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RIO+20'S GOLDEN THREAD: Connecting the dots to sustainability
NEXT week, world leaders gather for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. Will it be a success?
In my opinion, yes. The negotiations have been lengthy. Even now, there is more disagreement than agreement on the details of the so-called "outcome document". Yet, far more important is what the Rio conference has already accomplished -- to build a global movement for change.
Rio+20 is a milestone on a long road. The famous 1992 Earth Summit put sustainable development on the global agenda.
Today, we have come to a broader and more nuanced understanding of how to better balance the development needs of a growing world population -- so that all may enjoy the fruits of prosperity and robust economic growth -- with the necessity of conserving our planet's most precious resources: land, air and water.
At Rio, more than 100 heads of state and government will join an estimated 25,000 participants to map our way ahead. For too long, we have sought to burn and consume our way to prosperity. That model is dead.
At Rio, we must begin to create a new one -- a model for a 21st century economy that rejects the myth that there must be a zero-sum trade-off between growth and the environment. Increasingly, with smart public policies, governments can grow their economies, alleviate poverty, create decent jobs and accelerate social progress in a way that respects the earth's finite natural resources.
Momentum for change is already irreversible. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Kenya, Jordan, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Senegal and Ukraine are applying new green-growth technologies in a variety of industries, from agriculture to tourism.
China has committed to supply 16 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 and plans to invest more than US$450 billion (RM1.39 trillion) in waste recycling and clean technologies.
Under its new National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, India has begun paying people to better manage natural resources, such as forests and fresh water. Wherever you look, national and local authorities are adopting principles and practices that, taken together, could help move us from a prospect of environmental ruin and growing social inequality towards a new era of inclusive and balanced sustainable growth.
At Rio, more than 1,000 corporate leaders from all continents will deliver a common message: business as usual no longer works. Many are members of the United Nations Global Compact -- volunteers in a growing private-sector movement that understands that 21st century corporate responsibility means corporate sustainability.
Thus, Unilever has pledged to source all its raw materials from sustainable sources by 2020. Kenya's Safaricom has integrated gender equality into its internal policies to create a mother-friendly environment.
China's Broad Group produces non-electric air-conditioning units that are 200 per cent more energy efficient. It is diversifying into other energy-saving products and sustainable buildings. ToughStuff from Mauritius seeks to bring affordable and reliable solar energy to 33 million people in Africa by 2016, and the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company is working to provide rural electrification in Afghanistan and Tonga.
Energy will be a major focus at Rio -- the "golden thread" that connects the dots to a sustainable future -- the key driver for development, social inclusion and environmental protection, including climate change.
Last year, I established a new initiative called Sustainable Energy for All, to ensure universal access to modern energy services for the one in five people worldwide who lack them, to reduce energy waste by doubling energy efficiency and to double the share of renewables in the global energy mix.
In Rio, leaders from government, business and civil society will announce a galaxy of actions to advance these goals, from promoting cleaner, more efficient cook-stoves to helping governments scale up their geothermal and other renewable energy potential.
Sustainable Energy for All is the partnership model of the future. The principle is simple but powerful: the UN uses its unrivalled convening power to bring all relevant actors to the table so they can work in common cause for the common good.
This is what Rio+20 is all about. Yes, the negotiations themselves are very important. Agreements that can be committed to paper today will shape the debates of tomorrow.
But Rio+20 goes beyond that. It is the expression of a dynamic global movement for change -- and a big step forward towards the future we want.