While we know that binding agreements won’t be achieved or new significant sources of financing agreed to, governments can make progress towards addressing a series of critical development and environmental priorities.
What if world leaders had an opportunity to set the world on track towards a sustainable future, uniting development and environment efforts, but nobody really knew it? That’s the situation Secretary Clinton is facing as she sets out to lead the US delegation at the Rio+20 Summit next week.
Since the Rio ‘Earth Summit’ in 1992, progress towards achieving sustainable global development without exceeding ecological limits has stalled. While the world still produces more than enough food to feed everyone, there are more hungry people today than twenty years ago. Eighty percent of people live in areas with high levels of threats to water security, including 3.4 billion people in the most severe threat category. Globally, greenhouse gas emissions increased by 36 percent between 1992 and 2008, from around 22 to just over 30 gigatonnes.
It is vital that governments, and the US, in particular, demonstrate resolve at Rio+20 to get things back on track. While we know that binding agreements won’t be achieved or new significant sources of financing agreed to, governments can make progress towards addressing a series of critical development and environmental priorities. Here are three concrete outcomes that Secretary Clinton could help achieve at the summit:
1. Commit to establish a single set of ‘global development goals’ to guide development efforts of all countries in the post-2015 period that brings together environmental and social themes. These would build off the current UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
2. Develop high-level, time-bound goals towards achieving a sustainable, resilient, and equitable food system that provides sufficient, nutritious food for all through fair shares of limited natural resources, including land and water, along with a safe climate.
3. Provide concrete pledges of technical and financial support to developing countries to deliver sustainable energy access that puts poor people first and help cut greenhouse gas pollution, and a rapid phase-out of environmentally and socially harmful energy subsidies.
Oxfam is part of a large and growing movement of inspired citizens who are choosing to build an economy that serves the people and preserves the environment. We need the US government to support and lead the way towards this vision by re-focusing economic development so that poverty can be eradicated and economic growth no longer depends on rising volumes of natural resources.
On behalf of the Obama administration, Secretary Clinton can help jumpstart this shift and provide the leadership needed to secure broad-based international consensus around this agenda in Rio. Maybe if she does, more people will start to take notice.