Global Politics of Sustainability Crossing boundaries and building bridges
|By invitation only|
Wed 11.4.2012 at 10:00-12:00
Twenty years ago, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the ‘Rio Conference’ or the ‘Earth Summit’, brought together over 30,000 people, including Heads of States from over 100 countries. Although the conference was not an unequivocal success, and already showed signs of the tensions between developed and developing countries that would persist for the years to come, it was a milestone in the development of modern international environmental law and governance.
Teija Tiilikainen, Director, Finnish Institute of International Affairs
H.E. Shri Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Rural Development, India
Jan Dusik, Deputy Director and Officer-in-Charge, UNEP Regional Office for Europe
Heidi Hautala, Minister for International Development, Finland
Summary of the seminar
seminar focused on the Rio+20 conference that will be held in
H.E. Shri Jairam Ramesh, the Indian Minister of Rural
Development, was the keynote speaker. Minister Ramesh is an economist and a
member of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability that is preparing the
Minister Ramesh was pleased with the theme of the seminar being the politics of sustainability, as sustainability is all about politics. In his view the difficulty with international agreements is that countries are reluctant to take on measures that they fear would infringe on their national sovereignty. For countries to make political commitments in the field of sustainability, these commitments must be domestically feasible. This is a challenge that the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability set out to tackle when it was founded. The Panel recently submitted its report on the issue to the UN Secretary-General.
a degree of political acceptance for sustainability, both in the domestic
context and internationally, an approach must be adopted that is more pragmatic
than “evangelical”, Minister Ramesh further argued. As a model of successful
international cooperation, he cited the Montreal Protocol on ozone depleting
substances, and called for a series of incremental steps in areas where there
is already broad agreement. This way some sort of consensus can be reached. In
the meantime, the state of the European economy and the political situation in
Ramesh criticised the negotiations of the last 20 years, especially on the
issue of climate change, for a lack of discussion on economic criteria. He said
that countries cannot be expected to make sacrifices that will be detrimental
to growth. They should therefore be able to assume responsibilities that are
commensurate with their level of economic development measured by per capita
income. The Minister also stressed the significance of sustainable production
and consumption patterns, both between and within countries. The minister
Next, Finnish Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala presented her comments. She agreed with Minister Ramesh on many points, such as the Montreal Protocol being a model. Minister Hautala emphasised the power of industries and lobbies. According to her, the transparency of e.g. the WTO must be improved, because industries are not always in line with sustainability.
to the next speaker Mr Dusik, Minister Hautala expressed
Minister Hautala sees great value in partnerships in solving global problems. Governments, businesses and civil society can address issues like water and sanitation together. She envisioned that some of the issues mentioned by Minister Ramesh - water, food, energy, and transport - could be part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recommended by the High-level Panel.
Minister Ramesh responded to Minister Hautala’s comments by saying that SDGs are unpopular, but important. The so-called Millennium Goals are only for developing countries, whereas SDGs are for all countries, the minister remarked. Identical goals do not have to be imposed on each country, but countries should be held accountable after adopting a set of SDGs. Minister Ramesh agreed with the dismantling of the CSD, but questioned the usefulness of a UNHRC type of architecture that some countries would see as a threat to their sovereignty. In response to this, a member of the audience pointed out that the idea would be to emulate the procedure that was adopted in the transition to the Human Rights Council, not the functioning of the Council itself.
take the platform was Jan Dusik,
Deputy Director and Officer-in-Charge of the UNEP Regional Office for
part of the UN secretariat. It will not be negotiating the outcome of the
Mr Dusik then shared his views on some of the themes of the green economy debate. Would it be easier to get rid of fossile fuel subsidies, if the international community worked together, he asked. He mentioned water quantity and quality, transboundary waters being an issue which shows the importance of cooperation between countries. Questioning the concept of GDP as a measure of happiness, Mr Dusik suggested looking for alternatives to it. He also stated that the development agenda does not contradict the environment agenda, rather the two complement each other.
important topic for Mr Dusik is the institutional framework for sustainable
development. He stressed the importance of explaining the differences between
the CSD, the SDC and other such abbreviations, so that topics discussed in
Finally, on the issue of SDGs, Mr Dusik agreed that their universality is an advantage compared to the Millennium Goals. He concluded by saying that we need decisions that go beyond environment ministers and an approach that will motivate leaders of countries to attend the coming conference.
discussion ensued, with questions and comments from the audience. Regarding the
SDGs for India, Minister Ramesh told that reducing the emissions intensity of
the country’s GDP, increasing the share of
public transport and improving water use efficiency have already been
announced as national objectives. Concern was voiced over the risk of the
environmental and climate component of sustainable development being forgotten