22 September 2011
Rio+ 20: make-or-break moment for a new economic order, claim EESC and European Commission
Rio+20 must rise to the challenge of paving the way for a new economic order, where sustainability and not just GDP is a key concept, argued the European Economic and Social Committee during a debate with Janez Potočnik, the EU Commissioner for the Environment, and Ricardo Neiva Tavares, Head of the Mission of Brazil to the EU. The Commissioner made it clear that the Rio+20 could not succeed without the constructive input of civil society.
EESC president Staffan Nilsson assured the Commissioner that the Committee, as a representative of European organised civil society, was ready to take on this challenge. He reminded the Commissioner that the EESC would continue intense and wide-ranging dialogue with civil society in the EU and throughout the world concerning the expectations for the conference. Broad consultations with various stakeholders were needed given the cross-cutting role of sustainable development, which required the coordination of environmental, economic and social policies.
The Commissioner presented the new Roadmap for a resource-efficient Europe, adopted earlier this week. The Roadmap is a plan for implementing the flagship initiative on the same subject under the EUROPE 2020 strategy, aimed at bringing about a truly sustainable European economy by 2050. It focuses on activities with the greatest impact on resources and highlights measures for reducing consumption whilst at the same time proposing indicators for measuring progress.
Mr Potočnik then focused on the EU Rio+20 Conference, and on the role that the EU could play at global level. He explained that Europe's Resource Efficiency Roadmap can be seen as the European Union's approach to the green economy and cleaning up in front of its own door. The Rio+20 Conference next year is a unique opportunity to push the global green economy agenda.
The EESC presented Mr Potočnik with two opinions, which will feed into the EU's overall position on the Rio+20 conference. Hans-Joachim Wilms (Employees' Group, Germany), the
rapporteur of one of the opinions, said that ,the Heads of State needed to agree upon common sustainability goals at the Rio+20 Conference to guide the necessary shift to a green economy with a strong focus on social inclusion and environmental viability. However, he added that this transformation would not happen without the active involvement of organised civil society.
The EESC suggested that the Rio+20 conference should adopt a mandate for a "green economy" which could be pursued by the UN. This mandate should establish the global framework of targets, measures and policy tools needed for successful transition to a sustainable economy, which would then be used for specific national strategies.
In another opinion drafted by Lutz Ribbe (Various Interests' Group, Germany), the EESC tackled the issue of energy efficiency. While the EESC welcomed the Commission's communication on "A resource-efficient Europe – Flagship initiative under the Europe 2020 Strategy", it stressed that there was a need to specify in more detail the changes required to achieve a successful sustainability policy. It also encouraged a rethink of our current social prosperity model, which was reliant on cheap energy and the inefficient input and turnover of materials.
The Commissioner praised the EESC's work on the Commission's communication and said that its main concerns had been taken into account while drafting the Roadmap.
Ambassador Ricardo Neiva Tavares, Head of the Mission of Brazil to the EU, underlined Brazil's commitment to the sustainability agenda. He went on to say that the EU was expected to put forward ambitious proposals ahead of the UN Rio+ 20 Conference.
The EESC will keep working in this field in the coming months. A series of consultations and debates will be organised as part of the preparatory process for Rio+20, including a major conference to be held jointly with the European Commission in February 2012.