Official Journal of the European Union

C 143/39

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘EESC position on the preparation of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)’ (additional opinion)

2012/C 143/08

Rapporteur-General: Mr WILMS

On 17 January 2012 the European Economic and Social Committee, acting under Rule 29(A) of the Implementing Provisions of the Rules of Procedure, decided to draw up an additional opinion on

EESC position on the preparation of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) (additional opinion).

Given the urgent nature of the work, the European Economic and Social Committee appointed Mr WILMS as rapporteur-general at its 478th plenary session, held on 22 and 23 February 2012 (meeting of 22 February), and adopted the following opinion by 211 votes with three abstentions.

1.   Introduction


The United Nations have convened a Conference on Sustainable Development to take place on 20-22 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The second Preparatory Committee Meeting for this Conference invited all member States, relevant United Nations system organisations, and relevant stakeholders to provide inputs and contributions to the Secretariat by 1 November 2011, for inclusion in a compilation text which should serve as basis for the preparation of a zero-draft of the outcome document, to be presented in January 2012.


The EESC has contributed to the common position of the EU and its Member States for the compilation document with its opinion (1)"Rio+20: towards the green economy and better governance - The contribution of European organised civil society" adopted in September 2011.


As stated in the action plan of this opinion, the EESC has further engaged in dialogue with civil society inside and outside Europe. At the international level, dialogue is taking place in the framework of the civil society Round Table meetings EU-Brazil, EU-China, the EESC meetings with the Russian Civic Chamber and the AICESIS. Further activities are planned in the framework of the ACP cooperation.


At the European level, the EESC has organised a broad dialogue process on the topics of the Rio+20 Conference, including first reactions on the zero-draft of the outcome document released on 10 January. This dialogue process aimed at preparing the major civil society conference "Go sustainable, be responsible! European civil society on the road to Rio+20" organised by the EESC on 7 and 8 February 2012, and at reaching an agreement on a common message of this conference.


The present opinion reiterates the recommendations and conclusions presented in the previous EESC opinion on "Rio+20: towards the green economy and better governance - The contribution of European organised civil society" (2) and endorses fully the message of the EESC conference "Go sustainable, be responsible! European civil society on the road to Rio+20".

2.   Conclusions and recommendations


The EESC is convinced that the current economic, social and environmental crises are closely interlinked and that business as usual is no longer possible.


The EESC reiterates the following message of the conference Go sustainable, be responsible! European civil society on the road to Rio+20 organised by the European Economic and Social Committee on 7 and 8 February 2012 in Brussels:


At the Rio+20 UN Conference, world leaders have to commit to a concrete action plan leading to sustainable development and poverty eradication within the limitations of the planet. Promoting a green economy must be part of an overarching sustainable development strategy, striking a balance between social, ecological and economic aspects while achieving distributional and intergenerational equity.


Eradicating poverty and secure access to enough food, clean water and sustainable energy for all must be a top priority on the Rio+20 agenda. The promotion of environmentally sound local agriculture in developing countries plays a crucial role in fighting poverty and improving food security, and is a driving force for the development of economically prosperous rural areas. Women's equal political, economic and social rights need to be ensured.


Political leaders have to deliver on their commitment to meet the Millennium Development Goals and need to adopt additional measures ensuring the necessary effective financing. In particular, developed countries have to effectively implement their commitment to allocate at least 0.7% of their gross national income to development aid.


European negotiators have to place much greater emphasis on the social dimension of sustainable development than envisaged in the zero draft. Increasing social and wealth inequalities within and between countries requires urgent action, since they are hindering efforts to achieve sustainable development and distributional equity. Moreover, a just transition must guarantee decent work and high-quality jobs for the workforce. Ratification and application of ILO Core Labour Standards is necessary, the ILO Social Protection Floor Initiative must be fully supported.


Political leaders at Rio have to commit to a green economy roadmap with clear goals and monitoring mechanisms, ensuring an economically efficient, socially just and environmentally sound transition to sustainable societies. The transition process must be based on continuous engagement with civil society, including social dialogue.


European countries and other developed countries have to commit in Rio to substantially reducing their consumption of the earth's limited natural resources. European leaders have to implement agreed EU targets and prepare themselves for more ambitious action. Emerging countries should use natural resources more efficiently.


Unsustainable consumption and production patterns must be phased out, using a broad range of policy instruments, including regulatory measures, fiscal policy tools, green and social public procurement, the phasing-out of environmentally harmful subsidies, research on eco-innovation, the internalisation of environmental costs and other market-based incentives, while at the same time promoting sustainable life-styles and the active involvement of consumers in the transition. Adoption of a 10-year work programme on sustainable consumption and production in Rio.


The zero draft recognises the limitations of GDP as a means of measuring well-being, now civil society must be involved in the urgent development of complementary indicators.


The initiative to establish by 2015 a set of global Sustainable Development Goals is welcome, taking a balanced approach to all three dimensions of sustainable development. An inclusive process starting in Rio linking MDGs with comprehensive SDGs and establishing a strategy and sustainable development indicators with clear mechanisms for accountability is needed.


A new global deal in Rio to ensure the necessary investments in the greening of the economy is necessary.


The key role and the responsibility of the private sector in achieving a transition to sustainable development is acknowledged. Greening the economy is an opportunity for business. Business and industry should take that opportunity. Political leaders have to draw up clear, stable and predictable green economy policy frameworks to give business the confidence, the regulatory framework and the incentives for the investments needed.


A new Council for Sustainable Development, replacing the Commission for Sustainable Development, should be created, as well as a new UN agency for the environment based on UNEP. Both of these bodies should provide for effective involvement of civil society, as represented by the Major Groups.


The proposal to establish an ombudsman for future generations is welcome.


Political leaders have to agree at the Rio+20 conference on additional measures to improve effective civil society involvement and achieve empowerment at global, national and local level in the transition to sustainable societies. Legal and institutional frameworks ensuring public access to information, dialogue, democratic participation and scrutiny have to be established. Multi-stakeholder fora such as Economic and Social Committees and National Sustainability Councils have to be promoted as models to stimulate civil society debate. More awareness-raising campaigns and education programmes on sustainable development are needed.


Civil society all over the world should continue pushing for a conference outcome capable of meeting the challenges we are facing. Civil society has to take global responsibility!


The zero draft outcome document issued by the UN Rio+20 Conference Bureau is a good starting point for subsequent negotiations. However, the zero draft still falls far short of the challenges we are facing.


European heads of government have to take responsibility and engage in the Rio+20 conference. EU negotiators have to work for a more ambitious document as regards targets, timing, financing, legal commitment and follow-up. The overarching EU Sustainable Development Strategy needs to be reviewed and revitalised following the Rio+20 conference.

Brussels, 22 February 2012.

The President of the European Economic and Social Committee


(1)  OJ C 376, 22.12.2011, p. 102.

(2)  OJ C 376, 22.12.2011, p. 102.