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Sustainable targets

Member countries should be able to meet targets set by the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD)

By Aoun Sahi

Brazil is hosting the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), also known as Rio+20 Conference, in Rio on 20-22 June 2012. The objective of the conference is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges.

Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development are the two main themes of the conference. Head of states of more than 130 are expected to attend the conference.

The conference will be preceded by a sustainable development dialogue comprising high level debates on food and nutritional security, sustainable development for fighting poverty, sustainable development as an answer to the economic and financial crisis, the economics of sustainable development, including sustainable consumption and production, sustainable cities, unemployment, sustainable energy for all, water, oceans and forests.

It is being considered the most important conference in the last two decades. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has already termed conference as one of the most important conferences in the history of the United Nations and ‘a once-in-a-generation opportunity to gear the world on sustainable development path.’

The global preparatory process for the UNCSD is spearheaded by a 16 member Bureau comprising representatives of all the regions and facilitated by a secretariat hosted by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). It comprised two sessions of the preparatory Committee (PREPCOM) in 2010 and 2011 and several inter sessional meetings of the PREPCOM and numerous informal meetings of senior government officials, joined by representatives of non state sectors.

Scores of studies and meetings on the two major themes as well as the new and emerging challenges facing the world have informed the inter governmental discussions. Since early 2012, representatives of states and the non state sector and civil society have been discussing and negotiating a document titled, ‘The World We Want’, the zero draft spelling out the proposed outcome of the UNCSD/Rio+20 Conference proposed by the co-chairs of the Bureau on the basis of inputs provided by member states and civil society.

Pakistan submitted its input for compilation of document of UNCSD ‘The World We Want’ in November 2011, fully supporting multilateral efforts at promoting a global sustainable development agenda. “In our view, the three pillars of sustainable development: social progress, environmental protection and economic growth should be dealt with in a balanced manner.

Pakistan assigns priority to economic development that is critical for the eradication of poverty and hunger that plagues a majority of the developing countries, including Pakistan. We, therefore, believe that sustainable development is an approach that should offer win-win solutions for all,” reads the input draft.

Pakistan, according to its official stance, recognises that green economy is a still evolving concept and that global consensus will hinge on clarity of the end product and the process to achieve it. “The concept of green economy should be in conformity with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

Green economy cannot and should not entail a “one-size-fits-all” approach rather it should acknowledge country-specific conditions, including external impacts and promote customised solutions. GE should also aim to promote sustainable patterns of production and consumption while ensuring well being of the people. In sum, countries should voluntarily evolve an approach to green economy best suited to their domestic circumstances”, reads Pakistan’s input on zero draft.

Pakistan expects that all countries should pledge to undertake reforming the global and national economic architecture with a view to ensuring effective implementation of sustainable development. “A definitive plan for ensuring provision of sustainable energy for all should be agreed to with a particular emphasis on the availability, access and diffusion of necessary technology. In this regard, Pakistan would welcome energy related targets provided they are agreed to with means of implementation, include a commitment by the developed countries to deliver on pledges made in the area of capacity building, technology transfer and climate change financing/development assistance”, reads the expectation part of Pakistan’s draft.

Pakistan has been participating in the preparatory process of the UNCSD/Rio+20 Conference as a member of the Bureau driving the preparations and an active member of the G 77 and China. The Pakistan delegation at the Summit will be led by the Prime Minister and five Ministers, including Rana Farooq Ahmed Saeed Khan, Minister for Climate Change along with environmental experts.

Pakistan has taken a number of decisions on sustainable development like adoption of the Economic Growth Strategy 2011, approval of plans of action on maximizing energy efficiency and developing renewable source of energy, the approval of a Climate Change Policy and the creation of a Ministry of Climate Change and launching of an ambitious programme of hydropower generation.

But the situation on the ground has not changed. At present, Pakistan is not producing more than 15 megawatts of electricity from renewable energy sources while its share of hydropower has decreased to less than 25 percent from 50 percent in our energy mix.

The projected per capita water availability in Pakistan is less than 600 cubic meters in 2025 from more than 2000 cubic meters in 1947. Pakistan’s water productivity in agriculture sector is among the least in the world. Pakistan uses its 90 percent of water resources in agriculture sector. It produces around 0.4 tons of wheat per cubic meter of water while less than 0.3 tons of maze with same quantity of water. India produces around 0.9 tons of wheat with same water while Argentina produces 2.5 tons maze with same quantity of water.

Pakistan has played a leading role in Rio earth conference held in 1992. It was one of the first countries to prepare and present National Conservation Strategy (NCS) in 1992 but the follow-up on the issue was as usual slow. It has not finalised the National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS). It is in the pipeline since 2004-05.

Pakistan has also prepared two drafts of NSDS after consultations held in 2006 and then again in 2009 but without finalizing them. It has not submitted a country situation report as well. Some officials from the ministry of climate change are hopeful that Pakistan would be able to launch NSDS at Rio+20.

The Ministry of Climate Change, the One-UN Joint Programme on Environment, SDPI, LEAD Pakistan and Heinrich Boll Stiftung organised The National Consultation on Green Economy last month. The main objective of the consultation was to review the preparations for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to be hosted by Brazil in Rio on June 20-22 and likely to be attended by more than 130 heads of state, delegates representing the UN, and media, etc.

The delegates deliberated on a set of considerations for the Pakistani delegation for the forthcoming Rio+20 Summit as well as ideas for consideration by all stakeholders after the Summit in order to accelerate the achievement of sustainable development and poverty eradication in Pakistan.

There was, though, appreciation for the adoption of new policies, establishment of new institutions, enactment of new laws and regulations, conclusion of new international agreements, and investments in human and institutional capacities.

However, there was also the expression of concern at the low pace of implementation and the slow pace of transition towards sustainable development in Pakistan. The inability to manage the environment imposes huge and potentially catastrophic costs on the national economy and society.

Participants emphasised that green economy should be integrated and bind the three pillars — social equity, economic prosperity, and environmental conservation of sustainable development.

A set of recommendations prepared by participants on sustainable development and green economy were shared with the government, UN and civil society organistaion with a hope that they would be considered seriously in NSDS and other policy-making decisions. The Pakistan government should see these considerations seriously instead of making them part of policies and not implementing them.

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