New Zealand is losing a crucial opportunity to enhance our future.
"While the task of ensuring a sustainable future is of concern to many people and organisations, New Zealand is missing a crucial opportunity to engage with international developments and to seize commercial opportunities" said Gray Southon of the United Nations Association of New Zealand. "Thousands of people are coming together in Rio de Janiero, in preparation for a global summit on the 20-22nd June, involving virtually all nations, over 100 heads of state, a thousand corporations and 25,000 people in all. The goal is to map a way forward so that we can all live on this globe with reasonable standards." The Conference, called Rio+20, is the United Nation's 20 year review of the "Rio Earth Summit" in 1992, which established "Agenda 21" - a framework for living within the earth's constraints. Since then issues of sustainability have become prominent in many aspects of our life, but actual achievements have been far short of what is necessary to manage serious decline in our environmental resources. We have only one world, and living in it requires nations to work effectively together.
Rio+20 is taking on these issues, incorporating social, economic as well as environmental aspects, and including such issues as development, gender equity, community enhancement, recycling and technology as enabling items. Two key items are being addressed: the Green Economy and enabling institutional systems. Both of these are loaded with opportunities for New Zealand to develop a much more sustainable society.
The New Zealand government has been preparing for participation at Rio+20 for over a year, but has done so with few resources, virtually no publicity, and little engagement with business, local government or the public as a whole. NGOs have organised some discussions with government involvement. Media coverage of this conference to date has been limited to personal interest features such as the presence of a youth delegation organised by the Enviro-Challenge, a youth member being incorporated in the national delegation and a New Zealander being selected to represent global youth. Business and Local government engagement has also been very modest.
Yet New Zealand still has time to benefit from engaging with the wealth of social, environmental and commercial ideas and opportunities that this global conference will generate. The official web site has a mass of information on background reports, submissions by governments and other organisations, a News&Media page as well as many on-demand videos. Contributions to the debate on sustainability have come from many authoritative sources, including:
The WWF Living Planet Report detailing the threat to much of our wildlife
Geo-5 - the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) Global Environment Outlook highlights the stress on our biological systems, and the risk of passing non-recoverable "tipping points", which would seriously degrade our natural resources.
A report by the UK Royal Society has prompted an alliance of over 100 science academies to call on policymakers to focus on addressing overconsumption in developed countries, and overpopulation in the rest of the world.
The Pure Advantage, New Zealand's green business group report "New Zealand's Position in the Green Race" catalogues how New Zealand is falling way behind other prominent countries in its green strategies, seriously risking much of its key business assets.
Solutions have been explored by work of the World Economic Forum, the OECD, the World Business Council of Sustainable Development and the New Zealand Business Council of Sustainable Development.
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