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PORTSIDE  February 2012, Week 2

PORTSIDE February 2012, Week 2

Subject:

Seizing Sustainable Development

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Date:

Wed, 8 Feb 2012 22:20:02 -0500

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Seizing Sustainable Development

By Jacob Zuma and Tarja Halonen

February 6, 2012
Project Syndicate
http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/zuma1/English

HELSINKI/JOHANNESBURG

The world is on an unsustainable path, and must
urgently chart a new course forward, one that brings
equity and environmental concerns into the economic
mainstream. To do so, we must put sustainable
development into practice now, not in spite of the
economic crisis, but because of it.

Our challenges today are many. Economies are teetering,
ecosystems are under siege, and inequality - within and
between countries - is soaring. Taken together, these
are symptoms that share a root cause: speculative and
often narrow interests have superseded common
interests, common responsibilities, and common sense.

As Co-Chairs of the United Nations' High-Level Panel on
Global Sustainability, we have been asked by UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to work with 20 of the
world's most eminent leaders in grappling with these
issues. Our task is clear: propose how to provide
greater opportunity for more people with less impact on
our planet.

A quarter-century ago, the Brundtland report, named for
former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland, called
for a new paradigm of sustainable development. It
stated that durable economic growth, social equality,
and environmental sustainability are mutually
interdependent. Human well-being depends on their
integration.

We are convinced not only that this concept is sound,
but also that it remains more relevant than ever. Now
we need to put theory into practice by moving
sustainable development into mainstream economics and
making clear the costs of action - and inaction - today
and in the future.

By 2030, as the human population swells and appetites
increase, the world will need at least 50% more food,
45% more energy, and 30% more water. Our planet is
approaching, and even exceeding, scientific tipping
points. This has serious implications for how we manage
the global commons - and for reducing poverty: if
developing countries are to realize their legitimate
growth aspirations, they will need more time, as well
as financial and technological support, to make the
transition to sustainability.

Yet we remain optimistic. Representative democracy is
now the world's dominant form of government. Advances
in science have given us a better understanding of
climate and ecosystem risks. Billions of people are
connected by technologies that have shrunk the world
and expanded the notion of a global neighborhood. We
believe that we can summon the wit and the will to
choose our future, rather than have it choose us.

The greatest risk lies in continuing down our current
path. In 2030, a child born this year will come of age.
We cannot mortgage her future to pay for an inherently
unsustainable and inequitable way of life.

So, how do we begin to tackle the massive challenge of
retooling our global economy, preserving the
environment, and providing greater opportunity and
equity, including gender equality, to all? The Panel's
report, Resilient People, Resilient Planet, offers
suggestions.

First, we need to measure and price what matters. The
marketplace needs to reflect the full ecological and
human costs of economic decisions and establish price
signals that make transparent the consequences of
action - and inaction. Pollution - including carbon
emissions - must no longer be free. Price- and trade-
distorting subsidies should be made transparent and
phased out for fossil fuels by 2020. We also need to
build new ways to measure development beyond GDP, and
propose a new sustainable development index by 2014.

Second, we must put science at the center of
sustainability. We live in an era of unprecedented
human impact on the planet, coupled with unprecedented
technological change. Science must point the way to
more informed and integrated policy-making, including
on climate change, biodiversity, ocean and coastal
management, water and food scarcities, and planetary
"boundaries" (the scientific thresholds that define a
"safe operating space" for humanity). To see the big
picture, we propose a regular Global Sustainability
Outlook that integrates knowledge across sectors and
institutions.

Third, we need to provide incentives to take the long
view. The tyranny of the urgent is never more absolute
than during tough times. We need to place long-term
thinking above short-term demands, both in the
marketplace and at the polling place.

Limited public funds should be used strategically to
unlock greater private investment flows, share risks,
and expand access to the building blocks of prosperity,
including modern energy services. The UN's Millennium
Development Goals - aimed at, among other things,
halving global poverty by 2015 - have served us well.
Governments should develop a post-2015 set of
universally applicable Sustainable Development Goals
that can galvanize long-term action beyond electoral
cycles.

Fourth, we should prepare for a rough ride ahead,
because extreme weather, resource scarcity, and price
volatility have become the "new normal." We need to
strengthen our resilience by promoting disaster risk
reduction, adaptation, and sound safety nets for the
most vulnerable. This is an investment in our common
future.

Fifth, it is crucial to value equity as opportunity.
Inequality and exclusion of women, young people, and
the poor undermines global growth and threatens to
unravel the compact between society and its
institutions. Empowering women has the potential to
reap tremendous benefits, not least for the global
economy.

Ensuring that developing countries have the time - and
the financial and technical support - to make the
transition to sustainable development ultimately
benefits all. Promoting fairness and inclusion is the
right thing to do - and the smart thing to do for
lasting prosperity and stability.

No expert panel, including ours, has all the answers.
But if we work together, we can help to steer our world
onto a safer, more equitable, and more prosperous
course. We call on leaders across all sectors of
society to join us. The need is urgent; the
opportunity, enormous. Let us seize it.
__________________

Jacob Zuma is President of the Republic of South
Africa. Tarja Halonen is President of the Republic of
Finland. They serve as Co-Chairs of the UN Secretary-
General's High-level Panel on Global Sustainability.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2012.
www.project-syndicate.org

___________________________________________

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