EC presents policy orientations for the Rio+20 Conference

EU The European Commission adopted a Communication preparing the ground for the EU’s position at the Rio+20 UN Sustainable Development Conference, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

The Communication outlines objectives and specific actions on the two inter-linked themes of the Conference: enabling the transition to a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and ensuring better governance for sustainable development.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik and Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs presented the Communication jointly, marking an important link between environment and development.

Janez Potočnik said: “The sustainable management of resources and natural capital is essential, for countries in all stages of development. – and It can be particular opportunity for developing countries as resources and natural capital are fundamentally linked to the efforts to eradicate poverty. To make this happen at a global level we have to start putting in place the right market and regulatory conditions globally. Rio+20 can mark the start of a world-wide transition towards a global green economy.”

Andris Piebalgs added “Developing countries are the first affected by climate change and degradation of the environment. Floods, drought, and earthquakes are the most visible effects. They put at risk the economic and social development we strive to trigger through our assistance. Rio+20 is the opportunity to secure political commitment to improve the well-being of millions of people. We need to shift towards a green economy that will help us achieve sustainable growth which benefit to all citizens. “

The Communication maps out the “what, how and who” of a transition to a green economy, proposing specific actions that could be implemented at the international, national and regional levels. The key themes are:

1. Investing in key resources and natural capital (“what”): these are: water, renewable energy, marine resources, biodiversity and ecosystem services, sustainable agriculture, forests, waste and recycling. These areas underpin millions of livelihoods and can help alleviate poverty. They could become areas for future economic growth and global markets.

2. Combining market and regulatory instruments (“how”): eco-taxes, removing environmentally harmful subsidies, mobilising public and private financial resources, investing in skills and green jobs. Indicators that reflect a wider sense of progress (both environmental and social), and that can work alongside GDP, need to be developed.

3. Improving governance and encouraging private sector involvement (“who”): reinforcing and streamlining the existing international governance structures (for example by upgrading the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)). The much greater involvement and engagement of businesses and civil society is also essential.

Today’s Communication lays the basis for further dialogue between the Commission, Council and Parliament, civil society, business, and countries in the lead up to Rio+20. A consolidated EU position needs to be submitted to the UN by 1st November 2011.

Next Steps

On the basis of this Communication, the Commission will work together with Council and Parliament to build a consistent EU position that will contribute to an ambitious Rio+20 outcome with concrete policies and actions for greening the economy.


Two decades after the first ‘Earth Summit’ in 1992, although good progress has been made as regards poverty eradication and environmental degradation, considerable global challenges remain. Several of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are severely off-track. Roughly 1.4 billion people still live in extreme poverty and one sixth of the world’s population is undernourished. Natural resources are depleting while global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. Against that backdrop world leaders will meet in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012 for the fourth Earth Summit of this kind, to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Rio UN Conference on Environment and Development and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. Rio+20 will focus on two interlinked themes: the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and the institutional framework for sustainable development.

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