29th February 2012
In June of this year, world leaders will meet in Brazil for the 'Rio+20'- a vital summit to agree a plan for sustainable development across the globe. Last night in the Commons there was a debate on the Environmental Audit Committee's report on the UK's preparations for the Rio summit. Alan spoke in the debate, and talked about what we should hope to achieve at the summit, and how while real progress had been made, in other ways we are still squandering our resources in an 'startlingly profilgate way.'
"The work of the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm university was mentioned by my hon. Friend Martin Caton, and was examined in some detail in the Select Committee’s report. The centre asked what the planet could put up with in a number of areas before its sustainability threshold was breached. What were the planet’s sustainability boundaries? It considered 10 of them: climate change, ocean acidification, stratospheric ozone depletion, the nitrogen cycle, the phosphorus cycle, global freshwater use, land system change, the rate of biodiversity loss, atmospheric aerosol loading, and chemical pollution. That work made it clear that we have not only transgressed three of those boundaries—the rate of biodiversity loss, the nitrogen cycle and, of course, climate change—but have often done so in a startlingly profligate way, and are close to doing so in three other areas: ocean acidification, the phosphorus cycle, and land system change.
"Rio+20, then, is not just about how the planet can carry sustainable development, but about how can we row back and make the planet sustainable again, in terms of the carrying capacity that the Stockholm resilience centre set out so carefully. We should, however, celebrate some of our international successes. For instance, as a result of an international convention, we have returned ozone depletion to a point at which carrying capacity has been restored, and have done so through international negotiation and discussion in a way that was not thought possible a few years ago. That analysis, however, tells us only some of the tale. The reason for our transgression of the boundaries that I have mentioned is, overwhelmingly, the extent to which the developed world has hoarded its access to the planet’s carrying capacity at the expense of all other countries."
Financial transaction tax
I think that the promotion of global resources will inevitably have to be developed in order to promote those goals. I hope that the United Kingdom will support the idea of a global transaction tax—even if it does not support efforts to introduce such a tax at European level—with the proceeds going to the development of these sustainability goals.
"Rio must be a workshop, not a talking shop. I also agree that being green is integral to sustainable economic growth and that we must put value on our carrying capacity so that it becomes an integral part of our economic transactions, not merely the fuel for them to take place. We must also add the essential ingredient of global equity in respect of resources... I do not want to be back here in 20 years talking about Rio+40 and wondering what might have been. By then it will be too late, as the Stockholm environment institute shows."
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