A sense of possibility – delegates' minds turn to post Rio delivery in New York
Sue Riddlestone, Chief Executive & co-founder of BioRegional, reports from inside the Rio+20 informal-informal negotiating text discussions at the UN in New York.
The likely tangible outcomes and post Rio+20 activities are starting to come out of the jumble of square brackets and haze of word-smithing here in New York. As we reach the final days of the negotiations you can see delegates’ minds starting to turn to implementing the anticipated outcomes, with the obvious main outcome expected to be the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Governments and civil society gathered at the Beekman Hotel in New York on Monday for a working session organised by BioRegional to think about the SDGs in the context of national implementation. Paula Caballero Gomez from the Government of Colombia, leading players on the SDGs, pointed out that the SDGs would integrate the three pillars of sustainability and people’s needs. Paula said that the SDGs are an open proposal and there is no single implementation approach. But universal goals can be a common reference we can all draw on and a unique tool to help our countries do that intra ministerial planning. Paula envisaged that there will be vertical linkages from the national to local level and a need for cross-sectoral thinking and planning.
Then we got the flip charts and post it notes out and used the ten one planet living principles as a proxy for the SDG’s to get delegates thinking about how they would be implemented nationally. A strong theme which came out was that the delegates thought that listing the SDG’s in a simple framework like this could offer a strong way to communicate the SDG’s which would be essential for engaging wider society and for implementation. Echoing Paula’s points, as we thought about implementation, we could really see the cross cutting nature of the possible goals, for example energy, water and food which we thought was long overdue but also complicated. But then if the SDG’s were always considered in one framework of goals this could enable a more holistic approach to the delivery of sustainable development than we had seen before. We only had a lunch hour and scratched the surface but it did get everyone thinking.
But how are we going to measure impacts? The term Natural Capital has its critics, as some governments point out that we cannot put a price on nature. There was therefore a packed audience for our second side event on Tuesday about taking natural capital into account. Guri Sandborg from the government of Norway highlighted that resources are invisible in our economy at the moment and we need to deal better with our natural resource base. The meeting chair, Farroq Ullah of Stakeholder Forum said you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Glenn-Marie Lange of the World Bank and Alessandra Alfieri of UN Statistics Division presented the WAVES programme and the System of Environmental-Economic Accounts (SEEA). SEEA was called for in Agenda 21. Twenty years of thinking have gone in to developing this system and it shows. Alessandra’s chart showing how the data collected would inform policy in four simple quadrants was so clear (download PDF). Everyone could suddenly see just how useful the SEEA will be. Waves is a five year programme of the World Bank with a critical mass of countries and UN agencies who will be piloting this approach. It will bring an internationally agreed methodology and build capacity so that the approach can be widely taken up.
Business and civil society are also taking natural capital into account using the Ecological Footprint as part of the one planet living initiative. We are using it to set goals, inform business decisions and measure progress too. National ecological footprint accounts are produced annually by Global Footprint Network.
As a delegate from a Latin American country put it “We like the SDG’s if they could be defined, policy relevant, evidence based and rigorous. This panel showed us how we could somehow measure sustainable development. It gives us a sense of possibility”
BioRegional and One Planet Living www.bioregional.com/oneplanetliving email@example.com
This article has been published, alongside other insights from the negotiations, in Outreach Magazine on 4th May 2012.
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We've been reporting from inside events leading up to Rio+20 for Outreach magazine.
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