Hearing on RIO+20

By Peter Wooders on June 2, 2011

IISD recommends Rio+20 should focus on a few, high-impact initiatives at European Parliament Public Hearing

Brussels, May 25, 2011. The European Parliament convened a high-level panel for its first public hearing to prepare for Rio+20 in 2012. The first part featured Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Karl Falkenberg, Director-General for Environment of the European Commission, presenting their views on how society could move "Towards a Green Economy." In his presentation, IISD's Senior Economist Peter Wooders detailed how Rio+20 could most usefully focus on a few high-impact initiatives that governments could implement in the short term without international agreement and for their own benefit. Peter noted that business as usual was a choice—and it is one that comes with costs and locks us into unsustainable systems and practices. IISD's recommendations were:

  • at Rio+20, countries should pledge to remove all energy subsidies unless these can be shown to lead to sustainable development, and also pledge to help other countries reform theirs;

  • similarly, sustainable public procurement (SPP) and public-private partnerships offer an ideal opportunity for governments to mould expenditure, standards and practices. Let us again make agreements at Rio+20, with quantitative targets;

  • the clean energy debate is in danger of being taken over by market share discussions as seen in the WTO disputes raised by Japan against Ontario, and the U.S. against China. More renewables must be part of a green economy, and if local content provisions—which are widely used in sectors such as oil and gas and in SPP—are needed to get political acceptance, then should we be looking at an international agreement beyond the narrow confines of the WTO?

  • let's work through the debate on energy-intensive industries. How can national, regional and international collaboration best be employed to support the essential development and implementation of breakthrough technologies and CCS? Are policies and measures optimized across the whole life cycle? Where might an international forum to discuss competitiveness issues best be located?

  • the EU can lead. If we are truly convinced that greening the economy is the only way forward—and IISD is—then let us have the courage of our convictions.