June 6, 2012 - The upcoming Rio+20 meeting on the environment could inspire a new generation of leaders to take a greener, longer-term view of development, said World Bank Vice President Rachel Kyte in an online chat in English and Spanish on World Environment Day.
More than 500 people participated in the discussion on what the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro June 20-22 needs to deliver to create a more sustainable world.
Fielding questions from Pakistan, Eritrea, Mexico, Peru and other countries, Kyte said countries need to keep growing to raise living standards and overcome poverty, but they also need to grow greener – something all countries can do, whether they are rich, poor, or somewhere in between.
“...time is our greatest enemy,” said Kyte. But many people in government, industry, and civil society are ready to move forward even without global agreements, she added. “Sector by sector, city by city, region by region we can make progress.”
At Rio, the Bank will strongly advocate that countries follow the lead of Colombia, Costa Rica, Botswana and others that have adopted “natural capital accounting.” The method factors in natural phenomena and environmental “services”—such as storm protection provided by mangrove trees--that are usually invisible in national budgets.
Ten African countries endorsed the need to move to this new system of accounting at the Summit for Sustainability in Africa in May. The Bank hopes 50 countries and 50 companies will join the effort in Rio, Kyte said.
“…We need to be able to take the long term into our thinking, planning and valuation at the heart of our economic decision making,” said Kyte. Natural capital accounting is a key part of the Bank’s new environment strategy released June 5, which aims at helping countries pursue sustainable development pathways and lays out a vision for “a green, clean and resilient world for all.”
Kyte said the Bank will also highlight the Global Partnership for Oceans at Rio. The new alliance convened by the Bank in the spring has set goals to halt or reverse destruction of ocean resources.
“The numbers on the state of the world’s oceans are disturbing,” said Kyte. “Eighty-five % of fish stocks fully exploited, over exploited, or depleted; 35% of costal mangroves lost; 20% of corals damaged or destroyed. This is not a sustainable situation.”
The 1.5 –hour online chat also covered topics including pollution, clean technology, sustainable tourism, governance, enforcement of environmental laws, agriculture’s contribution to green growth, the Bank’s work in indigenous communities, and the need to involve young people in future efforts.
“The youth voice has urgency - appropriate urgency - but also has a perspective of the now and future which is different. We need that perspective,” said Kyte.
Some 50,000 people, including representatives of civil society, indigenous groups, and youth organizations, are expected to attend the Rio gathering, said the Bank’s Chief Economist of Sustainable Development Marianne Fay. She joined Kyte in answering questions in Spanish.
Their voices are important as the world strives for more efficient, cleaner, more durable and more equitable growth, said Fay. One of the main messages of the Bank’s new report on green development is the importance of action at the local level. “Urban planning and urban transport well done ensures a strong local economy, a more integrated labor market, less pollution and less congestion,” Fay said.
The online audience submitted more than 40 questions prior to the event. Kyte said she would answer many more of them in an upcoming blog post.