Almost twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio we face a paradox: We know that solutions are available and affordable, that investments in clean technologies are rising and that deforestation can be stopped if there is sufficient political will. But we also know that development in North and South today remains unsustainable.

Resource use is rising, climate change is spiralling out of control, deforestation is destroying the livelihoods of many, toxic pollution is increasing and we are gambling with global food supplies through the contamination of our food chain with genetically modified crops.

There has been a lot of talk of sustainable development since Rio 1992. But promoting sustainable development is meaningless unless it means ending unsustainable practices. We at Greenpeace do not want you to talk about “sustainable development” in the next two days – if your government continues to give billions in subsidies to produce climate-damaging fossil fuels. Developed country governments that talk about sustainable development at this PrepCom, but still support new coal fired power stations to be built at home have not understood the scale of the change we need. Developing countries that talk about “sustainable development” but at home support e.g. the destruction of valuable forests that many depend upon for their livelihoods to enrich the few and damage the environment; they too, have not understood the scale of the problem we face, nor the opportunities green, just development provides.

The truth is that a year and a half before we reconvene in Rio as the world community, there is a lot of cynicism about sustainable development and the broken promises of 1992. As we approach Rio+20 we need to resurrect a notion of sustainability that fully respects ecological limits and makes the economy a mechanism to deliver our societal goals. Former German Chancellor Willy Brandt famously remarked that “Peace isn't everything, but without peace there is nothing!”. The same is true for the environment. Since 1992, there has been a lot of pious talk about “balancing” social, economic and environmental needs. But without the environmental base, without the natural environment and the services it provides – there is no economy – nor any basis for livelihoods for the poor.

The good news is: Poverty eradication and a clean energy future can go hand in hand. The  Energy Revolution scenario we have developed together with business partners shows that we can deliver energy to more people, especially the poor in developing countries, cut emissions – and create more jobs doing so. In South Africa, for example, switching from fossil to clean fuels would create 78,000 new jobs by 2030 - more than the business-as-usual model that keeps us dependent on coal and nuclear power.

Rio+20 must make some key commitments to deliver. It must:

·         Support an energy revolution based on renewable energy and energy efficiency and providing access to energy for all – see www.greenpeace.org/energyrevolution . The energy revolution must be the cornerstone of any green economy roadmaps.

·         Commit to zero deforestation by 2020. This requires commitment and actions by both governments and businesses around the world. Developed countries and corporations must end policies and funding that drive deforestation. In order to reduce pressure on forests, developed countries need to address demand-side causes of deforestation and implement policies and measures to reduce and ultimately stop the import and consumption of goods stemming from deforestation and degradation (including unsustainable timber, palm oil, and other commodities).

·         Make the transition to a green economy fair and equitable and commit to a decent jobs agenda

·         Strengthen the governance system that delivers an “environment for development” by upgrading the UN Environment Programme to specialized agency status. Sustainable development needs a global authority on the environment and stronger implementation mechanisms.

·         Specifically, the gaps in oceans governance that are hampering progress on marine protection must be urgently addressed. Greenpeace calls for a new implementing agreement under UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)  for the conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainable management of human activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This new implementing agreement would be based on the precautionary principle and the ecosystem approach and provide for the establishment and management of marine reserves in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The year 2012 marks the deadline for the establishment of networks of marine protected areas in the world’s oceans, as agreed by states in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and the CBD. Today, however, MPAs cover a mere 5.9% of territorial seas and only 0.5% of areas beyond national jurisdiction. The urgency is clear.

·         The global community needs to establish and implement strong safeguards to ensure (a) the protection of natural forests, (b) maintenance of native biodiversity, and (c) the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples in international mechanisms and funds for forests.


Delegates, the eyes of the world will be on you on the road to Rio+20. Let us start a conversation on how to deliver for people and the planet here in New York.


Daniel Mittler, Political Director, Greenpeace International, Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066 AZ Amsterdam, Netherlands, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , +31 6 437 873 82