"The Prime Minister should promise to attend next year's Rio + 20 Earth Summit to show leadership on sustainability and strengthen global political will to tackle the environmental crisis," say MPs on the Commons Environmental Audit Committee in a report published on 26 October 2011.
The report warns that the planet's environmental problems are now much more urgent than at the first Rio Summit in 1992. Safe limits on the amount of waste, pollution and biodiversity loss that natural systems can tolerate continue to be breached – undermining our ability to use natural resources to support further growth.
Speaking on the publication of the report, Joan Walley MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:
"The Rio+20 Earth Summit is a vital chance for world leaders to take action to avert a global environmental crisis. But the financial situation means minds will be focused elsewhere and there is a danger that business-as-usual may end up carrying the day.
The Prime Minister should lead by example. He could make a big difference by demonstrating his commitment to Rio + 20 and letting other world leaders know that he will personally be attending.
Lasting prosperity can only be built on a healthy planet."
UN Conference on Sustainable Development
The forthcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012 – 'Rio+20' – will take place 20 years after the pivotal Earth Summit there. It will focus on the 'green economy' and the relevant UN institutions.
Engagement and discussion between Government and civil society groups, businesses and individuals, about the Summit's objective - to kick-start a renewed commitment to sustainable development – is vital.
The committee calls for that engagement needs to start now, with the Prime Minister announcing that he will attend the Summit. The Government should also appoint a 'special envoy' to engage the public and co-ordinate Government departments' inputs as part of an ongoing process: before, during and after the Summit itself.
Sustainability and consumption goals
The Millennium Development Goals, which aimed to improve the quality of life of some of the world’s poorest people, are unlikely to be met by their 2015 end-date and do not fully capture the sustainability challenges facing the world.
The MPs recommend that new 'Goals' – Sustainability Goals and Consumption Goals – should be agreed at Rio+20, to shift the effort towards the sustainable development and sustainable consumption contributions that the UK and other developed countries now need to make.
Joan Walley MP, Chair of the Committee, said:
"Progress on sustainability only stands a chance if the right targets are set and performance against them is measured. The Government should seek to agree new sustainable consumption goals at Rio+20, to move the focus onto what the UK and other developed countries need to do.
It is simply unfair to expect developing countries to continue to bear the burden of our unsustainable activities. The Government should understand that people everywhere do care about their future environment and want to send a strong and powerful message to world and business leaders that the destruction of the Earth's resources will no longer be tolerated. The preparations and follow up to the Rio Summit give us the opportunity to come together and act, to put the Earth’s finite resources first."