On 25 October 2012 the Council of the European Union (Environment) adopted conclusions on the outcome and follow-up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro, in June 2012. These conclusions constitute the first official position by the Council on the outcome of the UNCSD 2012 Conference and also reaffirm the EU and its Member States΄ commitment to the Rio+20 follow up.
The conclusions provide guidance on a number of issues that are going to be discussed in the coming months. First of all, the Council reaffirms that the overarching objectives of and essential requirements for sustainable development are poverty eradication, changing unsustainable and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption, and production and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development. Moreover, the Council stresses the need to operationalize and implement all commitments in “The Future We Want” at EU and Member States level, in particular through the European Sustainable Development Strategy (EU SDS) and the Europe 2020, as well as to review all relevant EU and national policies, strategies and programmes in order to implement through them the Rio+20 outcomes.
In addition, the Council welcomes the Rio+20 agreement that one of the important tools available for achieving sustainable development is an inclusive green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and reaffirms its commitment to pursue a just, global transition to an inclusive green economy in collaboration with other international partners, while stresses the importance of private and public sector engagement in promoting green economy in the context of sustainable development including through public-private partnerships.
Moreover, the Council supports the development of international standards and voluntary initiatives undertaken by business and industry, such as corporate social responsibility and corporate sustainability reporting, and underlines the importance to provide people with educational skills, particularly youth and women, to pursue green economy. The Council, also, calls on the UN Statistical Commission to launch the programme of work on broader measures of progress towards sustainability to complement Gross Domestic Programme (GDP) and calls on the Commission to submit in a timely manner its foreseen communication on a follow-up of “GDP and beyond”*.
As far as the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is concerned, the Council welcomes its establishment and stresses the need to ensure added value and avoid duplication with existing structures, highlighting that it should serve as a dynamic platform for sustainable development within the UN system, directly linked with the UN Economic and Social Council. In addition, the Council looks forward to the adoption of a Resolution by the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly implementing the Rio+20 agreement on strengthening and upgrading the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) so that it will be ensured that UNEP delivers its functions as the leading global environmental authority.
In the framework for action and follow-up, the Council stresses the determination of the EU and its Member States to take active part at the UN General Assembly to implement the Rio+20 agreements including: (i) the development of an international instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, (ii) the adoption of a resolution at the 67th Session of UNGA determining the modalities of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to be convened in 2014, (iii) a decision by the 67th Session of the UNGA to designate a UN Member State body to take any necessary steps toward the full, effective and timely operationalization of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10-YFP on SCP)**.
Moreover, the Council underlines the strong determination of the EU and its Member States to constructively take part in the process to develop global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which should be coherent with, and integrated in, the UN development agenda beyond 2015. More specifically, the Council stresses that the SDGs should address and incorporate the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development “in a balanced, holistic, coherent and synergistic way, while capturing inter-linkages and cross-cutting issues”, and that they should be “focused on priority areas for the achievement of sustainable development, being guided by the Rio+20 outcome document and mindful of the position of the EU and its Member States on such areas in the context of Rio+20”. Moreover, the Council underlines that the SDGs should be global in nature and universally applicable to all countries, limited in number, action oriented, easy to communicate and linked to concrete targets, while it anticipates the input and support of the UN system which will provide an essential contribution to this process.
Finally, the Council reaffirms its support for an open follow-up process of Rio+20 and recognizes the contribution and participation of the civil society, private and public stakeholders, trade unions and local authorities in the implementation of Rio+20 outcome.
* In August 2009, the European Commission published a communication with the title “GDP and beyond – Measuring progress in a changing world
” [COM (2009) 433]. This communication aims at improving indicators for better reflecting policy and societal concerns and seeks to improve, adjust and complement GDP with indicators that monitor social and environmental progress. Accordingly, it identifies five key actions for the short and medium term: Action 1: Complement GDP with environmental and social indicators (a comprehensive environmental index, quality of life and well-being); Action 2: Provide near real-time information for decision-making (more timely environmental and social indicators); Action 3: Report more accurately on distribution and inequalities; Action 4: Develop a European sustainable development scoreboard (coordinated by Directorate General for Environment (DG ENV); Action 5: Extend national accounts to environmental and social issues. (Full text: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2009:0433:FIN:EN:PDF
). In September 2009, the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission) published a report with 12 recommendations on how to better measure economic performance, societal well-being and sustainability. To answer the challenges presented by these two initiatives, the European Statistical System Committee (ESSC) launched a Sponsorship Group on "measuring progress, well-being and sustainable development". Two important milestones for the work of the Sponsorship Group took place when the Directors General of the National Statistical Institutes (DGINS) adopted the Sofia Memorandum in September 2010 and the Wiesbaden Memorandum in September 2011
. An additional milestone to the work of the Sponsorship is the Prague Memorandum, adopted in September 2012
** The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) adopted the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP)
. This is a concrete and operational outcome that responds to the 2002 Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) which calls all relevant stakeholders to encourage and promote the development of a 10-Year Framework of Programmes (10YFP) in support of regional and national initiatives “… necessary to accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production in order to promote social and economic development within the carrying capacity of ecosystems...”. (Full text: http://www.unep.fr/scp/pdf/10YFP_english.pdf
Source: Council of the European Union
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