TWN Update on Sustainable Development Conference 2012 (May12/01)
2 May 2012
Third World Network

Clash of views over green economy and roadmap
Published in SUNS #7362 dated 3 May 2012

New York, 2 May (Meena Raman) – A clash of views among countries on the approach to be taken regarding the green economy and a proposal for its roadmap occurred at the start of the informal negotiations in New York in the second and final week of the informal negotiations on the draft outcome document for the June UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

The ongoing informal negotiations are from 23 April to 4 May.

The informal negotiations are being conducted in two separate working groups dealing with the specific sections of the draft outcome document. Working Group 1 is dealing with the issues of the “Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication (Section III) and ‘Framework for action and follow-up’ including Sustainable Development Goals and means of implementation viz. finance, access to and transfer of technology, and capacity building (Section V) while Working Group 2 is tasked with ‘Preamble/Stage Setting’ (Section 1), ‘Renewing Political Commitment’ (Section II) and ‘Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development’(Section IV).

In the second week of the negotiations, the Co-chairs, John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda) and Kim Sook (Republic of Korea) formulated new Co-Chairs’ suggested texts (referred to as NCST) in an attempt to further streamline the various proposals from Parties and to narrow down the issues following from discussions last week.

The clash on the green economy and the roadmap took place in Working Group 1, which is being chaired by Ambassador Ashe.

Green Economy

While there is general agreement among countries that there “are different approaches, visions, models and tools available to each country, in accordance with its national circumstances and priorities, to achieve our overarching goals to eradicate poverty and achieve the three dimensions of sustainable development in an integrated manner”, there is a major and fundamental difference on how the green economy is regarded in this context.

The G77 and China (G77) stressed that the Group’s approach on green economy policies should be seen in the context of national development strategies to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication.

While the Group viewed a green economy as one of the tools to achieve sustainable development, it was opposed to just focusing only on the green economy as advocated by some developed countries, especially by the European Union.

The EU considered a green economy as an “essential tool” for achieving sustainable development.

In response to the EU, the G77 said that many developing countries did not even know what a “green economy was and had never used this type of tool before”.

The G77 called for the addressing of this fundamental difference between developing and developed countries in this regard.

The EU also expressed that it was uncomfortable that in some paragraphs in the draft outcome document, there was no mention of the words ‘green economy’ (and only references to sustainable development) and there are in some parts references to “green economy policies” which it could work with but it could not work with ideas such as a “green economy approach” which has been suggested by the United States.

The G77 wanted the reference to the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR) as one of the elements to guide green economy policies. (NCST Pre 25 quat, but this was opposed to by all developed countries, who argued that there should be no cherry-picking of some of the Rio principles and a general reference to the Rio principles was sufficient in this regard.

Green Economy Roadmap

Prior to the commencement of discussions on the framework for action (which took place afternoon of Tuesday, 1 May), the EU said that it wanted to present goals and targets in the context of the ‘green economy’. The EU said that at the Rio Conference, countries could not just announce a set of processes (as outcomes of the Conference) but there should be a focussed outcome including on concrete goals and targets. Saying that the overarching aim of global goals and targets is to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication, the EU added that this should contribute to discussions on the post-2015 framework (following the target dead for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals – MDGs).

The EU said that goals and targets are for key natural resources and spelt out the following areas: water; oceans and marine environment; sustainable land management and ecosystems ; sustainable energy; and resource efficiency in particular waste. It said that these proposals are not to be viewed as counter proposals to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but as contributions to them and are aspirational and non-legally binding. Switzerland fully endorsed the EU approach.

In response to the EU and the new Co-Chairs’ suggested text which called for the recognition that “goals, targets and indicators are essential for measuring and accelerating progress…” (NCST 63bis), the G77 said that it was not clear on how the SDGs, MDGs and additional goals and targets would be linked together. It called for the reference to “goals, targets and indicators” to be bracketed (signalling deletion) and proposed amendments to the text that “accelerating progress in these areas (referring the outcomes of major summits and conferences on sustainable development) is vital to achieving the eradication of poverty, hunger, attainment of the MDGs, and restoring harmony with nature.”

Disagreements also followed on a proposal by the Co-Chairs’ in NCST 63 ter which referred to the “… development of a global green economy roadmap as a means to advance implementation…” The Co-Chairs’ proposal also requests “…the UN Secretary-General in close cooperation with the UN system, to submit a report on the establishment of the roadmap to the 67th session of the General Assembly for consideration by Member States.”

The EU, while agreeing to the green economy roadmap, reserved its position on the issue of the Secretary-General embarking on this exercise.

The G77, New Zealand, US, Canada and Russian Federation called for deletion of this paragraph.

The G77 said that Parties had agreed that the green economy was a tool to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication but now, the proposal says that the green economy is a roadmap. Hence, if this was so, then all tools must have a roadmap and it could not understand why a “tool” needed a “roadmap”. It was important to understand the fundamental differences in the approaches and there could be no attaching of priority in relation to the green economy by having a roadmap. Since there was a convergence of views that the green economy was only a tool, there was no need for a roadmap, stressed the G77.

The US said that the green economy was a means to achieve sustainable development but the language in the text appeared to be a top-down approach rather than one that is for countries to nationally determine. Canada echoed similar sentiments and said that there was no global green economy roadmap.+