Overcoming Barriers to a Green Economy

by Harsha Yadav

Source: SustainAbility Blog

This year marks two especially significant milestones in sustainable development: the 20th anniversary of the United Nations’ Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the 25th anniversary of the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future.

How far have we come since the concept of sustainable development was elevated to the global policy agenda?

To put it simply, not far enough. The recent—and ongoing—financial crisis has made for a dramatic and challenging backdrop to the Rio+20 Summit to be held in June. The February 2012 UN report by the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, Resilient People, Resilient Planet, clearly points to actions governments should take at Rio+20. Key in our view is the role business will play.

By virtue of its own growing power and the corresponding decline in the ability of many governments to deliver various public goods, business is under rising pressure to lead efforts aimed at systems change. Furthermore, business has started to realize it cannot continue to deliver narrowly on the imperative of shareholder return without wider attention to the systemic conditions that determine and support its long-term success.

Signs of stress are apparent in many of the world’s largest economies. Recent social protests indicate disillusionment with prevailing political and economic systems, reflecting growing distrust in leaders of all stripes. The collective ire is linked to questions about sustainability and survivability.

Humanity is living beyond its natural means. We are in debt to future generations and to the Earth itself.

New Roadmap for Society

Through The Regeneration Project we believe we have the opportunity to create a new kind of roadmap for society – one that clearly marks the way forward for achieving sustainable development within the next generation, focusing on the role of the private sector.

Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, speaks of an ambitious roadmap called Plan B, an alternative to Plan A because “business as usual isn’t an option any longer.” Plan B entails cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2020 (notably 2020, not 2050, the more common yet distant target often associated with this level of emissions reduction), stabilizing population to not more than eight billion people, eradicating poverty, and restoring the economy’s natural support systems, like forests, soils, grasslands, aquifers and fisheries.

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