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How a Week in Rio Leads to an Active Monday Morning

Rachel Kyte's picture

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What will you do Monday morning to start making a difference? UN Photo/Maria Elisa Franco

We came to Rio+20 determined that one outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development must be a plan for what ministers of finance, development and environment and ourselves need to do differently Monday morning, June 25th  – if we are to achieve sustainable development for all. 

We have our plan.

We came to Rio+20 knowing that inclusive green growth is the pathway to sustainable development, and the evidence here is that this international community agrees. 

The analysis behind the World Bank’s report Inclusive Green Growth: The Pathway to Sustainable Development framed many of the conference debates and helped facilitate a new focus on natural capital accounting – a fundamental component of inclusive green growth.

According to the 59 countries, 86 companies, and 17 civil society organizations that supported the World Bank Group-facilitated 50:50 campaign – as well as many others – natural capital accounting is an idea whose time has come.   

In fact, natural capital accounting events filled the Rio Convention Center, and government and civil society groups alike highlighted the importance of moving beyond GDP.

This new energy and emphasis around this issue may be the most important outcome of Rio+ 20. 

This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Bank Group to help countries take practical steps towards improved decision making based on understanding of the true value of natural capital and to help private sector initiatives dovetail at the country level. Now that we have a UN agreed framework in place for natural capital, informed by 20 years of intellectual analysis, the pressure for practical action is palpable. It was not only standing-room only in our heads of state natural capital accounting event, but standing room only in every natural capital event at Rio.

We have many more requests from countries to support capacity building for evidence-based decision making. Our Monday morning natural capital plan is well advanced.

The Promise of Action

Throughout the conference, people gravitated to ideas and approaches that promise action. On the periphery of the conference, the private sector and city coalitions continued to demonstrate how to lead on sustainability. Some 1,500 CEOs from major companies invested their time and ideas in coming to Rio +20 – a real demonstration of how serious sustainability is for them. It’s not about managing the downside, but again and again firms talked about their future markets, future products, future employees, future investors, and all forms of competitiveness linked to sustainability as shared value. 

Rio+20 was described as the Summit of the Seas, and debates about how to move forward in protecting the oceans and managing them sustainably were everywhere. The Global Partnership for Oceans attracted new energy and new members – as of today it’s 105 – and created a sense of urgency around action to restore the oceans to health and productivity and the need to build sustainable aquaculture.  Our oceans partnership planning team is advancing well.

The overwhelming feeling at the conference is that we cannot wait for international agreements to do what we know needs to be done. We must act now. Build new inclusive green growth paths, move on energy, move on sustainable development. If getting 193 countries to agree to act in concert is beyond the limits of political leadership today, then countries and companies, and civil society organizations and the scientific community, and cities will act in partnerships and groupings where they see interests aligned.

For us to move at the speed and scale we need, international agreement would help, not just in Rio but importantly in the UNFCCC and the WTO. Absent that, we just have to get on with what we know will benefit the poor and the environment.

So, let’s get on with it. Sustainable development is everyone’s business.  Our job at the World Bank Group is to show, with our clients, how change can happen.

My plan for Monday morning includes action on capacity building for natural capital accounting, action on supporting healthy oceans, action on sustainable cities, action on the efficiency of economic plans and removing bad subsidies, and action on short-lived climate pollutants.

What’s yours?

 

Rachel Kyte
Vice President for Sustainable Development
www.worldbank.org/sustainabledevelopment
Twitter: @rkyte365

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