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Rio's Buzzing About Natural Capital Accounting

Rachel Kyte's picture

Only a very short time ago, we were drawing blank looks when we mentioned "natural capital accounting." This week at Rio, everyone is talking about it. Walls are plastered with flyers about it.  And our event on it yesterday drew such a crowd it was standing-room only.

With three presidents, two prime ministers, one deputy prime minister, a host of ministers, top corporate leaders and civil society groups in the room, we announced that the 50:50 campaign to get at least 50 countries and 50 companies to commit to acting on natural capital accounting was a success. The latest tally: 59 countries, 88 private companies, 1 region, and 16 civil society groups signing on to the Gaborone Declaration, recommitting to other natural capital initiatives, or agreeing to join forces with this movement.

Rio +20: A Global Stage

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Earth Summit 1992. UN Photo/Michos Tzovaras
Photo: The scene at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where the conference adopted the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the Agenda 21 programme of action, among other actions. UN Photo/Michos Tzovaras.


This week, the city of Rio de Janeiro will become a global stage, home to tens of thousands of people attending the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

Rio+ 20 is an important global stage upon which those committed to action from government, the private sector, and society can show how they plan to demonstrate that we can accelerate progress, if we change the way we grow.

We need a different kind of growth, a greener and more inclusive growth. We think it is affordable with help to those for whom upfront costs may be prohibitive. We think we should be able to value natural resources differently within our economic model. We think that with the right data and evidence we can avoid the irreversible costs of making wrong decisions now. And we can have economic systems that are much more efficient.

Following Up on Our Rio +20 Live Chat

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Rachel Kyte on the Live Chat

I enjoyed talking with everyone who signed into the live chat this week. If you missed it, you can catch up with the conversation at World Bank Live.

We talked a lot about the importance of moving beyond GDP to a more holistic way of measuring development that incorporates the value of natural resources. We also discussed inclusive green growth as the path to sustainable development, the need for better oceans management, expectations for Rio +20 – the UN Conference on Sustainable Development – and what people want to see in any sustainable development goals (SDGs) that emerge from the conference.

The hour flew by, and there were several questions that I didn’t have time to get to. I’d like to address some of those now.

Join Us for a Live Chat about Rio+20 on World Environment Day

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Credit: Henrique Vicente, Creative Commons

On June 5, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte will host a live online chat about Rio +20 and sustainable development at live.worldbank.org. Submit questions now, and then join Rachel Kyte and economist Marianne Fay on June 5 at 14:00 GMT/10 a.m. EDT.
 

Rio +20 is coming up in a few weeks. Some 75,000 leaders, advocates, scientists and other experts are expected in person, and tens of thousands more will be watching online to see how the world can advance sustainable development.

Many of us have been advocating for greener, more inclusive growth since before the first Earth Summit at Rio 20 years ago. We’ve seen economic growth lift 660 million people out of poverty, but we’ve also seen growth patterns run roughshod over the environment, diminishing the capacity of the planet’s natural resources to meet the needs of future generations.

The growing global population needs world leaders to do more than just check in at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20 – it needs them to move the needle now toward truly sustainable development practices.

Demystifying Natural Capital Accounting: 10 African Countries Sign On

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Credit: Juan-Vidal, Creative Commons

We’ve all seen what happens when natural capital is undervalued. Oceans that billions of people rely on for food and income get overfished and become dumping grounds for chemicals and waste. Mangroves that protect shorelines from storms are replaced with resorts.

Many countries are looking beyond GDP to help them address the challenges undervaluing natural capital has created. What they need is a measure of a country’s wealth that includes all of its capital — produced, social, human, and natural capital.

In Botswana at the Summit for Sustainability in Africa this afternoon, 10 African countries endorsed the need to move toward factoring natural capital into systems of national accounting. By Rio +20, the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development, we hope to see 50 countries and 50 private corporations join this effort.

Inclusive Green Growth Is Smart Growth, as South Korea Is Proving

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One of Asia’s fastest growing economies in the last 40 years, South Korea, has emerged as a manufacturing powerhouse that has virtually eliminated poverty.  Its resilient economy survived the 2008–2009 financial crises better than almost any other country, but it is far from complacent.  Korea spends a bigger percentage of GDP on research and development than Germany, the UK and the US.

Today, Korea is a global champion of green growth with a long-term plan for transitioning to green growth and a focus on exporting green tech, and it is moving away from energy imports and energy-intensive industries.  Korea’s journey is not complete, but its progress stands as an inspiration to developing countries wherever they are in theirs.

At the second Global Green Growth Summit, in Seoul on Thursday, President Lee Myung-bak reinforced Korea’s commitment to playing a leadership role on the global stage, restating Korea’s commitment to increasing official development assistance through to 2020 and announcing that 30 percent of that ODA will be green.

Launching our report in Seoul was an excellent opportunity to further strengthen our partnership with Korea and expand our inclusive green growth knowledge base.

Moving the Needle on Healthier Environments and Sustainable Development

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Over the past few days of the World Bank/IMF spring meetings, it’s been exciting to see just how much interest and real commitment there is among the world’s finance ministers to move toward inclusive green growth and sustainable development.

Several finance ministers at the Rio breakfast with Ban Ki-moon, Bob Zoellick, and Christine Lagarde talked about the need for better national wealth measurements that incorporate natural resources. Some were already implementing new forms of natural capital accounting. Others wanted to know more.

They were absolutely clear about two things: They want better methodology, data, and evidence to help guide them on the path to sustainable development, and they see a clear role for the World Bank as a source of that knowledge.

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