Governments urged to invest in resilience, local control over natural resources

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has challenged governments the world over, to invest in resilience, strengthen local control over natural resources, and apply realistic values to the environment and human wellbeing.

Making the call yesterday, May 22, 2012, IIED, an independent, non-profit research institute working in the field of sustainable development, stated that such investment will enable societies to be steered onto a more secure path.

The call was contained in an eight-page briefing paper titled “A three-point action plan for a fair, sustainable world” published by IIED’s director, Camilla Toulmin, ahead of the Rio+20 conference in Brazil next month, when world leaders will meet to agree ways to tackle the environment and development challenges facing humanity.

In the paper, the Environment and Development institute specifically recommends action in three areas, namely Local Control, Investing in Resilience and Realistic Valuation.

Highlighting on local control, IIED said its recommendation is based on incontrovertible evidence that local control of natural assets is the best way to ensure strong investment in and sustainable use of forests, water, soils and other resources, in ways that create jobs, profits and secure livelihoods in both rural and urban areas.

“When governments recognise the rights and organisations of local communities, they encourage long-term decision-making, and sustainable management of key assets. It’s also a better option for outside investors, since returns need to be balanced to generate long term stable outcomes,” Toulmin says in the paper.

Concerning investment in resilience, the paper indicated that because environmental, economic and social shocks are becoming more common and include climatic extremes, volatile food and fuel prices, and financial instability, governments can build resilience to such shocks with policies that prioritise long-term adaptive capacity, more diverse economic activities, and climate-resilient growth.

According to Camilla Toulmin, “Decentralised energy supplies, new approaches to urban density, inclusive business models, and greater accountability in global institutions, are among the building blocks of resilience to the shocks that tend to hit the poorest and most vulnerable communities hardest.”

Touching on realistic valuation, the paper states that today, true environmental costs and benefits do not appear on balance sheets, while GDP is used to measure development, despite knowing that it does not reflect human wellbeing and can mask the unsustainable aspects of growth.

In response to that, IIED’s director and author of the paper, maintains; “We need to change the way we measure progress and address the market failures that today’s false environmental accounting allows to endure,” adding, “The first and most urgent steps are a significant and rising price on carbon, and an end to fossil fuel subsidies.”

The paper further shows how the June meeting in Rio, which will be the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit – is an opportunity for leaders to agree change in the three areas.

Stressing on the importance of the paper, Toulmin said; “The environmental, social and financial crises that face us are interconnected, and so are their solutions,” disclosing, “After four decades of research on the links between the environment and development, IIED has identified three clear policy shifts that are realistic, achievable and effective ways to reshape our future and create a fair, greener and more secure world.”

IIED is scheduled to present the paper at Fair Ideas, a two-day conference it is hosting in Rio on 16-17 June, 2012, which will have other speakers such as: Isabella Teixeira, Ida Auken, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Lidia Brito, Kevin Urama, Johan Rockstrom, Andrew Mushita, Bihunirwa Medius, Eduardo Braga, Achim Steiner, Rene Castro, Pavan Sukhdev, Ashok Khosla, Camilo Capiberibe, Christian Friis-Bach, Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Fabio Feldmann, Julia Marton-LeFevre, Judith Rodin and Jan McAlpine.

The briefing was prepared in consultation with IIED’s strategy team and includes contributions from a wide range of IIED researchers and other staff.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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