ecostory 12/2006
Developing a New Set of Environment Goals
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This paper was prepared as a contribution to the Geneva Environment Network's World Environment Day 2006 Roundtable: "The Case for Global Environmental Goals", 2 June 2006

In the invitation*) two questions are being asked.
1. Would Global Environmental Goals, loosely modeled on the Millennium Development Goals(ref.), better protect the environment?
2. Or should a whole New Set of Goals be developed?

Asking these questions means admitting that the environment is currently insufficiently protected, in other words, that the world environmental situation is continuing to deteriorate. The following is a concise set of arguments in favour of the development of a new set of goals.

The MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) include socio-economic as well as environmental issues. Society, however, is embedded in the natural environment. In fact, we wholly depend on a sustained natural environment. We can't do without it. But the environment can very well do without us. We wouldn't be the first species that overexploited its environment - only to collapse to pre-growth numbers or to become extinct. That is easy to understand.

More difficult appears understanding that the Earth doesn't care about social distribution. It is the total environmental pressure exerted by humanity that counts. If resource use and pollution is too high, i.e. not sustainable, it does not matter whether environmental pressure is caused by 1 billion rich and 5.5 billion poorer and poorest people or by humanity that equitably shares its resources.
Therefore, social redistribution at unmodified levels of total resource consumption makes no contribution to the goal of environmental sustainability. Recognising this is not easy.

Still more difficult appears the notion that all development is inextricably linked to an increase in resource use. Every single unit of economic growth, and of development for that matter, is expressed in monetary units, each of which represent an equivalent amount of very material resource consumption. Therefore economic growth is aggravating the environmental situation, resource depletion and pollution. This equally counts for so-called "sustainable growth" or "qualitative growth" or whatever growth proponents like to call it.

The present level of humanity's total resource extraction, conversion and consumption is far too high. Total depletion of nature is threatening. Pollution is ever increasing. And the Earth, as we all should know, is finite.

Thus, while socio-economic development goals are nice in principle, there pursuit will increase our environmental plight. And "Global Environmental Goals, loosely modeled on the Millennium Development Goals", will not produce a better protection of the environment.

Instead we must sit back and consider a new approach indeed , a new set of goals, based upon a material analysis, not an economic. Once we recognise that we consume to much we should devise means to reduce production and consumption and simultaneously increase the well-being of people, not their economic wellfare.

We must consider which human activities are unnecessary and constitute a mere waste of resources, often even reducing well-being. Quite generally we can reduce speeds, increase longevity of goods, relocalise production and consumption, convert to bio-agriculture, etc. This, of course, will produce enormous shifts in power, probably from manufacturing to agriculture and from global power to local control.

But whatever methods we choose, the basic requirement for obtaining a sustainable human society is that we abolish the ideology of economic growth and accept that we must reduce and slow down.

Helmut Lubbers, for, Geneva, 1 June 2006.

  • Jeffrey Sachs on saving the world
  • Pascal Lamy - speech at the occasion of environment day 5 June 21010/a>
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    World Environment Day roundtable:
    The case for Global Environmental Goals
    Friday, 2 June 2006, 10:00 ö 12:00
    International Environment House I, Meeting Room 3
    Would Global Environmental Goals loosely modeled on the Millennium Development Goals better protect the environment? Supporters of this idea argue that ćGEGsä would raise the visibility of environmental issues and secure greater political commitment. The criteria and indicators used for measuring implementation would make it possible to chart progress and energize efforts when targets risk not being met.
    One approach to developing GEGs would be to repackage and render explicit existing treaty commitments on climate change, biodiversity, chemicals and so on. Another would be to develop a whole new set of goals. Which might work best?
    Todayās roundtable will explore the Global Environmental Goals concept in greater detail and consider whether it could indeed offer added value.
    9.30 Coffee
    10:00 Welcome and introduction by the moderator, Frits Schlingemann, Director and Regional Representative for Europe, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
    10.10 Presentations by the panel members:
    š Dr. Claude Martin, former Director General of WWF International
    š Amb. , Head, International Affairs Division, Federal Office for the Environment of the Swiss Confederation
    š Hilary French, Senior Advisor for Programs, Worldwatch Institute, Washington, D.C.
    š Jean Fabre, Director in charge of communications, UNDP Geneva
    11.00 Discussion with panelists and participants
    11.50 Wrap-up by the moderator
    12.00 End
    Millennium Development Goals Reference: Source:
    About the MDGs: Basics
    What are the Millennium Development Goals?
    The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight goals to be achieved by 2015 that respond to the world's main development challenges. The MDGs are drawn from the actions and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration that was adopted by 189 nations-and signed by 147 heads of state and governments during the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000.
    The 8 MDGs break down into 18 quantifiable targets that are measured by 48 indicators. Click here for a full list of Goals, Targets and Indicators
    Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
    Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
    Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
    Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
    Goal 5: Improve maternal health
    Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
    Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
    Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development
    The MDGs synthesise, in a single package, many of the most important commitments made separately at the international conferences and summits of the 1990s; recognise explicitly the interdependence between growth, poverty reduction and sustainable development;
    acknowledge that development rests on the foundations of democratic governance, the rule of law, respect for human rights and peace and security;
    are based on time-bound and measurable targets accompanied by indicators for monitoring progress; and bring together, in the eighth Goal, the responsibilities of developing countries with those of developed countries, founded on a global partnership endorsed at the International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico in 2002, and again at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in August 2003.
    Implementation of the MDGs In 2001, in response to the world leaders' request, UN Secretary General presented the Road Map Towards the Implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration, an integrated and comprehensive overview of the situation, outlining potential strategies for action designed to meet the goals and commitments of the Millennium Declaration. The road map has been followed up since then with annual reports. In 2002, the annual report focused on progress made in the prevention of armed conflict and the treatment and prevention of diseases, including HIV/AIDS and Malaria. In 2003, emphasis was placed on strategies for development and strategies for sustainable development. In 2004, it was on bridging the digital divide and curbing transnational crime. Click here to view the UN Secretary General's Reports In 2005, the Secretary-General prepared the first comprehensive five-yearly report on progress toward achieving the MDGs The report reviews the implementation of decisions taken at the international conferences and special sessions on the least developed countries, progress on HIV/AIDS and financing for development and sustainable development.
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