20 February 2012: A group of 20 scientists and sustainable development experts have produced a paper on environment and development, highlighting causes of unsustainable development and outlining actions that can be taken to address them. The paper was produced in preparation for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20).
The scientists and experts are past winners of the Blue Planet Prize, an award presented to individuals or organizations that have made outstanding achievements in scientific research and its application, that have helped provide solutions to global environmental problems.
The paper, titled “Environmental and Development Challenges: The Imperative to Act,” was presented on 20 February 2012, to the 12th Special Session of the Governing Council/ Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GCSS-12/GMEF) of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), held in Nairobi, Kenya from 20-22 February 2012.
The paper synthesizes key messages from individual papers written by the Blue Planet Laureates. In the joint paper, the laureates outline their “dream” of a world without poverty, and one that is equitable, respects human rights, and is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. Underlining that this dream is achievable, they say the current global development model is unsustainable and will not help realize this dream. The paper focuses on the global challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and social inequity, and outlines some of the causes of these problems, such as: overpopulation; overconsumption by the rich; gross inequalities; use of environmentally malign technologies; uncontrolled economic growth; fossil fuel-dependent energy systems; and rapid loss of biodiversity. It concludes that, “In the face of an absolutely unprecedented emergency, society has no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilization.”
The laureates also suggest some solutions, including addressing population growth through education, empowerment of women, healthcare of children and the elderly, and making modern contraception accessible to all. The paper calls for the “triple interdependence” of economic, social and environmental factors to be integrated into decision-making by the public and private sectors in order to achieve a more sustainable world, and emphasizes the need for economic growth "within the constraints of social and environmental sustainability."
The laureates further recommend: elimination of environmentally damaging subsidies in areas such as energy, transportation and agriculture; transition to a low-carbon economy through technological evolution in energy efficiency, renewable energy and carbon capture and storage; and effective change in governance. The statement concludes by highlighting the need to increase investments in education, research and assessments of knowledge, and stressing that “the time to act at scale is now” to limit climate change and biodiversity loss.