World leaders urged to ‘move beyond aspirational statements’ and seize ‘historic opportunity’ at Rio+20 to put the planet on a sustainable path
Press release: 18 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro 13:15
Nobel Laureates, members of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability and members of The Elders gather in Rio for a high-level dialogue issuing a declaration entitled ‘The Future We Choose’– one driven by a collective commitment to planetary stewardship.
The Declaration “The Future We Choose” is available at www.sei-international.org/rio20/high-level-dialogue-on-global-sustainability
A multimedia press kit is available from The Newsmarket at: www.thenewsmarket.com/sei.
A press conference will be held from 13:30-14:00 (Rio de Janeiro time) in the Main Press Briefing Room of the Media Centre (Pavilion 3) in Rio Centro. Live webcast and on-demand video of the press conference available at: webtv.un.org.
RIO DE JANEIRO, June 18, 2012 - Nobel Laureates, members of the UN Secretary General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability and members of The Elders, are coming together at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to deliver a powerful message to world leaders: The time to act is now; nations urgently need to shift to a sustainable path.
The call to action comes on 18 June, the second day of a high-level dialogue, with eminent political, scientific, and civil society figures hosted by the organizers of the Nobel Symposium series, the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, and the Fundação Brasileira para o Desenvolvimento Sustentável. The day-long event follows private meetings on 17 June, which resulted in an agreed Declaration. After a keynote statement by His Royal Highness King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, the organizers presented the Declaration to the public and handed it over to Mr. Brice Lalonde, Executive Coordinator of Rio+20.
“We are concerned.” begins the Declaration, titled “The Future We Choose.” “The scientific evidence is unequivocal. We are on the threshold of a future with unprecedented environmental risks. The combined effects of climate change, resource scarcity, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem resilience at a time of increased demand, poses a real threat to humanity’s welfare. Such a future generates unacceptable risks that will undermine the resilience of the planet and its
inhabitants. We have generated our own geological epoch, the Anthropocene. In this epoch, there is an unacceptable risk that human pressures on the planet, should they continue on a business as usual trajectory, will trigger abrupt and irreversible changes with catastrophic outcomes for human societies and life as we know it.”
The Declaration goes on to say that with leadership and determined action, “a transition to a safe and prosperous future is possible,” but “time is running critically short.” Applying tools that we already have, namely, “the knowledge, technology and finance required to ensure a sustainable future,” and focusing on “addressing social and economic inequalities, empowering women and ensuring good governance, is a prerequisite to living within safe planetary boundaries.”
The Declaration calls for an integrated science-based approach to the decision making that will lead the transformation to sustainable development. It must be “built up a partnership between the public and private sectors and with civil society” and reflect “the scientific consensus and guided by the principles of responsibility and equity.” Such an approach “will and must provide a systemic solution that ensures the wise stewardship of the planet and its peoples.”
“We call upon world leaders to move beyond aspirational statements and exercise a collective responsibility, seizing the historic opportunity offered by the Rio 2012 summit to set our world on a sustainable path.” “A new narrative for a prosperous future is needed. The time to act is now!”
As of today, the Declaration has been signed by close to 40 eminent figures, including former heads of state, Nobel Laureates and top scientists. Izabella Monica Vieira Teixeira, Minister of the Environment of Brazil, member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP), who participated in the High-level dialogue, has also endorsed the Declaration. Among the signatories are: Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland, Co-Chair, UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP); Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and former Director-General of the World Health Organization, member of The Elders and GSP; Yuan-Tseh Lee, Nobel laureate (Chemistry), President, International Council for Science (ICSU).
The high-level dialogue built on the achievements of the Nobel Laureate Symposia on Global Sustainability, which have become a forum for the world’s most respected ambassadors on knowledge and universal values to provide science-based advice on the environmental challenges and opportunities facing humanity.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted the first symposium in Potsdam in 2007, and the second and third symposia were hosted by the Prince of Wales and the King of Sweden, respectively. The results of these three events are three Nobel Memoranda that have been signed by more than 80 Nobel Laureates. The Nobel Laureates also held a high-level dialogue at the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban last December, co-hosted by South African President Jacob Zuma.
At the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium, the Stockholm Memorandum was signed by Nobel Laureates and handed over in person to the Panel as an input to its report, which was released on 30 January 2012, entitled “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing”. The report contains 56 recommendations designed to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy.
The goals of the high-level dialogue in Rio are to provide usable scientific based support for world leaders; to create a meeting place for scientists and decision makers at highest level; to provide new collaboration possibilities nationally and internationally; and to disseminate vital knowledge to broader audiences around the globe.
“We are the first generation with scientific foresight and understanding of the new global risks facing humanity,” said Yuan Tseh Lee, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and President of the International Council for Science. “The Anthropocene presents enormous challenges, and the choices we make now matter tremendously. We cannot continue with business as usual. World leaders know this, too – it is crucial that they take decisive action in Rio to steer us onto a different pathway.”
“Science makes it clear that development cannot succeed in the long term without a safe environment,” said Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, a member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability and a member of The Elders. “Sustainable development is a precondition for poverty eradication, economic development and social justice. The global community needs to accelerate and scale up investments in clean technology, ecosystem management and education; and achieving equality for women must be a priority if we are to develop more sustainable livelihoods. Rio+20 is a chance to acknowledge that human development is based on a healthy environment.”
Unable to participate in person in the high-level dialogue, members of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP), Ali Babacan, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, and Connie Hedegaard, European Commissioner for Climate Action, also endorsed the Declaration, They say:
“Sustainable development is among the significant agenda items of the world today. Issues related to environment and human dimensions might be overlooked in an era, where particularly the impacts of global economic crisis and global financial crisis prolonged in varying periods and phases.”[…] “we should not forget the long-term view for the world and the future generations while dealing with today’s problems. While formulating all these policies, we should pay attention to the establishment of equilibrium between today and tomorrow and between current and future generations. High Level Panel on Global Sustainability puts forward a set of recommendations to deal with these while emphasizing the role of economy for more ‘resilient people and resilient society’. This declaration also contributes to the agenda in that regard.” (Ali Babacan)
“What future would we like? The answer should define what we decide here in Rio because: We get the future we choose. If we take action, we influence the world we live in. If we don’t, we fail our responsibility.” […] “We need to reconnect environmental, economic and social development with global sustainability. This calls for global cooperation on a scale never seen before. Not just among governments, but between all actors in society: business, NGOs, cities and regions. We are all interconnected, and the behaviour of one affects the others.” (Connie Hedegaard)