestyles.

Fourth, as there are limits to the total ecological burden the planet can sustain, without developed countries sharply reducing their resource use immediately other countries cannot get their fair share of the global commons for eradication of poverty. As the Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz pointed out in his address to the International Economics Association, held in Istanbul in June 2008, the transition to a low carbon economy will require a new economic model – changed patterns of consumption and innovation, as “only through changes in patterns of demand will adverse effects of climate change on developing countries be mitigated”.

Fifth, the implication for international cooperation is that in industrialised countries frameworks will be needed to change particular kinds of resource consumption, not middle class lifestyles or human wellbeing, and in developing countries the type of urban infrastructure to be established will largely determine emission levels in 2050. The policy focus has to be on both urban design and consumption patterns to eliminate emissions, and reduce consumption of water, from buildings as well as modal shifts in transport. Such national actions, or bottom-up, efforts conceptualise sustainability in terms of strategies that will modify patterns of resource use rather than in terms of multilaterally negotiated burden sharing of the costs of measures expressed in terms of mitigation.

Trends in Resource Use

It has now become clear that alternative patterns and processes in the human use of nature in developed and developing countries result in trade-offs for socioeconomic systems that are very different

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to those focusing only on environmental systems. International cooperation based on multilateral agreements around longterm economy wide issues, like climate change, is different to sectoral issues like the ozone problem (Levin et al 2010). The policy problem is that climate change, and sustainability, have been framed in terms of assessments of damage and the attendant emissions targets and timetables that pit old against new emitters. The shared vision of the Cancun Agreements 2010, now recognises the substantial opportunities from a paradigm shift towards building a low carbon society (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 2011), and giving centrality to human well-being will serve to clarify our understanding of a very complex issue.

A more holistic view has led to the recognition that hypothetical global scenarios on which international cooperation is based bear no relationship to trends in resource use and the real options confronting policymakers (Perrings et al 2011). Existing models focus on specific policy areas and sectors such as energy and transport, and they cannot capture fully the impact of resource use on ecosystems, enterprises, the economy and society as a whole, or the interdependence of policy measures and longer- term trends (EC 2011). For example, different energy economies and greenhouse gas emission profiles lead to different economic and environmental effects for countries in pursuing a harmonised policy approach (National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) 2011).

Scenarios are not able to capture the “decoupling” taking place in developing countries driven by social rather than environmental considerations. Recent reviews of China’s actions to reduce energy and carbon intensity challenge the many analyses projecting continued exponential growth for China as energy demand is likely to plateau around 2030 and 2040 because of the saturation effects (appliances, residential and commercial floor area, roadways, railways, fertiliser use, etc), deceleration of urbanisation, low population growth, and change in exports mix to high value added products, and carbon dioxide emissions are expected to stabilise around 2030 owing to continuous energy efficiency improvement as well as decarbonisation in the power sector (Zhou et al 2011). A total energy cap of 4.1 billion tonnes of coal equivalent by 2015, 25% above 2010 levels, is being considered by the government. In China, and in other developing countries, societal notions of well-being and consumption patterns, very different from those in industrialised countries, will lead to per capita energy use remaining below most other countries with similar GDP levels (around that of Spain), and per capita carbon dioxide levels will not increase significantly despite rising per capita gross domestic product (GDP) (Eichengreen 2011). Developing countries are likely to settle into the status of what is currently described as middle income countries in terms of resource use, and this could well be the global norm in terms of “happiness” in 2050.

Trends in developed countries highlight the limitations of only considering production patterns, for example, carbon dioxide emissions from the fuel mix of electricity generation. The paradox is that while global energy intensity – final energy use per unit of GDP, largely driven by technology

– fell by 26% in the period 1990-2005, energy use per capita – largely driven by increase in wealth – increased more than 6% in developed countries and less than 1% in developing countries. Consequently, even though carbon dioxide emissions from manufacturing have not increased, overall emissions increased 15% in developed countries, in this period (IEA 2009). Market mechanisms have not led to the required technological transformation for a sustainability transition, because they have focused only on the production sector (IEA 2010), and when policies focused on economic growth have confronted policies focused on emission reduction, it is economic growth that wins out every time (Pielke 2010). For example, according to a recent authoritative report for the United States emissions will continue to grow till 2050, requiring a carbon budget between 170-200 Gt (gross tonnes) of carbon dioxide (NAS 2010).

Recent research establishes that growth and sustainable development/climate protection are rival objectives only in highincome countries, which are called upon to share their resources to enable a global sustainability transition. The political difficulties of this are obvious, and the crucial, still unresolved questions are how far from the global welfare and climate optimum is it necessary to deviate in order to win acceptance of sustainability policy/low carbon green economy in developed countries (Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) 2011).

Drivers of Resource Use

According to recent scientific consensus arising from an international consultative process, the social and biophysical subsystems are intertwined such that the system’s conditions and responses to external forcing are based on the synergy of the two sub-systems. Consequently, the full global system has to be studied rather than its independent components, as none of the challenges can be fully addressed without addressing the other challenges (ICSU 2010). The key scientific insight is that in actions for achieving global sustainability environmental change and social transformations are tightly intertwined. Current research trends on how to meet global challenges focus on societal dynamics as both the root of environmental problems and the potential solution to them (IHDP 2007). Environmental problems should not be defined as discrete problems, and are increasingly being understood as symptoms of a particular economic growth path.

The MDGs, agreed in 2000, did not include electricity as a basic need and the unique role of electricity with respect to resource use must now be on the global agenda. As part of the reappraisal of current approaches, a new poverty index recently developed by the United Nations stresses lack of services such as electricity as a key factor in determining poverty (UNDP 2010). However, there is no common understanding, even within international organisations, of how the resulting increased emissions from developing countries will be accommodated in the transition to sustainable development.

While it is agreed that individuals’ access to electricity should be seen in incremental levels of basic human needs, productive uses and modern society needs, “basic human needs” is the level that is commonly used for forecasts related to growth in developing countries emissions from universal

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energy access. Consequently, the International Energy Agency assumes that 1.4 billion rural poor without access to electricity (the United Nations Development Programme computes a much larger number) will each need only 100 kwh annually – a floor fan, two compact fluorescent bulbs and a radio – for about five hours each day, which would, therefore, increase developing country emissions by a negligible 3% till 2050. Others argue that this figure is too low, and the aim should be to achieve a higher per capita electricity use (around 5,000 kwh – that of a mid-level developed country like Spain; the developed country average is 10,000 kwh) for the 4-5 billion rural poor that will move to urban areas recognising development of industry and infrastructure needed for the eradication of poverty (Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC) 2010). The World Economic and Social Survey 2011, points out that eradication of poverty will require an almost 10 times increase in availability of modern energy sources by those now counted as poor (UN 2011).

The United Nations has now called for a commitment to three complementary goals by 2030, of ensuring universal access to modern energy services that are affordable and combine basic needs and productive uses to two to three billion people as well as reducing global energy intensity by 40% and increasing the share of renewable energy to 30%. Consequently, global emissions will increase by as much as onethird to half of current levels by 2050, and peaking of carbon dioxide emissions will depend on shifts in patterns of resource use in developed countries and the availability of innovative energy technologies in developing countries.

Placing energy poverty as a central element in the framework of sustainable development/low carbon green economy requires political decisions for reconciling competing resource needs with respect to maintaining lifestyles and eradication of poverty. This issue is at the centre of the deliberations on modification of longerterm trends in patterns of resource use for the transition to global sustainability and a low carbon green economy, and remains extremely contentious; for example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledges that its energy, or emissions

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reduction, scenarios do not take into account lifestyle changes in developed countries (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007).

2 What We Know

The institutional framework, and the global rules, in which sustainable development policy is embedded has failed to give legitimacy to the shape of the response, leading to continuing differences on the nature and scope of international cooperation between countries at different levels of development.

The problem has long been recognised, but not acted upon because of political considerations. The report “US Priority Interests in the Environmental Activities of International Organisations”, prepared by the Committee on International Environmental Affairs of the State Department, in the run-up to the first United Conference on the Human Environment in 1970, noted that

Long range policy planning to cope with global environmental problems must take account of the total ecological burden. This burden tends to increase with population growth and with the level of economic activity, whereas the capacity of the environment to provide essential inputs to production and to absorb unwanted outputs from consumption is fundamentally limited. The problem with managing total ecological burden will remain even after world population is stabilised. Controlling that burden by systematic reduction in per capita production of goods and services would be politically unacceptable. A concerted effort is needed to orient technology towards making human demands upon the environment less severe (State Department 2005).

This approach has shaped the definition and objective of sustainable development since the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, in 1972.

We now know that two-thirds of the global environmental damage has been caused by carbon dioxide emissions as a result of current patterns of resource use (UNEP 2010). Consequently, Copenhagen was really about the final sharing of the remaining carbon budget of about 1,550 billion tonnes that are left until 2050 (Danish Foreign Policy Yearbook 2010). The 80% cut collectively in developed country emissions by 2050 proposed by the G8, while serving as a powerful communication

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tool, would have fixed their share of the atmospheric space at two tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita per year, leaving developing countries to share amongst them less than half that amount (SEI 2010), and the battle over the global policy architecture for sharing the global commons will continue at Rio+20 in 2012 (Bodansky and Diringer 2010).

There is also still no agreement among countries on the public policies needed to establish a global technology sharing regime to accelerate invention and diffusion of innovative technologies that is going to be critical. Since the 1990s, following the Uruguay Round of the World Trade Organisation, protecting private intellectual property rights by enforcing exclusive use and deployment by its owner is the main approach.3

Internationally spurring green technological development will require a wider mix of public sector strategies, which guarantee a commercial incentive substantial enough to enable private parties through the use of subsidies and public purchases of technology at reasonable cost in their research undertakings, while constraining monopolistic practices which restrict diffusion and further development. Public policy tools could include global funding for research, to be placed in the public domain for widespread dissemination under the same modality utilised in the green revolution in food agriculture in the 1960s and 1970s. With technology funds, it should be possible to establish international innovation networks within different areas of technology.

The overall strategy could also include global awards for the formulation of technical solutions to well-defined problems, and public purchase at appropriate prices of private technology for deployment in the public domain. Where exclusive privatesector rights of use to vital technology are a hindrance to the development of other needed technology or to widespread use, the technology regime must have a mechanism (such as exists in certain areas of public health) for granting a “compulsory licence” that places such technology in the public domain (UN 2011). International public technology policymaking can provide an integrating theme to promote greater coherence between the disparate entities of the multilateral system whose common objective is to support the transition to global sustainable development.

The United Nations has pointed out, in a recent report to the Economic and Social Council, that sustainable development is unattainable within the existing international frameworks (UN 2011). Therefore, the deliberations at the multilateral level should really be seen as an opportunity to discuss options for making the societal transformation to modify production and consumption patterns as part of a longterm macrostructural transformation. They would, for example, need to identify which longer-term trends in patterns of resource use should be modified, and the best way of doing so at the national level. At the international level, they would need to lay out a timetable for joint research and development of new technologies, as well as mechanisms for their transfer, to meet the scale and speed of the response. Only the least developed countries will continue to need financial support for economic growth, rather than for measures to reduce pollution, blurring the distinction between environment and development that was formalised at Rio in 1992.

3 Where We Want To Be

The three pillars of sustainable development – economic, environmental and social

– need to be redefined to augment ecosystem services to enable human well-being for all.

Patterns of Resource Use

Global environmental change is being driven by the lifestyles of the wealthy citizens worldwide. As two-thirds of final energy consumption is in cities, urbanisation must be the focus of global policy development. With developing countries building their infrastructure, modified patterns of land use, new technologies and behavioural changes will play a key role in the transition to sustainable development, rather than develop global rules on costly alternatives to fossil fuels for generation of electricity that are more suited for developed countries.

Challenging conventional assumptions that focus only on production processes and regulation throws up new commercial solutions for making the transition to a low carbon economy. For example, McKinsey research shows that the growth of worldwide energy demand can be cut in half or more over the next 15 years, without reducing the benefits that energy’s endusers enjoy – and while supporting economic growth – by focusing on demand-side management (Mckinsey 2007). A recent analysis of transportation emissions in the United States also shows that transportation represented 31% of carbon dioxide emissions in 2008, vehicle miles travelled are expected to increase by 40% by 2050, and existing federal programmes do not take this metric into account. The report argues that, as the rate of technological progress is uncertain, the stress should be on public transportation and land use strategies that provide alternatives to driving. The report concludes that technology alone will not solve the energy and emissions problem, and there is a need to moderate driving habits, with implications for infrastructure development (WRI 2011).

Consequently, the strategic policy issue for decoupling energy use from economic growth will not only be developing efficiency standards and innovative technology for fuel substitutes – “impact decoupling” as developed countries are doing – but also a modal shift in transport patterns and modifying the nature of the urbanisation process itself, or, “resource decoupling”, as many developing countries are doing.

Enhancing Ecosystem Services

One way to avoid ineffective and contentious discussions around arrangements for integration of environmental issues in current economic policies in an equitable and cost-effective manner is to focus on economic and welfare gains from ecosystem services that will provide the framework for modification of patterns of natural resource use, and have so far been ignored as they are outside the market.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment pointed out that

most resource management decisions are most strongly influenced by ecosystem services entering markets…the most important public policy decisions affecting ecosystems are often made by agencies and policy arenas other than those charged with protecting ecosystems.

For example, it noted that

forest management is influenced more strongly by actions outside the forest sector, such as

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trade policies and institutions, macroeconomic policies, and policies in other sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, energy and mining, than those within it (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005).

The way the issue is framed around ecosystem services will determine strategic goals related to economic growth, impact on environmental policy arenas and alter policy objectives for eradication of poverty. There should be recognition of the limited capacity to absorb waste with payments for allocation of the available space (carbon dioxide, chemicals); establishing community rights of forest dwellers and valuation of ecosystem services will provide resources to the poor removing dependence on exploitation of natural resources (forests); the economic and social gains from new products need to be identified and shared with forest dwellers who have conserved these resources (biodiversity); and, the role of forests in augmentation of water supply and agricultural productivity providing alternatives for energy intensive engineering and cultivation practices needs to be considered (watershed management). Avoiding emissions from tropical deforestation is now being stressed because it can be done at relatively low-cost, reducing carbon prices for measures taken in developed countries by up to 40% in 2020 (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 2009).

Conventional economic indicators, such as GDP, provide a distorted lens for economic performance particularly since such measures fail to reflect the extent to which production and consumption activities may be drawing down natural capital by either depleting natural resources, or degrading the ability of ecosystems to deliver economic benefits, in terms of provisioning, regulating or cultural services, as economic activity is often based on the depreciation of natural capital. National accounting systems need to be more inclusive and measure the significant human welfare benefits that global and national ecosystems provide, and measure household incomes, consumption and wealth rather than total production (UNEP 2008). Ecosystem services have quantifiable economic value, and this value can be used to enable investment in restoration and maintenance, as well as equitably

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sharing the global commons for eradication of poverty.

Local Development and Conservation

The livelihoods of the rural poor and the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources are so intimately intertwined that they are best addressed through an integrated approach, irrespective of whether the primary motivation is development or environmental conservation. It is estimated that environmental wealth accounts for 26% of the total wealth of low-income countries, versus 13% of wealth in middle-income countries and only 2% of wealth in developed countries (Hamilton et al 2005). For example, it is now recognised that fighting climate change, including adaptation, conservation of biological diversity and fighting poverty have to be addressed together (Commission on Climate Change and Development (CCCD) 2009). The World Conservation Congress, organised by the IUCN in 2008, discussed non-regulatory longer-term approaches to restoring, protecting and sustainably using natural resources that can lead to new livelihood and economic opportunities and renewed environmental vitality.

New conceptual frameworks and strategies tailored to social value creation, where the objective is for the maximum number to benefit from the effort have begun to emerge. The “bottom of the pyramid” provides new growth opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship, with new products, services and payment models to make finance and technology affordable and accessible to the poor, while enhancing local natural resources. For example, well managed trade in wildlife products, as against a ban, not only promotes species conservation but also provides cash and food for the world’s poorest people – these groups, and their business, should be seen as a solution, not a problem (Roe 2008). The recent independent evaluation of the International Finance Corporation also concludes that economic growth, poverty reduction and environmentally and socially sustainable development can have mutually reinforcing development and financial benefits (IFC 2008).

4 Shared Vision

The context in which sustainability has been discussed at the multilateral level

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has changed, since the issue first came onto the global agenda in 1972. However, the response at the multilateral level to the transformative impact of the rise of China and India has largely been of a scarcity mentality, seen as a zero-sum game, rather than develop a shared vision where everyone can become better off. The challenge everywhere is not only demand-side management in urban areas, to increase resource productivity – using fuel, water and raw materials more productively, as some have argued (The Economist 2008), but also conserving and equitably sharing scarce resources by modifying patterns of global natural resource use.

New Global Policy Framework

The building blocks of global sustainability will need to ensure a transformation in the way we use natural resources, in five areas.

First, the growing importance of the service sector and consumer demand in economic growth worldwide requires political agreement on a shift beyond modifying production patterns seeking greater efficiency in resource use, to modifying consumption patterns for ensuring conservation of resources, largely in developed countries.

Second, recognition of the value of ecological and energy services, and their contribution to eradication of poverty – infrastructure, job creation, food security and pharmaceuticals – will support new growth pathways, largely in developing countries.

Third, new market-based employment opportunities and infrastructure development, as part of the global shift to a low carbon green economy, need to be provided for the poor to shift activities away from relying on, and causing harm to, natural resources to augmentation of local ecosystems as a part of human well-being, in all countries.

Fourth, the focus of international cooperation would then shift from burden sharing through funds, mechanisms and programmes to support implementation in developing countries through public-private networks for “innovation” enabling, for example, joint development and sharing of energy technologies, agricultural seed varieties and medical benefits of biodiversity as well as exchanging experiences on

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new forms of urbanisation – driven by wider societal interests that reach larger proportions of the global population. This will need the evolution of global sustain able development, not environmental, standards so that global rules support, rather than hinder, international cooperation through open trade, including sharing of innovative technologies.

Lastly, national accounting systems need to measure the significant human welfare benefits, or services, national and global ecosystems provide, and develop an economic yardstick that is more effective than GDP for assessing human well-being, while GDP remains as a measure of economic activity. In the interim, national carbon budgets are a good indicator for developing and assessing national strategies, the sustainable use of natural resources and the transition to global sustainability.

New Multilateral Institutions

The United Nations must now modify its normative, operational and review functions and become a “knowledge organisation” by rearranging the mandate and structure of existing organisations to support the transition to global sustainability. While the review function should be strengthened to take on a global character, the operational programmes should gradually be limited to the least developed countries, and the normative role should give way to expert groups analysing and developing options, rather than seek agreement on harmonised policy approaches. The new paradigm will evolve new types of collaboration around innovation, with developing countries as partners rather than passive recipients (Clean Energy Group 2011). The Commission on Sustainable Development should become a permanent body, possibly headquartered in Beijing, China.

The new global rule-based system would be based around three programmes, peer reviewing national actions, to ensure that the vision, as well as agreed global goals, is followed through:

  • Shifts in consumption patterns, including progress in reaching multilaterally agreed national carbon budgets,
  • Joint research, development and sharing of innovative technologies, and
  • Progress in development of a metric, more suitable and effective than GDP, to
  • measure human well-being by focusing on consumption rather than production.

    Such a global consensus will also serve to evolve long-term sustainable development goals, indicators of progress in making the transition to global sustainability and serve to blur the distinction between developed and developing countries.

    Conclusion

    Even as developing countries have taken the leadership, and are in a position to shape the outcomes, the strategic issue for Rio+20 remains the question of equity. There is as yet no consensus whether political decisions on equitably sharing the global commons (the new paradigm) are a precondition for agreement on a global rule-based system, or, incremental steps to develop a rule-based system (the old paradigm) will lead to equitable outcomes. There is, however, an emerging consensus that the key drivers for equitable sustainable development should now be defined in terms of enhancing services provided by the global ecosystem for human well-being, rather than in terms of merely controlling global environmental degradation. The United Nations will best support this societal shift by generating and sharing new knowledge to meet the speed and scale of the transformation. Patterns of natural resource use that are in principle common for all will lead to a more prosperous and safer world.

    Notes

    1 The atmosphere and the oceans serve as global commons for the waste carbon dioxide of human activity, and “sinks” include national forests.

    2 According to the National Energy Administration of China six high energy consuming industries contributed 42.7% to the growth of electricity consumption in the first five months of 2011 – electric power, steel, building materials, nonferrous metals, chemicals and petrochemicals. Manufacturing constitutes 45% of the GDP of China and uses 74% of its energy, while manufacturing is 16% of the GDP of India and uses 45% of its energy demand.

    3 There has been a rapid increase in international patenting of climate mitigation and plant genes, unlike in the 1960s and 1970s when “miracle seeds” were placed in the public domain to assist in the global objective of raising food production to meet the requirements of a growing population. How to embody the “common but differentiated responsibilities” principle in the application of trade disciplines promoting sustainable development remains an unresolved issue. Jurisprudence in the many industrialised countries, including the United States of America, is an abundant source of precedents and grounds for the application of compulsory licensing.

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    vol xlvi no 40

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