Planet under Pressure ends with six recommendations for Rio+20

By Tierney Smith

The Planet under Pressure Conference has ended with a declaration that science must take a central role in shaping  and influencing policy discussions ahead of Rio+20.

The four-day meeting involved over 3000 scientists, policy makers and civil society members in London, discussing a range of issues related to sustainable development.

The declaration calls for an integrated approach to climate change and global policy making – one where scientists and policy makers interact.

Addressing the conference on the final day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was committed to working with the science community ahead of June’s conference.

This week conference has aimed at setting the scientific agenda ahead of the Rio+ conference to be held this June (© NASA)

Key Recommendations

1) The declaration calls for a more joined up approach between science and policy. It states that science should inform policy to make wise and timely decisions and that innovation should be informed by diverse local needs and conditions.

UNESCO's Irina Bokova called for collaboration across the board inclduing science, policy and business (© Itupictures/Creative Commons)

UNESCO's Irina Bokova called for collaboration across the board inclduing science, policy and business (© Itupictures/Creative Commons)

Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO said: “There needs to be new linkages between science and policy, links that are effective and results yielding.

“It is about new partnerships with the private sector, with industry and with the business community. Creating wide platforms which include science, policy, society and business.”

2) The report also calls for interconnectedness between different disciplines of science. The challenges faced by climate change are not only about the natural sciences it argues, and with people’s behaviour key to making the changes necessary, the social sciences will take an increasingly prominent role.

Johan Rockström from the Stockholm Environment Institute said: “What natural science has shown us is that we need to fundamentally shift to the social science perspectives.”

UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts added that their should also be research collaboration across countries saying “it is international collaborative research which is more frequently cited and usually of higher quality.”

3) Education will be key – both general education and sustainability education, says the scientists. The report calls for the funding and support for capacity building in science and education globally and particularly in the developing world.

“We need education for all, and that is quality education for all,” said Brito. “It is also citizenship education and teaching people about being part of a larger world. Saying, you are here, you have your community that you have to protect but whatever you do here effects other and what they do effects you.”

What must Rio+20 deliver?

4) A Sustainable Development Council should be set up to integrate social, economic and environmental policy at global level.

“The Sustainable Development Council is a critical one. It would be similar to the Human Rights Council at the heart of the UN process,” said Felix Dodds, Executive Director of Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future.

The Rio+20 conference this June will focus on sustainable development

“The issue around the planetary boundaries is absolutely important but this needs to be underpinned by a social foundation. If you haven’t already read Oxfam’s doughnut policy briefing…it has drawn up the social foundation people should work for.

“Maybe it is not about moving people out of poverty we are looking at but for a world of nine billion middle class people. Isn’t that what we want to aim for?”

5) A commitment to the proposal of the universal Sustainable Development Goals is needed.

Rockström said: “We can now say with some confidence that global sustainability is a pre-requisite for poverty alleviation…Rio Plus must commit to turning the Millennium Development Goals into the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Dodds added: “Support for the Sustainable Development Goals is critical…Science has a huge role to play once the goals are set up in coming up with indicators to ensure they are met.

“We would be looking for the goals to be agreed at Rio and the indicators set by a year after Rio.”

6) The world needs to move past GDP as a indicator of wealth to a method of GDP+, taking into account ecosystems, education, health and global common resources.

Achim Steiner, Head of the UN Environment Programme told the audience: “There is a hard battle in our world about the future of the planet where economic interests are pitted against each other.”

He said this had to change, but not to the extent where rather than economy being put over ecology, ecology was put over economy, but to where the two are considered as interrelated factors.

“There needs to be more ecology within the economy,” he said.

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