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UN Conference on Sustainable Development

Volume 540: debated on Thursday 9 February 2012

I would like to update the House on preparations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio plus 20, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 20-22 June this year. It follows directly on from the G20 summit in Los Cabos.

Rio plus 20 has two major themes: the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development.

The UN’s negotiating text, entitled “The Future We Want”, was published on 10 January. It is based on over 250 contributions submitted by member states and stakeholders. The UK welcomes this document as a starting point, but would like to see further prioritisation and a focus on tangible actions. The UK will call for:

A clear political declaration that we need green growth; that development, the environment, and the economy are inextricably linked; and that we need to consider all three together for our future prosperity.

Sustainable development goals (SDGs) to drive international action and increase co-operation in key sectors such as agriculture, water and energy. SDGs should not and cannot distract attention away from achieving the millennium development goals (MDGs) by 2015. The UK remains firmly committed to delivering these goals. We must work towards a clear position beyond 2015 which builds on the millennium development goals, in which sustainable development goals could play an important part. This is a priority for the UK and an area in which we will take the lead with international colleagues.

Action in key sectors for green growth: supporting international initiatives to drive sustainable growth in agriculture, sustainable energy access, water, and forestry.

Tangible outcomes that will put sustainability at the heart of decision making and support all countries in efforts to move to a more sustainable growth path. Governments can and must provide the framework for green growth, through reducing or removing environmentally harmful subsidies, getting price signals right, standards and voluntary approaches, valuing natural resources, developing indicators of green growth. We will also be calling for Governments to take steps to measure and account for their natural and social capital, in addition to GDP.

A clear focus on the private sector as drivers of green growth, through trade, innovation and investment. Rio should drive uptake of sustainable business practices—in particular transparent and coherent sustainability reporting, and resource efficiency.

Recommendations for institutional reform which draw on the Prime Minister’s global governance report for G20. Greater coherence, efficiency, and improved co-ordination are needed to deliver better outcomes at a lower cost. The UK supports a collective focus on interrelated issues and shared goals.

I will continue the dialogue with the private sector and civil society over the coming months, and will press for action on these priorities within the EU as well as internationally. I will keep Parliament updated on progress as the negotiations evolve.