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Seven point agenda for Rio meet on sustainable development

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Date:Oct 5, 2011

Differences remain between developed and developing countries

The two-day Delhi Ministerial Dialogue on the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil's capital Rio De Janeiro—also known as Rio+20—ended on October 4, with parties converging on a seven broad points. Sha Zukang, secretary general to Rio+20 and under-secretary general for economic and social,  affairs at the UN, along with India’s minister of state for environment and forest Jayanti Natarajan termed the dialogue a success at a joint press meet.

The two-day dialogue was an exploratory exercise to identify a common agenda before the November 1, 2011 deadline, by when all countries need to submit their official positions on what green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication would be for them
The seven broad points agreed on include acknowledgement of common but differentiated responsibility; integrating the three pillars—social, economic and environmental—and ensuring their coherence; and that the outcome should be people-centred, accounting for the needs of most vulnerable
What also emerged out of discussions was a concept of a sustainable development council (SDC) on the lines of the Human Rights Council that could monitor the progress though voluntary country reporting and review system
The European Union commissioner for environment, Janez Potocnick, did not rule out the EU proposing a target-oriented approach to achieve a green economy
 

Observers and officials privy to the dialogue, however, say that a number of contentious issues, including technology transfer and finance, remain unresolved because the developed and the developing world having differing view points.

The two-day dialogue was an exploratory exercise to identify a common agenda before the November 1, 2011 deadline, by when all countries need to submit their official positions  on what green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication would be for them. Officials and ministers from 57 countries attended the dialogue. 

Zukang said the seven broad points  included acknowledgement of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) on emission cuts of developed and developing nations;  integrating the three pillars—social, economic and environmental—and ensuring their coherence; and that the outcome should be people-centred, accounting for the needs of most vulnerable (see 'What Delhi dialogue agreed on'). In the closing session of the dialogue, he stressed that the current financial crisis is a temporal phenomenon and should not be a deterrent for seeking ambitious solutions to poverty and the ecological crisis.

Although an institutional framework was not part of the agenda for this dialogue, creation of a sustainable development council (SDC) was discussed in the meeting.

What Delhi dialogue agreed on

Rio is a sustainable development conference and all parts of government and civil societies should have a stake

All countries, developed and developing, must stand to benefit from the agreement signed at Rio+20

At Rio+20, governments must reaffirm the Rio principles, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR, and devise a plan of action to accelerate implementation of long standing commitments

The Rio+20 outcome must strengthen integration of the three pillars of sustainable developments

The outcome must be people-centred and inclusive, taking into account above all the needs of the most vulnerable

The ambition of the actions agreed at Rio must match the scale of the challenges we face. Half measures will not do

Financing, science and technology and capacity building will be critical to a successful Rio+20 outcome
 

 

One of the biggest criticisms for laggard implementation of the first Earth Summit (UN conference on environment and development) in Rio was a lack of an institutional mechanism to oversee and monitor the progress of the commitments made in 1992. What emerged out of discussions was a concept  for an SDC on the lines of the Human Rights Council that could monitor the progress though voluntary country reporting and review system. 

But sticky issues on the legal form of the commitments remain. In the months leading up to the dialogue there have been numerous references to a proposal from Latin America, more particularly Columbia and Guatemala, pushed by developed countries which proposes a mechanism of setting fixed targets and deliverables that countries must commit to achieve a green economy. 

The targets would be periodically reviewed, the proposal says. SDC would be used to monitor these targets says a observer from India privy to the dialogue. The Colombian proposal can be compared to the concept of MRV (Measurement Reporting and Verification) adopted under the Cancun Agreement where not just developed countries but even developing countries would require to take emission reduction targets.

India's stand

Reaffirm the Rio Principles, including common but differentiated responsibility

Strike a balance between the three pillars of sustainable development

Allow policy space for the countries to define the sustainable development strategies as per their national priorities and respective stages of development

Build institutional capacities at all levels—global, regional and local

Prioritise programmes for the inclusion and upliftment of socio-economically weaker sections of society, women and youth

Promote access to green technologies at affordable cost, including through greater financial assistance for R&D in public domain

Strenghten global partnerships for sustainable development, including access of developing countries to additional financing

Avoid green protectionism in the name of green economy
 

 

The European Union commissioner for environment, Janez Potocnick, also did not rule out the EU proposing such a target-oriented approach to achieve a green economy. At a press meeting during the dialogue, he said that national actions would be required, but it was too early comment.

Although India is yet to finalise its submissions for Rio+20, Natarajan indicated India’s submissions would include CBDR as the guiding principle; building institutional capacity at all levels, including local, regional and global; and avoidance of green protectionism (See 'India's stand'). 

Reacting to the proposal of fixed targets Natarajan in her closing remarks told the gathering that “one size does not fit all and there should be recognition that national priorities and conditions will define the nature of the policies and strategies adopted by each country to green their economy.”

The seventeenth conference of parties on climate change in Durban (COP17) will also play a crucial role in the negotiations leading up to Rio+20. As an official from developing country said: “we are still awaiting the creation of the green climate fund and a technology transfer mechanism, which will play an important part on gauging the commitments that will be made by developed countries in Rio next year.

Right now, the developed countries are only trying to find a market for their green technologies, without talking about transfer of technology,” the official says.
 

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