The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) on Tuesday urged governments to invest in resilience, strengthen local control over natural resources, and apply realistic values to the environment and human well-being in order to steer societies onto a more secure path.
The call was contained in a paper published by IIED’s Director Camilla Toulmin, ahead of the Rio+20 Conference in Brazil next month, when world leaders will meet to agree on ways to tackle the environment and development challenges facing humanity.
IIED recommends action in three areas including what it calls Local control; explaining how available evidence shows that local control of natural assets is the best way to ensure strong investment in and sustainable use of forests, water, soils and other resources, in ways that would create jobs, profits and secure livelihoods in both rural and urban areas.
“When governments recognise the rights and organisations of local communities, they encourage long-term decision-making, and sustainable management of key assets. It’s also a better option for outside investors, since returns need to be balanced to generate long term stable outcomes,” the paper said.
It recommended investing in resilience, thus environmental, economic and social shocks are becoming more common and include climatic extremes, volatile food and fuel prices, and financial instability.
Governments could build resilience to such shocks with policies that prioritise long-term adaptive capacity, more diverse economic activities, and climate-resilient growth, the paper stated.
“Decentralised energy supplies, new approaches to urban density, inclusive business models, and greater accountability in global institutions are among the building blocks of resilience to the shocks that tend to hit the poorest and most vulnerable communities hardest. .
"Today, true environmental costs and benefits do not appear on balance sheets, and we use GDP to measure development despite knowing that it does not reflect human well-being and could mask the unsustainable aspects of growth", the paper said, adding that IIED also envisaged realistic valuation.
“We need to change the way we measure progress and address the market failures that today’s false environmental accounting allows to endure. The first and most urgent steps are a significant and rising price on carbon, and an end to fossil fuel subsidies”, it said.
The paper shows how the June meeting in Rio, the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit, is an opportunity for leaders to agree on a change in these three areas.
Said Toulmin, “The environmental, social and financial crises that face us are interconnected, and so are their solutions.
“After four decades of research on the links between the environment and development, IIED has identified three clear policy shifts that are realistic, achievable and effective ways to reshape our future and create a fair, greener and more secure world”.
IIED will present the paper a Fair Ideas, a two-day conference it is hosting in Rio on June 16-17, 2012.
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