World Environment Day 2012 – It came and went. Has anything changed?

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A GLOBE-Net Editorial

GLOBE-Net, June 6, 2012 – Events and celebrations took place around the world yesterday (June 5th) to mark the 29th World Environment Day. This year’s event was particularly significant as it took place virtually on the eve of Rio+20, a reconvening of the United Nation’s Earth Summit launched twenty years ago in Rio de Janeiro, which is scheduled to open in two weeks time.

Today the United Nations Environment Programme released the fifth edition of the Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-5). Its conclusion – “The world continues to speed down an unsustainable path despite over 500 internationally agreed goals and objectives to support the sustainable management of the environment and improve human wellbeing…”

It assessed 90 of the most-important environmental goals and objectives and found that significant progress had only been made in four.

This is hardly an encouraging starting point for the discussions that will take place in a few days involving leaders from over 130 nations, particularly in the wake of a series of preparatory meetings of government leaders and officials over the past two years that have yet to produce a viable agreement on how to manage carbon emissions in the post-Kyoto period.

And yet progress has been made and continues to be made by many globally responsible companies. Some may even argue that there is a disconnect between the progress of corporations and that of governments.

With the Rio+20 preparatory meetings seemingly bogged down in rhetoric and/or minutiae, one wonders if part of the problem is seeking the perfect global solution rather than focusing on bite sized chunks that can be agreed and acted on, particularly actions where governments could share the responsibility with the private sector.

The overall bottom line on the environment is that the pressures on the natural environment are greater today than ever before and the need for responsible environmental management in both business and government is even more important now than twenty years ago when the first Rio Summit took place.

The need for business and government to work together on practical and ‘do-able’ measures to protect the environment and to promote responsible sustainable development has been the guiding principle behind everything that GLOBE has undertaken – even before the first Rio event.

Every GLOBE event over the past two decades has brought government policy makers, academic researchers, technology developers and business leaders from around the world together in an atmosphere of free and open dialogue on the most critical issues facing the business of the environment.

It has been a winning formula.

So too, our more recent research on the economic benefits associated with greening of the economy has strengthened our resolve to move more forcibly in our efforts to achieve what UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon has called for – “a change in thinking and approach to ensure the sustainability of the Earth’s resources as the world population grows.”

So despite the very gloomy observations of the latest Global Environmental Outlook and the many doubts about what might be accomplished in the next few days at Rio+20, my fervent wish is that the dialogue continue and that in time an agreement will emerge on practical measures to hasten the transition toward a Greener Global Economy.

Our future depends on it.

 

John D. Wiebe

President and CEO

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