Johan Rockström, Executive Director at the Stockholm Environment Institute, discusses the new report’s conclusions together with Gunilla Carlsson and economist Klas Eklund. Johan Kuylenstierna, director of SEI’s Stockholm Centre, moderates the seminar.
“The UN high-level panel has done a remarkable job in mapping out the challenges facing humanity, concluding that the world needs nothing less than a transition to global sustainability to enable prosperity for future generations,” says Johan Rockström, who was co-Chair of the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability. “Sustainable development must now address global environmental risks and the need to build resilience among world societies. As shown by the recommendations in the panel report, there are ample opportunities for world leaders to act decisively in support of global sustainability at the Rio+20 meeting in June.”
In May 2011 the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability travelled to Stockholm to participate in the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability. Now the 22-member panel has published its final report.
The new UN report, entitled Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing, draws upon the discussions during the Nobel Laureate Symposium, the scientific work behind it and the Stockholm Memorandum.
“The report and its recommendations are highly relevant for SEI and will stimulate the further development of our research-to-policy agenda. It will be an important component to set the stage for Rio+20 and beyond,” says Johan Kuylenstierna. “Three key recommendations are: the need to support investments for sustainable energy access for all, the opportunities to create a new ever-green revolution for sustainable agriculture, and upgrading the Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals.”
The new report was first launched 30 January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and is in many respects the counterpart of the landmark 1987 report by the World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future, better known as the Brundtland report. Just as its predecessor, the new report is a significant contribution to the UN’s work on sustainable development, and will be an important contribution to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.
Science, policy and planetary boundaries
The High-Level Panel’s report repeatedly refers to the Nobel Laureate Symposium and the Stockholm Resilience Centre and SEI-led research on planetary boundaries, and calls for “strengthening the interface between scientists and policymakers” – topics that were at the core of the discussions at the Symposium:
“We must define, through science, what scientists refer to as ‘planetary boundaries’, ‘environmental thresholds’ and ‘tipping points’.”
Bringing disparate knowledge together
The report makes a total of 56 recommendations and calls for “bold global efforts” in order to obtain sustainable development.
The report calls for a new global sustainable development outlook report to bring together often disparate knowledge on issues such as climate change, development, energy, food and agriculture, health, and water. The panel suggests that the first edition of the report should explore the ways in which the nexus of issues connecting energy, food and water can be harnessed to create a sustainable agriculture revolution. This is a topic of ongoing research at SEI, based on a seminal report launched at the end of 2011.
The Panel, established by the Secretary-General in August 2010 to formulate a new blueprint for sustainable development and low-carbon prosperity, was co-chaired by Finnish President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacob Zuma.
The panel, including ministers from Australia, Brazil, India and Sweden, also suggests a science advisory board or a chief scientific advisor to the UN Secretary-General.