A new paper by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) urges governments to invest in resilience, strengthen local control over natural resources, and apply realistic values to the environment and human wellbeing in order to steer societies onto a more secure path.
The call comes 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.
Action is recommended in three areas: local control, resilience and valutation.
First, evidence shows 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.
Secondly, environmental, economic and social shocks are becoming more common and include climatic extremes, volatile food and fuel prices, and financial instability. Possible solutions are policies that prioritise long-term adaptive capacity, more diverse economic activities, and climate-resilient growth.
Last but not least, true environmental costs and benefits do not appear on balance sheets, and we use GDP to measure development despite knowing that it does not reflect human wellbeing and can mask the unsustainable aspects of growth.
The paper shows how the June meeting in Rio is an opportunity for leaders to agree change in these three areas.
“The environmental, social and financial crises that face us are interconnected, and so are their solutions,” says IIED’s director Camilla Toulmin . “After four decades of research on the links between the environment and development, our institute 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.”