Rio 20: Business calls on negotiators to focus on practical solutions

  • 20 June 2012
ICC sustainable cities

Business and industry representatives are increasingly concerned with the slow pace of negotiations reported during the first week of Rio+20 meetings in Brazil, with little change on previously held positions.

“It appears to us that one of the causes of frustration and slow progress in these negotiations is the presence of a few fundamental ‘deal breaking’ issues that are common across all the issues being discussed,” said Louise Kantrow, Permanent Representative to the United Nations for the International Chamber of Commerce and Organizer of the Business and Industry Major Group, in a commentary delivered during the negotiations on 14 June. “These issues all seem to have been set to one side for resolution at a later time. We fear the time is slipping away for meaningful resolution and opportunities to influence the course of history will be missed,” Ms Kantrow said.

Financing the green economy and technology transfer are among the fundamental issues yet to be resolved before an agreement can be reached during the UN conference on sustainable development taking place from 20-22 June in Rio de Janeiro, also known as Rio+20.

“Rio+20 outcomes can provide enabling frameworks to smooth the way for sustainability solutions that are at the heart of a greener, more inclusive, economy,” said Martina Bianchini, Chair of the ICC Task Force on Green Economy and Vice-President, EU Government Affairs and Public Policy at Dow Chemical.

In the 20 years since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the idea of sustainability and a “green economy” has gone from the margins to the mainstream for many in business. Quite apart from the debate over what exactly a “green” economy is, the business community believes that economies cannot be “greened” without one key factor: economic growth.

The business community also believes that the term “green economy” is embedded in the broader sustainable development concept. While business would rather speak about greener economies to acknowledge the range of opportunities and risks for various sectors, business acknowledges the term green economy and views it as a unifying theme to articulate the sustainable development direction in which all global economies need to move.

In order to move forward, the business community believes it is crucial to green all sectors in all countries and advance resource use efficiency and life cycle approaches. “We consider improvements of existing processes and products to be as important as launching new ones,” Ms Kantrow said. “Both approaches should be pursued simultaneously. It should be noted that business operates across global value chains and greening all stages along the life cycle of its products and services is becoming a guiding principle for many companies and sectors. The actions needed to transition towards a green economy vary from sector to sector, value chain, and from country-to-country, depending on national circumstances.”

Governments can enable business contributions to a green economy by establishing and supporting clear and flexible regulatory and policy frameworks. Greening economic growth and activity offers an opportunity to address key trans-boundary challenges. This will require enabling frameworks that are aligned from global, regional, national and ultimately the local levels.

Regardless of the outcome at Rio+20, the private sector will continue its transition to greener and more sustainable industries, but stresses that progress could be made much more rapidly with greater cooperation between all stakeholders.