The time to act for “sustainable growth with equity” is now, says Indonesian President ahead of Rio+20

By Tierney Smith

President Yudhoyono of Indonesia spoke ahead of the Rio+20 Earth Summit (© CIFOR)

President Yudhoyono of Indonesia spoke ahead of the Rio+20 Earth Summit (© CIFOR)

With talks including Rio+20 and the G20 upon us, the time to act for “sustainable growth with equity” is now, said Indonesian President Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

But, he stressed, this action will need participation from every individual in society.

Speaking at the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) ahead of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, President Yudhoyono said population growth, the growth of the middle classes and rapid urbanisation would create a deadly combination which would put increasing pressure on our planet.

In Indonesia, the 50% mark of urbanised populations was crossed four years ago and by 2025 around 65% of the population is expected to live in cities.

“In short, we are heading towards 9 billion people, along with their needs and means,” he said. “That amounts to a lot of mouths to feed. A lot of people to produce for. A lot of economies to power up.

“The problem is our natural ecosystems and regenerating bio-capacity is being severely degraded, therefore compromising the ability of the planet to sustain life.”

He warned that threats including natural resource depletion, polluted land, water and air, soil erosion and desertification, global warming, deforestation and rising rates of extinctions would continue to worsen unless the world makes the right choice.

With the G20 meeting being held in Mexico next week, followed directly by the Rio+20 Earth Summit, and later in the year by the post-2015 process talks, President Yudhoyono believes the time to make that choice is now.

“What is required is a fundamental reinvention and reorganisation of societies throughout the world. It also requires the international system to work more coherently and more purposefully to address what is inherently a global problem.”

“For this ‘new way’ to succeed, participation must be top bottom and bottom up… Ultimately we need participation from the smallest unit in society, which is the individual,” he added. “It is the individual who will ultimately have to make the choice of what he or she will buy, eat, drink, waste or burn.

“Unless we change the excessive consumption habit of world citizens, we will run into a brick wall.”

With new emerging powers changing the weight of the World, Presdident Yudhoyono said better solutions should be made to ensure these countries do not simply add to an already large crowd of power holders.

He calls for a new way of looking at the world.

Equity will be key to any discussions, whether on the follow up to the MDG’s, a new binding deal on climate change, or the outcomes of the Rio+20 Summit, without which “we end up with hopelessness and without a sense of shared destiny,” said President Yudhoyono.

Forest canopy

For Indonesia protecting forests and sustainable forestry is a major tool in sustainable growth and climate change mitigation

Sustainable management of world’s ecosystems

He also said sustainable management of the world’s forests would be critical to economic growth – and used Indonesia as an example.

Here, he said, the economy had changed from one which sacrificed its forest for economic growth to one where forests are prized for ecological services.

“Sustainable forestry is critical to our efforts at sustainable development as well as to our climate mitigation efforts,” he said.

69% of Indonesia’s land area is forests – holding around 12% of the world’s mammals, 16% of reptiles and amphibians, 17% of birds and 25% of fish species.

It is also home to over 38,000 plant species.

The country is now working to reduce deforestation and increase reforestation as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Message for Rio

President Yudhoyono stressed that this was just one of many effective tools at our disposal to deal with the problem of climate change and to promote sustainable growth.

Potential methods range from policy measures at international and national levels, economic incentives for private sector involvement, education and awareness raising and the use of more technology.

His message to the Rio+20 conference is a clear one.

“Let’s take responsibility for the future of human race and for mother earth. All citizens of the world. Developed and emerging and developing nations. International and regional organisations. Private sectors. Environmentalists. All stake-holders.

“We must avoid the dangerous trap of a waiting game. Consensus building – especially on the global stage – will take time to build. We know the problems. We know the solutions. We must act now.”

Read the full speech here.

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