"France is aware of its European and global responsibility, and... will commit in the five years to come, to be, not only a leading and moralizing country, but an actor country". "France must show the example". Mr. François Hollande, President of the Republic, on 8 June 2012.
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Our Common Future – Brundtland Report, Chapter 2
France welcomes the decisions adopted by the first universal session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Program, which ended on February 22 in Nairobi (Kenya).
These decisions translate into concrete terms the commitment made at the Rio+20 Summit to strengthen and raise the profile of the United Nations Environment Program within the UN system, championed in particular by France, the EU, the African Union and numerous Asian and Latin American countries.
The proposal to rename the former governing council “UN Environment Assembly” reflects the determination to ensure that the UN Environment Program serves as the body that will provide leadership and coordination within the UN system.
The goal is also to make the environmental pillar of the UN a model of democracy and openness to civil society by ensuring that it is fully involved in the development of policies and the conduct of various levels of discussions.
These decisions mark a major step toward the eventual creation of a world environment organization, which remains France’s ultimate objective.
The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) or “Rio+20” is part of a series of almost 40 years of international conferences devoted to the environment.
A. The UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm (1972)
The Stockholm Conference, which marked the emergence of international awareness of ecological issues, led to the declaration of 26 principles and a comprehensive plan of action to combat pollution.
This conference led to the creation of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the organization responsible for international cooperation in the environmental field.
The “Our Common Future” report published in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development – chaired by the former Norwegian minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland – provided the basis for the 1992 Rio Conference. This report popularized the expression “sustainable development” and notably gave us the commonly accepted definition of the concept:
Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Two concepts are inherent to this notion:
The concept of “needs”, and more particularly the essential needs of the most vulnerable, to whom it is agreed the greatest priority must be given, and
The notion of the limits imposed by the present state of our technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet current and future needs.
20 years after the Stockholm Conference, the first Earth Summit put environmental challenges on the international agenda for the first time. With the participation of around 100 heads of State and government and more than 1,500 NGOs, this summit introduced the theme of sustainable development for the first time at this world gathering of civil society representatives and world leaders.
The first Rio Conference led to the adoption of a 40-chapter action plan, Agenda 21, listing the commitments made by the Member States with respect to sustainable development for the 21st century.
At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (2002), the Member States reaffirmed their commitments in support of sustainable development and a strengthened partnership between the North and the South.
D. The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) or “Rio+20
In December 2009, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/64/236) on the holding of a UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in Brazil in 2012.
In December 2010, Mr. Brice Lalonde, former Environment Minister of France, and Ms. Elizabeth Thompson, former Environment Minister of Barbados, were appointed as UN coordinators for Sustainable Development by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. They helped the Secretary-General in the preparation of the 2012 Conference.
20 years after the first “Earth Summit” the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, which took place from 20 to 22 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, representing a unique opportunity for individual States in an interdependent world to reaffirm their political commitments in support of economic policies that are more sensitive to international environmental concerns.
In resolution A/RES/64/236, the UN General Assembly indicated that the primary objective of the Conference was to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, to assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development and to address new and emerging challenges.”
During the conference, debates focused on two key themes: the implementation of an environmentally responsible “green economy” aimed at eliminating extreme poverty around the world and strengthening the institutional framework for sustainable development.
The States seized the opportunity of the Rio+20 Conference to assess the implementation of Agenda 21 in order to improve its action and to reflect on a post-2015 framework for action.
The States attempted to jointly address the problems encountered in implementing certain objectives. A great deal of progress has already been made before this conference, notably in terms of access to scientific information and raising public awareness of the environmental cause. Although there has been major progress with respect to the Millennium Development Goals in recent years, global disparities remain a concern. 1.4 billion people still live in conditions of extreme poverty and almost 15% of the population suffers from malnutrition. The recent economic crisis and the increase in the price of raw materials have contributed to an increase in the number of people living in poverty. Lastly, access to raw materials is a growing problem: almost 30% of the population could be directly affected by water scarcity by 2025.
A. The green economy in the context of sustainable development and the elimination of poverty
The debate on the green economy concept allowed us to envisage a new model of economic growth, generating growth that will create jobs through substantial investments in sustainable development in order to eliminate extreme poverty over the long term. Given that the world population continues to expand (projection for 2050: 9 billion) it wasn’t so much a question of slowing growth down but rather promoting better growth. This new type of inclusive economic growth would, above all, depend on more efficient use of natural resources and the use of low-carbon solutions.
It therefore appeared essential to consider strengthened global policies in relation to water, agriculture, forests and waste management, in order to mobilize the private and public sectors, raise public awareness and provide an appropriate platform in order to meet these challenges.
The Rio Conference stressed the need to create new “decent” jobs, i.e. jobs that are guaranteed in terms of labor law, social protection and social inclusion, especially for young people who are most affected by unemployment.
Establishing a green economy also means taking new indicators into account, as anticipated by Agenda 21, allowing us, along with the traditional GDP measures, to better gauge the state of the environment, natural heritage, quality of life and well-being of the populations. The implementation of such indicators - which remains inadequate - was reaffirmed.
B. Strengthening the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development (IFSD)
Strengthening the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development appeared to be complementary to the establishment of a new form of consumption and development. The objectives could only be achieved through improved coordination among international actors, and a more clearly defined role for international organizations.
In the final document of the Rio Conference, "the Future we want", the Member States therefore reaffirmed their willingness to address the shortcomings of the current governance structures, in particular:
— Institutional fragmentation which prevents any coordinated action;
— Inadequate monitoring of the commitments undertaken with respect to sustainable development policies;
— A lack of human and financial resources to implement the commitments undertaken.
— Poor coordination of global economic governance, requiring the redefinition of the role of international financial institutions (WB, IMF), the World Trade Organization and the International Labor Organization in terms of implementing a green economy.
— Lack of emphasis on non-State actors, “key groups ” within the framework of Agenda 21 as well as with respect to the implementation of the Johannesburg Conference.
Coherent governance structures that are complementary at the international level are crucial to the implementation of a truly global environmental protection policy. In light of the cross-cutting nature of the issue of the environment, this governance must be an integral part of the UN system’s economic, social and environmental activities. This process will require continued efforts within the framework of the “Delivering as One” initiative, thus strengthening the coherence of UN policies in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment.
During a joint press conference on 31 January 2012, Mr Alain Juppé, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, and Ms Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Minister of the Environment, Sustainable Development, Transportation and Housing, discussed with the participants the modalities of a new environmental governance system. They seized this opportunity to reaffirm their determination to establish, following the conference, a true World Environmental Organization, the only way to effectively monitor the implementation of the commitments undertaken, and to ensure that conflicts over resources do not result in a situation of survival of the fittest.
— At the Council meeting which took place from 1 to 2 March 2012, the European heads of State and government were keen to express their firm desire to achieve an ambitious outcome at the UN Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. They called for strong private sector and civil society participation in the Conference.
— On 9 March 2012, the European environment ministers reaffirmed the EU’s determination to strengthen “international environmental governance” by transforming the UNEP into a specialized agency of the UN in the field of the environment.
— The green economy is central to the French government’s policies, whether at the national level though the “Grenelle de l’Environnement” which provides a road map for sustainable planning and development or the “Energy-Climate” packet adopted under French presidency of the European Union Council. (See our file on Climate Change negotiations).
A commission on the new indicators of economic performance was tasked by President Sarkozy to launch a process of reflection on sustainable development. The report issued, known as the Stiglitz Report, questions the dominant position of GDP and what this indicator measures: production and the accumulation of assets, and encourages the implementation of new measures of growth.
8 November 2012 - Second commission - « Sustainable development » - Statement by Mr. Martin Briens, Chargé d’affaires a.i. of the French Mission(In French)
8 April 2010 - "From Copenhagen to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012: Which Global environmental governance for Sustainable Development?"- Statement by Mrs. Chantal Jouanno, Minister of State responsible for Ecology (In French)
19 June 2012 - UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) - Rio de Janeiro - Final outcome
24 December 2009- Resolution of the General Assembly (A/RES/64/236)