Sustainable Cities rio

Published on September 28th, 2012 | by Amy Brown


From Stockholm to Rio: paving a new direction?

The road to Rio can be traced to Stockholm 40 years ago with a landmark environmental conference that led to renewed global ambition to rescue the planet. In 2012, Stockholm once again brought together world leaders in preparation for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

It has been 40 years since the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm. It signaled a new chapter in international development by acknowledging that protection of the environment is a major issue which affects the well-being of people and economic development throughout the world. The Stockholm agenda has since been carried through in many major international environmental conferences.

It therefore made perfect sense to gather thought leaders in Stockholm in April for the Stockholm +40 Partnership Forum for Sustainable Development as a lead-up to the UN conference on sustainable development held in Rio de Janeiro from June 20-22, 2012.

The Stockholm forum was hosted by the Swedish government and attended by H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf, Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister of Sweden, and Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Over 70 government representatives, 40 ministers and more than 600 hundred participants from business and civil society took part. The discussion was as lively as it was timely, covering solutions in the areas of sustainable innovation, production and living.
All three areas are of fundamental importance for the Rio+20 theme: “Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.”

Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek at Stockholm +40 (left picture - PHOTO MARTINA HUBER/REGERINGSKANSLIET). Secretary 
General Ban Ki-moon in Rio (right picture – PHOTO UN PHOTO/JC MCIlWAINE).

In the years the landmark 1992 un Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, in which a plan of action called Agenda 21 was established for international and national efforts on sustainable development, what is clear is that more
action is needed, more urgently than ever. That led to a Call for Action issued by the participants of the Stockholm+40 conference. Among the main messages: “There is agreement on what we need to do to implement commitments. Now is the time to stop talking and start acting. Clear actions and targets are necessary.”

The Call to Action also highlights the role of businesses as “the engine for inclusive and sustainable growth” and the need to develop “sustainable business models.” It promotes the role of science and to boost investment in research and development, capacity building and technology transfer to allow development to leapfrog to sustainable innovation, production and living.

“I really think that technology can play a role,” says Tony Clark, project manager for the conference with the Ministry of Environment in Sweden. “The green technology sector is an interesting sector in many ways. End of pipe solutions will remain on the market for some time, but there will also be a need for solutions on how to minimize or remove pollution from the waste streams and another challenge in how you adapt technology to deal with environmental issues. How can we develop more technology to tackle the problems that so many are facing?”

“I think we have a window of opportunity to export solutions to many countries of this world and provide capacity building and know how. In the long run, innovations will be developed out of these challenges and we need to put more effort into this area.”

Because it brought together so many diverse stakeholders, a lot of momentum for change was created at Stockholm +40, says Clark.

“It was a chance to discuss and present better solutions than any one entity can present on its own. We also had a lot of young people attending from all over the world. We feel that they are not only the voice of tomorrow but are the voices of today, and need to come into the process. Everyone needs to be involved in this work.”

Among the concrete achievements from the conference was the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, where a number of actors have decided to raise awareness, develop measures and improve the scientific understanding of short-lived climate pollutants. Another is the 8 years and 8 Actions Initiative for Sound Chemicals Management that was launched by a broad range of stakeholders. It aims at accelerating progress towards the 2020 goal on sound management of chemicals, adopted in Johannesburg in 2002, by enhancing efforts in eight selected areas in the coming eight years through strengthened implementation and cross-sectoral cooperation.

The un conference in Rio de Janeiro was completed on June 22. However, the outcome document of the summit was shortly afterwards criticized by several environmental organizations, claiming that the agreement is too weak. wwf, for instance, said that the document was a compromise with visions and goals lacking timeframes and financing.

As Sweden’s Environment Minister Lena Ek pointed out at the Stockholm conference, the world is dangerously close to planetary boundaries. The Stockholm and Rio conferences were intended to make sure that doesn’t happen.


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