Humankind has made enormous forward strides in the almost 20 years which have passed since the Earth Summit in Rio 1992. The world’s gross domestic product (PDP) has tripled. Life expectancy has increased with many years in almost all countries. Under-5 child mortality has fallen from more than 12 million to 7.2 million. Hundreds of millions have been lifted out of abject poverty and the middle classes are growing. Still, other hundreds of millions have not benefitted from globalization and growth and there are unsustainable and increasing inequalities in most countries.
We have made great progress in managing industrial pollution and hazards. But natural resources have come under increasing strain. Increasing food production and securing access to affordable food is a constant challenge. Energy consumption has increased by 40 per cent. We still rely too heavily on fossil fuels. And that dependence entails enormous consequences and threats.
The world is clearly on an unsustainable path. The Rio+20 Conference provides a unique opportunity to take a renewed, integrated approach to sustainable development. If growth is to be sustainable, growth must be reconciled with social justice, environmental needs, and the issues of climate change must be resolved. Many countries seem unable and unwilling to address these challenges in a responsible manner. Among the key issues that Norway suggests should be addressed in Rio are:
- Policies which will help us achieve a greener global economy and alleviate poverty. Energy is one such key enabler for development. Energy is essential for growth, health, education and gender equality. Access to energy is also essential for creating jobs, and for providing essential public services. Providing more energy from renewable sources is a win-win strategy for sustainable development. Norway has recently launched an energy and climate initiative known as Energy+. The essence of that is to incentivise states to increase energy access, accelerate technology change and promote renewable energy. In Rio, we should decide on a strategy for following up the Secretary-General’s call for “Sustainable Energy for All”. That would be an important outcome.
- Green taxes are important instruments for changing price signals in pursuance of sustainable production and consumption. Norway has been a pioneer in this since we introduced carbon taxes in 1991, also on our own petroleum industry. Despite some initial scepticism, today we can conclude that the carbon taxes have not jeopardized growth and employment in our country .On the contrary. Today we have the word’s most environmentally benign, and resource effective petroleum sector. Green taxes can be an effective means of encouraging investment in renewable energy and green alternatives. They can be construed in a manner which is revenue neutral
- Preventing deforestation and land degradation is among the most cost-effective measures to reduce emissions of green-house gases. Methods and institutions for facilitating the scaling up of payments for verified emission reductions from deforestation and forest degradation is being developed. Norway advocates and contributes to establishment of such methods and institutions, not least under the REDD+ program.
- Further development of green jobs is key to the transition to a greener economy. Green jobs contribute to reduced energy consumption and raw material use, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, a minimisation of waste and pollution, and the protection of ecosystems. All sectors and types of enterprises, in urban and rural areas, and in countries at all levels of economic development, have the potential of becoming greener. Norway supports a socially equitable transition, based on inclusive social dialogue and fundamental principles and workers’ rights.
- The contribution of both women and men to sustainable development must be acknowledged. High female participation in the formal workforce gives countries a competitive edge. So improving gender equality policies, and investing in girls’ and women’s health and education, is not only a matter of human rights, but sound macro-economic policy, and a prerequisite for sustainable development. Such policies will only be effective when women empower themselves and take part in political life, including in decision-making processes relating to natural resources. Norway will promote the mainstreaming of the gender perspective in the outcomes of the Rio conference.
The UN Climate Change Conference in Durban a few weeks from now should result in an agreement that ensures new commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, together with a broader agreement that includes all Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. We also need to follow up and implement what we agreed in Cancun last year.
We must intensify the efforts on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in vulnerable countries. The Green Climate Fund that was agreed on in Cancun will help finance climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries. Norway sees the establishment of the Fund as one of the main deliverables in Durban. The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) also provides important input regarding disaster risk reduction and prevention policies.
Norway gives high priority to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is important with respect to halting the loss of biodiversity and securing the delivery of ecosystem services for sustainable development. Norway will work to make the Platform operational as soon as possible.
Norway is in favour of the proposal that has been put forward during the preparations for Rio to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals. Such goals should integrate the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental), and be universal in nature. The Sustainable Development Goals should be supplementary to the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda.