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Useful Information 4: Topics of Debate

Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR)

The principle of CBDR, formulated at the first Rio Earth Summit, is a point of tension, because its essence states that even though sustainable development is a common goal, developed nations have a higher responsibility due to their higher ecological footprint. Developing nations want to see developed nations take the lead, while developed nations fear an economic disadvantage compared to countries like China and India if the principle of CBDR is taken too far. This section contains publications elaborating on the role of CBDR in the Rio+20 negotiations.

Article “Common but Differentiated Responsibility at Rio+20” published by Stakeholder Forum magazine Outreach.

Since the Kyoto Protocol, arguments over CBDR have been one of the biggest barriers to action on climate change.  Most developing countries have refused to agree to anything which they consider to contravene the CBDR principle.  Some developed countries have refused to take additional commitments to reduce emissions, as they consider these will reduce their ability to compete with rapidly growing developing countries.

News update “Common but differentiated responsibilities’ under threat” published by the Third World Network (TWN), 2012

The US wants all references to CBDR deleted, and in several of the paragraphs concerned, different developed countries support such deletion. The developed countries are generally of the view that no single Rio principle should be singled out. Some can accept selective reference to CBDR.

à Eventually the G77 succeeded in having the CBDR principle highlighted, as opposed to only referring to the Rio principles in general:

15. We reaffirm all the principles of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, including, inter alia, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, as set out in principle 7 of the Rio Declaration.

Valuing Ecosystem Services

Technically, no officially agreed upon definition of Green Economy exists. But the version of a Green Economy proposed at Rio+20 was met with strong criticism for its ‘Natural Capital Declaration’ of integrating ecosystem services into the economy by assigning them monetary value to ensure their protection and valuation. This section is a selection of publications either advocating or criticizing this version of Green Economy.

Publication “The Natural Capital Declaration – Roadmap to Account for Nature for the Financial Industry” published by the UNEP Finance Initiative, Global Canopy Programme, and FGVces.

At present many financial institutions do not sufficiently understand, how to account for and therefore value, the risks and opportunities related to natural capital. This is not surprising. Putting a value let alone a price on the risks that financial institutions are exposed to in relation to their direct or indirect dependency or impact on nature is difficult to say the least. The very concept to some is abhorrent. There is a fear that doing so could lead to the commoditization of biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides being captured by political or financial elites, to the detriment of countries and communities who might own such natural capital. A philosophical view persists, and rightly so, that nature has a ‘right to exist’, and this existence value alone should be enough to argue for its maintenance. The evidence of history says otherwise. […] The financial industry is not alone in mis-valuing nature. Governments, the corporate sector and consumers are largely unaware as to how this loss of natural capital affects their security directly and indirectly at local to global scales.

Publication “Demystifying Materiality – Hardwiring biodiversity and ecosystem services into finance”

This Briefing offers executives:

1. Insight regarding the materiality of BES for a diversified financial sector, by highlighting results from a new UNEP FI survey;

2. Examples of how financial institutions currently embed BES in lending, investment and insurance strategies and products, to enhance risk management, financial performance, stability and future growth;

3. Ways in which a financial institution can competitively position itself to tap into growing environmental markets;

4. Recommendations for how BES can be further hardwired into finance and a vision for how financial institutions may account for BES in 2020.

Article “Rio’s Buzzing About Natural Capital Accounting” published by the World Bank voices blog, 2012.

Only a very short time ago, we were drawing blank looks when we mentioned “natural capital accounting.” This week at Rio, everyone is talking about it. Walls are plastered with flyers about it.  And our event on it yesterday drew such a crowd it was standing-room only. […] The event had its share of unexpected excitement when a protester, wearing a Clegg mask, interrupted the UK deputy prime minister. She was from World Development Movement. Reading their blog later, I think they are missing the point. We are not talking about “pricing” nature but “valuing” it. By valuing it, you are enabling better economic decisions.

Article “World Bank pushes ‘natural capital accounting’ at Rio+20” published by the Climate Connections blog, 2021.

At the heart of the controversy over natural capital valuation is the role that markets are allowed to play in society, and to a larger extent, whether the ecological and social crises resulting from industrial capitalism can be solved through even more capitalism. […] “Instead of expanding the scope of markets to every domain of nature,” states BankTrack, a global coalition tracking private sector investment,  “creating a true green economy would start from the opposite; reversing the tide of commodification and financialization, reducing the role of markets and the financial sector, acknowledging the limits of business versus other spheres of life, and recognizing the collective responsibility of all people for, and strengthening the democratic control over the worlds’ ecological commons.”

Publication “Kari-Oca II declaration” published by the Indiginous Environmental Network, 2012.

We see the goals of UNCSD Rio+20, the “Green Economy” and its premise that the world can only “save” nature by commodifying its life giving and life sustaining capacities as a continuation of the colonialism that Indigenous Peoples and our Mother Earth have faced and resisted for 520 years. The “Green Economy” promises to eradicate poverty but in fact will only favor and respond to multinational enterprises and capitalism.

Article “Green Economy: The New Enemy?” published by the blog Road Logs Rio+20, 2012.

This viewpoint reflects on the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), known as Rio+20, held in June. It looks at, among other things, the reactions to the idea of green economy, one of the conference’s main themes; the role of corporations; and the positioning of equity and justice in the sustainable development agenda.

Article “Green grabbing: the dark side of a green economy” published by the Green Economy Coalition, 2012.

In green economies, economic growth and environmental sustainability are seen to go hand-in-hand, and central to this are new financial values and markets for pieces and aspects of nature. But can nature really be sold to save it? Is this compatible with poverty-reducing sustainable development? Across the world, ecosystems are for sale.

à Eventually the voluntary commitment document called the ‘Natural Capital Declaration’ was signed by banks, investors and 57 countries, but did not appear in the final outcome document

Green Economy Roadmaps

Among the OECD countries, specifically the EU pushed for a Green Economy Roadmap with concrete goals and a timeline. Opposition to this roadmap came largely from the G77 arguing that a universal roadmap is not appropriate for the diverse needs and situations of individual countries. Moreover, global indicators were seen as not applicable to developing countries, poverty eradication as not prioritized enough, and there was a fear of making the achieving of roadmap goals a condition for development aid. This section contains publications outlining what the proposed roadmap looked like and what the main points of contention were.

Briefing Paper “Green Economy Roadmaps” published by the initiative Global Transition, 2012.

Using the submissions to the Rio+20 Zero Draft, this briefing aims to: 1. Provide insight into which groups are engaged with the concept of green economy roadmaps and the roadmap proposals that have been put forward 2. Look at how the discussions around green economy roadmaps in the submissions fit into the Outcome Document

Supporting briefing “Green Economy – what do we mean by Green Economy?” published by the UNEP, 2012.

This briefing aims to provide insights into the EU perspective on and integration of the elements of the green economy concept in its own policy-making.

Policy Brief “Green Economy: Gain or Pain for the Earth’s Poor?” published by IBON International, 2011.

By focusing on “getting the economy right”, proponents of the Green Economy and Green Growth end up getting development wrong. It does not deliver enough on poverty eradication, may likely worsen inequity within and between countries, and does not veer us away from the path to irreversible ecological catastrophe. […]

1. The Green Economy promises growth but not much poverty eradication.

2. The Green Economy favors big business.

3. The Green Economy extends the lifespan of the brown economy.

4. The Green Economy is unlikely to avoid the tipping point in the climate crisis.

5. The Green Economy favors the privatization (enclosure) and commodification of nature.

6. The Green Economy may be used to further constrain policy space in the South.

[…] This approach has its virtues, if only to make a compelling case for countries and industries to either adopt the most urgent environmental reforms or else suffer economic deficits that lead to more crises and social instability. But it is flawed in a fundamental way because it makes capital—not the environment, not people’s rights and needs—still king.

Paper “Bio-Economics” The EU’s real ‘Green Economy’ agenda?” published by the World Development Movement (WDM) and the Transnational Institute (TNI)

Although the ‘Rio+20’ Earth Summit negotiations should be focused on the compelling and intuitively appealing idea of creating an economic process that recognises and respects the planet’s limitations and promotes social and environmental justice, this is not what is on offer in Brazil. Rather, the Rio+20 version of the ‘green economy’ being promoted by countries such as those in the EU is a tantalising mirage, promising a clean green future but likely to deliver a parched and arid reality. […] A close inspection of some government’s proposals concerning the ‘green economy’ agenda being discussed at ‘Rio+20’ reveals an absolute determination to use it as a means of protecting and developing the banking, biotech, manufacturing, agribusiness and energy sectors, even at the expense of vulnerable communities and the environment.

à Eventually the concept of Green Economy was mentioned as “one of the important tools available for achieving sustainable development”, rendering the EU proposal to create a roadmap a failure.

56. We affirm that there are different approaches, visions, models and tools available to each country, in accordance with its national circumstances and priorities, to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions which is our overarching goal. In this regard, we consider green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication as one of the important tools available for achieving sustainable development and that it could provide options for policymaking but should not be a rigid set of rules. […]

58. We affirm that green economy policies in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication should: […] (g) Effectively avoid unwarranted conditionalities on official development assistance (ODA) and finance; […]

62. We encourage each country to consider the implementation of green economy policies in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication […].

Technology Transfer and Assessment

One of the main means of implementation of a Green Economy is the transfer of ‘green technologies’. Developing nations demand a proactive technology transfer funded by developed countries, while developing nations claim to lack financial resources due to the current financial crisis and seek a market-based approach. This section contains publications concerning the assessment of which ‘green technologies’ are worth transferring and the main points of disagreement among the factions.

Paper “Who Will Control the Green Economy? The Case for Technology Assessment at Rio+20” by ETC Group paper – arguments for and against technology assessment and who should assess. Many examples from the past and demands of Rio +20

When governments meet at the Rio+20 environmental summit in Brazil in June 2012, proposals for a new Green Economy based on technology transfer will be high on the agenda… but which technologies… and under whose control?

Article “Green economy: the square ball that negotiators struggle to roll” published by the blog “Earth in Brackets”, 2012.

The EU idea of a green economy road map is a set of commonly accepted guidelines that would be used to achieve commonly agreed goals. […] The G77 is not a fan of this road map for a number of reasons. […] One of the most fundamental reasons is that the idea of commonly agreed targets and goals with the combination of specific commitments resembles too closely the infamous structural reforms that took place (and to a certain extent still do) in the vast majority of developing countries, imposed as a condition of foreign aid.

Publication “Who will control the Green Economy?” by ETC Group.

As governments prepare to sanction a Green Economy at Rio+20, ETC Group provides an update on corporate power and warns that the quest to control biomass will perpetuate the Greed Economy.

News update “G77 and China table new proposal on finance and technology” by the Third World Network (TWN), 2012

The G77 and China, on 15 June, introduced new text on finance in the ‘splinter group’ discussing ‘the means of implementation’ in the informal negotiations of the outcome document for the Rio+20 Conference. […] The importance that the Group placed on resource mobilization was emphasized at that point with news filtering in that the negotiations on the green economy ‘splinter group’ had been suspended when the Group said that it needed to see progress in the means of implementation first.

Article “Rio+20 Earth summit: walkout at ‘green economy’ talks – Negotiators from developing countries insist wealthy nations must help fund their move to sustainable development” by the Guardian, 2012.

Negotiators from developing nations walked out of a core working group on the “green economy” because wealthy countries were refusing to include the transfer of money and technology that might achieve this goal.

Article “A Genuine Green Economy Must Bring Appropriate Technology to the World’s Poor” published by Earth Summit 2012 Stakeholder Forum, 2011.

UNCSD 2012 is focused on “the transition to a green economy.”  At its heart, talk of the “Green Economy” is talk about green technology.  But what counts as a “green” technology?  How would we know a green technology from a brown one, or a grey one?

à Eventually the outcome document encourages technology transfer in general using the vague formulation “on favorable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed”

58. We affirm that green economy policies in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication should: […] (f) Strengthen international cooperation, including the provision of financial resources, capacity-building and technology transfer to developing countries; […]

72. We recognize the critical role of technology as well as the importance of promoting innovation, in particular in developing countries. We invite governments, as appropriate, to create enabling frameworks that foster environmentally sound technology, research and development, and innovation, including in support of green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. […]

73. We emphasize the importance of technology transfer to developing countries and recall the provisions on technology transfer, finance, access to information, and intellectual property rights as agreed in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, in particular its call to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, access to and the development, transfer and diffusion of environmentally sound technologies and corresponding know-how, in particular to developing countries, on favourable terms, including on concessional and preferential terms, as mutually agreed. […]

Trade and Green Protectionism

Part of a Green Economy is to discourage unsustainable products and practices while subsidizing ‘green’ ones. However, this intervention of politics in the economy can easily be a pretense of developed countries for green protectionism, effectively hurting developing countries export possibilities. This section is a selection of publications on what impact a Green Economy has on trade relations, and what the worries of green protectionism are about.

Notes from the Rio+20 workshop “The Trade Dimension of Rio+20: Unpacking the Issues” published by UNCSD, 2012.

Module 1: Addressing global challenges

Module 2: Review of progress implementing Agenda 21 – MEAs and the WTO

Module 3: Trade in a greening global market

Module 4: Promoting green growth and its links with trade

Module 5: Unlocking opportunities at Rio+20

Publication “Caribbean Regional Preparatory Meeting for Rio +20” published by UNCSD, 2012.

The observation was made that in many respects, the Green Economy is not a tested model. Therefore there would be a number of risks and challenges involved in pursuing initiatives grounded in this concept, without further study, research and reflection. Of particular note is the potential for green economy initiatives to be used as green protectionism.  […] Caribbean delegations were of the view that the concept of a Green Economy needs to be clearly defined within the context of Caribbean SIDS and must reflect the Principles of Sustainable Development enshrined in the Rio Declaration, particularly Principle 6.

Article “India tells developed nations to shun ‘green protectionism’” published by Echo of Arunachal, 2012.

[Environment and Forests Minister Jayanthi Natrajan] also cautioned against practising green protectionism (deliberate use of environmental policy initiatives to discriminate against foreign commercial interests) in the name of green economy. Natrajan said the greening of economy has to be directed towards achieving the overriding objectives of sustainable development and eradication of poverty.

Article “[India’s] Prime Minister leaves for G-20, Rio+20 summits on Saturday” published by LiveMint the Wall Street Journal, 2012.

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves for two crucial back-to-back international summits on Saturday, India on Friday cautioned against trade restrictive measures and protectionism in the garb of pushing for green economy norms.

Publication “’Pessimism of Intellect’ or ‘Optimism of Will’? – Sustainable Development and the Role of the State” published by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, 2012.

There is broad agreement that this green economy transition provides opportunities for developing countries to stimulate higher levels of economic growth and to industrialise in a more sustainable manner. […] However, on the other hand, the concept of the green economy and the strategies to promote it are highly contested. For example, there is a view that the green economy, as currently emerging, is dominated heavily by the technology-based offerings of large private, commercial interests and countries that are leaders in technological innovation. Their intention is to reproduce these infra- structure and service delivery schemes as »green« financial products across the world, without addressing the underlying factors that drive high levels of global consumption. […] However, this transition towards a more environmentally- friendly development path also involves risks of »green« protectionism, whereby national measures to mitigate climate change and promote the green economy effectively distorts international production and trade, especially goods and services from developing countries

Publication “Green Economy and Trade opportunities” published by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), and the International Trade Centre (ITC), 2012.

As noted in these previous studies, it is essential that a green economy transition is implemented in a fair, open and transparent manner to mitigate these risks. However, despite these risks, there are also a number of existing and future trade opportunities, which are the focus of this study.

Publication “Trade and Green Economy” published by UNCSD Secretariat and UNCTAD, 2011.

The potential trade risks of a transition to a green economy — protectionism, conditionality, subsidies — are issues of long standing and not unique to the green economy. The urgency of the global challenges which a green economy transformation is intended to address, and the scale of the actions being taken by many countries to build green economies, does however bring renewed focus to these risks.

à Eventually the outcome document condemns practices and subsidies that result in Green Protectionism, but does not give specifics on how this protectionism will be avoided.

58. We affirm that green economy policies in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication should: […] (h) Not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade, avoid unilateral actions to deal with environmental challenges outside the jurisdiction of the importing country, and ensure that environmental measures addressing transboundary or global environmental problems, as far as possible, are based on an international consensus; […]

281. We reaffirm that international trade is an engine for development and sustained economic growth, and also reaffirm the critical role that a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system, as well as meaningful trade liberalization, can play in stimulating economic growth and development worldwide, thereby benefiting all countries at all stages of development, as they advance towards sustainable development. In this context, we remain focused on achieving progress in addressing a set of important issues, such as, inter alia, trade-distorting subsidies and trade in environmental goods and services.