Britain should be playing a leading role in helping green the world
Later this month politicians, campaigners and business leaders from around the world will gather in Brazil to discuss the green economy and sustainable development. The Rio plus 20 Summit will be the biggest global gathering on sustainable development since the first Earth Summit in Rio twenty years ago. We need development that is environmental, socially and economically sustainable. The original Rio declaration in 1992 set out important goals to eradicate poverty, reduce unsustainable production and to protect the world’s ecosystems. But the 20 years since Rio have seen the challenges posed by climate change, and over-exploitation of natural resources remain, and in many cases, get worse.
With Britain in recession and the economy flat-lining some will ask why sustainable development is being discussed at all. But in these tough times, it is important that our government takes a leading role in helping shape the new green economy and the world around us. Rising energy prices, higher food bills and changing weather patterns are all inter-linked. If the wheat crop fails in Russia, bread prices rise in the UK. That is why the British government should be playing a leading role in helping shape the future of our planet.
Before Ministers jet off to Rio, however, they should remember that sustainable development starts at home. And here they have some tough questions to answer. The UK must diversify its economy at home to drive green growth by investing in clean energy and lead the way in green technology and recycling waste. The Government claims it is ambitious for change, however with the forest sell-off and a stalemate on carbon reporting, indifference to growing food and rural poverty at home, this ambition has not been matched by domestic action. We need an ambitious government that wants to lead the world on sustainable development, eradicating poverty and creating the green jobs and industries of the future. Instead we have a Government that is out of touch with anyone who cares about sustainable development.
Despite this, there is an appetite for change. The last Labour government passed the landmark Climate Change Act setting a target to reduce our carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. The growth in fair trade products available on supermarket shelves, and the number of local churches and faith groups campaigning for environmental justice as a key plank of social justice, area a sign that change is possible. Last year, over 600,000 people signed the petition against the Government’s plans to sell-off our public forests. We have a long legacy of supporting international development and campaigning to protect our natural environment. The government should seize the opportunity to help create sustainable jobs and growth in low carbon and environmental industries. Yet we have a Tory-led Government ideologically wedded to a failed economic approach and a Chancellor that sees the environment as a barrier to growth.
Rio+20 represents a real chance to chart a path to a safer, greener fairer economy, particularly for the world’s poorest. The government is ignoring the voice of businesses who want regulatory certainty and is bowing to the Treasury’s anti-environment, anti-regulatory rhetoric. The Government has said that Rio+20 has to be a workshop not a talking shop. To have credibility, it isn’t enough to talk the talk on the world stage; they have to walk the walk, back home.