The UNCSD NGO Major Group Organizing Partners write this newsletter on Rio+20, whose topics are: "a Green Economy in the context of Sustainable Development and poverty eradication" and "the institutional framework for Sustainable Development". You can also view this in your browser.
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Zero Draft - Zero ambitions
 
The former director of UNDESA, Tariq Banuri, is clear on his Facebook post about the Zero Draft of the outcome document of UN CSD Rio+20: “civil society will need to engage actively with governments and the Bureau in order to push them into raising the level of ambition, which currently seems to be scraping bottom”. Indeed this Zero Draft lacks any sense of urgency, any capacity of analysis, any idea how to solve the problems, no targets, no concrete actions, no glimpse of leadership.

It is sad to realize such a low level of ambition only 5 months before the Summit, where we want Heads of States to discuss and decide on the future of the planet and all living species. It will be extremely difficult to attract Heads of States to travel to Rio and agree on a text full of clichés and rhetoric, with no commitments, reaffirming evident and earlier agreed principles and human rights.
 
During preparatory meetings, it was constantly said that we need a better definition of “Green Economy” and that social equity is a substantial part of the concept. Astonishingly, the word “equity” is not even mentioned in the text! It was stressed that we need a paradigm shift, a systemic change in our economic system. But nothing has flourished from all those insights. The text is neither consistent nor coherent. You cannot ask continuous growth, and in the same time recognize ecological limits (which we already passed).



 
The whole text breathes only the voluntary approach, which countries can accept or just leave. It is all up to nice and interesting partnerships, good intentions and promoting green consumption. When you read in detail you can find some good ideas, but most are not really new: other indicators, stop harmful subsidies, civil society participation; all said and agreed on a decade or two ago.
 
In Johannesburg there was a huge fight on the wording “change unsustainable patterns of production and consumption” (Agenda 21) and “promote sustainable consumption”. The last sentence is here again! No tackling plan will really be new and effective if we continue to make the same old mistakes. Ten years after Johannesburg we still need to fight for transition thinking.
 
There is still a lot to do, starting with such a text, will not only put the Planet at stake but also this Summit. Is it worthwhile to send a delegation to Rio to discuss a text of no relevance for the future of our societies? So we start to doubt if Heads of States will invest money and energy to do so. But the only reason they have to do so, is to imbue them with the revolutionary spirit and skills of a new generation that needs to keep fighting our battle.


2012 International Year for Sustainable Energy for All

For long we have been demanding to get sustainable energy solutions to those who need them most. Today, more than three billion people – almost half of humanity - rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating and one and a half billion people have no electricity or are unable to pay for it. The lives of these people whose struggle everyday to fulfill their basic needs can be radically transformed with access to modern affordable energy services. For humanity to thrive and for the planet to support it, development must be brought into harmony with environmental protection. The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), to be held in Rio de Janeiro this June, is an important milestone on the road to reconciling those two forces and Energy is the linchpin that joins them together. 

In 2010, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2012 as the "International Year for Sustainable Energy for All", an initiative that will engage governments, the private sector, and civil society partners globally to achieve three major goals by 2030: Ensure universal access to modern energy services, reduce global energy intensity by 40 per cent and increase renewable energy use globally to 30 per cent. Also, as part of this initiative, The United Nations Foundation is forming a global public-private network of stakeholders and practitioners to address barriers to the effective delivery of energy services, identify and disseminate best policies and practices, and promote the development of new technologies and innovative financial and business models.



EVENT: 5th World Future Energy Summit

The fifth World Future Energy Summit will take place from 16-19 January 2012, in Abu Dhabi, UAE. This year, WFES will concentrate on energy innovation in policy implementation, technology development, finance and investment approaches, and existing and upcoming projects. The Summit will seek to set the scene for future energy discussions in 2012 with leading international speakers from government, industry, academia and finance sharing insights, expertise and cutting edge advances in technology.

People’s Sustainability Treaties for Rio+20
 
The Peoples’ Sustainability Treaties have emerged to provide a common platform for voices from civil society to be collectively expressed at Rio+20. The objective is to assist civil society actors to get organized, to generate a collective vision representative of the global people’s aspirations and wellbeing, to create an open and common platform to voice these visions, to agree on a pathway of sustainable futures, and to create collective civil agreements on a way forward through principled action.
 
Through joint stakeholder efforts the treaties calls for the realization of an alternative content outcome at UNCSD2012.  The rationale of the this complimentary civil society engagement is to produce ‘Treaties’,  a ‘Declaration’ and an ‘Action Plan’,  which are to represent and demonstrate the collective visions of the global people and help advance a Global Movement forging sustainable futures for all.
 
CSOs worldwide are invited to initiate and facilitate treaties on topics considered necessary be addressed at Rio+20 and beyond. Non-profit and non-governmental CSOs are invited to participate as full partners in formulating a treaty. Individuals from any walk of life can participate as contributors, while any person or institution can endorse and commit to a treaty.
 
A treaty on any relevant theme can be convened and facilitated by a joint alliance represented by minimum one organization from the South and North, respectively. Facilitating organizations are expected to organize an outreach programme to create an open-ended treaty circle, online discussions, public hearings, and treaty dialogues during Rio+20..
 
Treaties circles will be created and treaties drafted by April 2012 and finalized during May 2012.  Treaties will be released during end of May 2012, to give room for lobbying prior to the Rio+20 Summit.  The treaties will be open to the public for endorsement and adoption from the 1st of June onwards.
 
For further information please see http://sustainabilitytreaties.wordpress.com/

To partner, facilitate and contribute to the treaties, please contact Uchita de Zoysa (uchita@sltnet.lk)


The First Civilization
 
This book, "The First Civilization", was created in order to further awareness and acceptance of a Resource Based Economy (RBE) by explaining and defending this system from a scientific perspective. Beginning with a brief introduction on human behaviour and the way the environment in which we live and grow has a profound affect on our development, this book is divided into 3 main sections. First, the author Jas Garcha, offers a detailed description of what an RBE could look like and how it might be run, including the specific technologies that could be employed.

Then he address and disprove many of the questions, concerns and objections that have been brought up in response to the RBE concept such as unlimited human wants, fears of a New World Order, the Economic Calculation Problem, issues relating to Artificial Intelligence, comparisons to Socialism, overpopulation, and many others. In the end he gives a general description of an experimental protocol that could be used to test the RBE idea and provide a scientific basis from which to push for a global transition.

In addition to providing us with a way to test the RBE concept, it would also serve as a very interesting experiment in human behaviour and health; we could learn just how much of a negative impact our current system is having on the physical and mental health of our species. The primary purpose of this plan is to create an example community that is based upon the principles of an RBE, and use this as a platform to push for further (ideally, global) implementation of this new system.  The book can be downloaded for free in pdf format here.

A way forward: the SMART CSOs Lab for the Great Transition
 
Created to be effective and as a response to the need of a more transformative approach, The Smart CSOs Lab is a learning network of civil society organizations (CSO) leaders, funders and researchers for the Great Transition. Together, they work on cutting-edge theory and practice for moving humanity to a future of enriched lives, human solidarity and environmental sustainability.
 
The Smart CSOs provides a space to rethink and redesign how CSOs can more effectively work rather than developing other platforms for campaigns or coalitions. The 5 identified leverage points for CSOs to get more effective are: Embedding systems thinking in organisational practice, developing new narratives, working with radical change agents and innovations, supporting a new global citizen movement and engaging funders in this new strategies for systemic change.
 
To address them, they will operate under a “lab” philosophy and support CSOs to develop cohesive strategies, create and test capacity building programs, catalyse research and promote debates, all in alignment with the Great Transition. The idea is to build a more holistic and systemic transition to a sustainable society instead of pursuing the narrow policy focus of many of today’s strategies. 

ANPED, CIVICUS and CONSUMER INTERNATIONAL

From "decennium horribilis" to "mirabilis"

In the beginning of a new year we look back to the past, and more importantly, forward to the future and reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make for a better future. 2011 was the culmination of years of two complex and interconnected crises that have much in common. In both cases we have developed countries living beyond their means and racking up high levels of financial and ecological debt over several decades leading to an economic and financial crisis.
To get into balance again, these countries will face a substantial adjustment in living standards. And that because “markets” have financially forced politicians to act and push us all onto the financial straight and narrow. If only there was such a force at work to push heads of States to act now and effectively on climate change; to force a common approach on sustainable development. 
 
The force in case here is fear. Fearing brokers, credit rating agencies and ultimately bankruptcy, politicians have put in place technocratic governments to carry out the difficult and unpopular economic measures that people recognise need to be taken, but for which no-one has the political courage to take responsibility. Would we be willing to do the same to get real cuts in resources use, greenhouse gases, etc? Are we not afraid of clear scientific statements that the future of our planet is at stake – people’s lives, the health of global economy and the very survival of some nations? 
 
It is urgent to have a credible plan, on both climate and finance, for the next 10-20 years. To define the kind of economy and living we want. At this point in time, when the world does not yet show clear signs of recovery from the economic and financial crisis and is facing looming food and energy crises, climate change and threats to social cohesion and security, it is more than ever important to have a coherent and long-term vision for our future development. Crisis can be a spur to generate major structural change and a firm commitment to a long-term credible plan to shift to a low carbon resource-based people-centered economy that could generate the only society we can afford, a sustainable one.
 

Zero Draft : Civil Society's "Energ-Ethic" input

With the arrival of 2012 we edge increasingly closer to the Summit in June, slight over 5 months away. Given this timeline, DESA has already circulated a first draft of the zero document for all stakeholders to consult and opened up registration on its website for all interested major groups to become involved in the discussion of the Zero Draft from the 25th to the 27th of January. Among the priority issues mentioned, energy is one of them, and of particular importance for this year as it has been designated by the UN as the "International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.”  Access to sustainable energy for all is essential for strengthening economies, protecting ecosystems and achieving equity. Based on the general overview of NGO input undertaken by CIVICUS and ANPED in late 2011, a total of 298 organizations were found to be supporting policies toward more sustainable and efficient energy use.

The most popular proposals mentioned the need to move towards 100% renewable energy sources; eliminate fossil fuel subsidies; an energy quota scheme to be implemented nationally so as to address production and consumption patterns; an agreement on new energy goals to expand access to the poorest; and the formulation of policy that respects the rights and basic needs of communities. However, in the zero draft document currently available, statements made to phase out harmful energy subsidies and to deliver access to clean energy for the poor are open-ended or set to be realized too far ahead in the future. Additionally, even though the document brings some important critical issues to the table, such as green jobs/social inclusion, energy, cities, food security, oceans and seas/SIDS, and natural disasters, it also falls short of expectations in the way that it demonstrates a dismal lack of urgency in tackling them. 


The Resource Cap Coalition
 
Due to global population growth and emerging overconsumption, human demand for products and services is increasing dramatically. This exploits natural resources and causes damage, which can be irreversible, as many of our non-renewable resources are currently used at totally unsustainable and very unequal ways.
 
In response to this threat, European stakeholders have established a coalition that brings together more than thirty organizations all of which are dedicated to the limitation of human pressures on resources and to the promotion of sustainable development.
 
The Resource Cap Coalition (RCC) is an open platform for organizations advocating for the necessity of urgent resource use reduction. The RCC promotes the view that it is not only important to use resources efficiently but to limit the actual amount of resources being used, because they can still be exhausted even if they’re being used efficiently.
 
Initiated by ANPED, CEEweb for Biodiversity and Ecologistas en Acción in 2010, this platform is formulating proposals, through which the current unsustainable patterns of our economy could be shifted towards the path of sustainability. Together, they are actively working to influence debates towards Rio+20 and the delivery of the EU Resource-Efficiency Initiative. For more information on the organizations, proposals and next events please check here."

Floating Forum for Sustainable Development

Confident of the power of example to respond to the need of consistency for players participating in the Rio+20 Summit next June in Brazil, the Coherence Rio plus 20 has launched the “
Floating Forum for SD”. This great initiative will bring to Brazil the many players of the ecological and social transition for SD in the only responsible way possible: sailing!

Departing on sailboats from the port of la Rochelle (France), community activists, researchers, business leaders and local or national elected officials will gather in this 4-5weeks adventure to reflect and exchange on global balance and well-being issues such as: water, maritime transport efficiency, balance of life and human well-being and the ecological and social transition in a culture of human responsibility.

The High Price of Materialism
 
Regardless of age, income or culture, most of us are suffering from unhappiness, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and even intimacy problems. “The High Price of Materialism” video produced by the Center for a New American Dream is also the title of the book of psychologist Tim Kasser. He not only explains us why but calls our attention to what really matters in life. It both lays out the problems of excess materialism and points toward solutions that promise a healthier, more just, and more sustainable life.

 
In this animation the author explains how our contemporary culture of consumerism and materialism undermines our well-being, showing that when people buy into the ever-present marketing messages that "the good life" is "the goods life," they not only irresponsibly use up Earth's limited resources, but they face a greater risk of suffering.


 
Only by recognising that the world does not revolve around ourselves, that we are part of a bigger picture, that we belong to a global community and that only in giving to other humans and to the Earth can we truly feel that our few years of existence is worthwhile.
Copyright © 2011, All rights reserved.
‘Own the Edge’ is put together by the NGO Major Group Operating Partners, the Northern Alliance for Sustainability (ANPED), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Consumers International (CI). To submit content for inclusion, or for any comments or questions, please email the editors at leonardo@anped.org and natalie.akstein@civicus.org.