03.05.2012 - Natural Sciences Sector

State of the Planet under discussion

The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable development (Rio+20) is an opportunity to set a new agenda for a sustainable future. As delegates met in New York for the second round of informal negotiations on the zero drat of the Rio+20 outcome document, a side event was organized on 27 April 2012 to discuss the State of the Planet Declaration, which reflects the key messages emerging from the Planet Under Pressure conference, held on 26-29 March 2012, in London, England.

This event was organized by UNESCO, the International Council for Science (ICSU) and International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), and was moderated by Bedrich Moldan, UNCSD Bureau Member for the Eastern European States Group.

Sybil Seitzinger, Executive Director, IGBP, opened with a keynot address saying that the first State of the Planet Declaration had sober findings. She noted that due to increasing urbanization, future choices and policies will be central to sustainable development success. She highlighted that humanity is living in an era of anthropocene and urged for collaboration and synergistic solutions, as well as a strengthened science-policy interface to solve the sustainability crisis that is currently being faced.

Elizabeth Thompson, Rio+20 Executive Coordinator, noted that many themes discussed at the Planet Under Pressure conference were similar to those mooted for possible sustainable development goals. She said that it is critical for a dialogue between social and political dimentsions to take place. She called for credible solutions at Rio+20 that are underpinned by scientific data.

Gretchen Kalonji, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO, noted that solutions for sustainability should involve the engineering community. She hoped that the final outcomes from Rio+20 would include text on the need for observations. She called for further support for capacity, education and science, and said that while the zero draft of the outcome document for Rio+20 has an increasing emphasis on science based approaches, this must be further emphasized.

Gisbert Glaser, ICSU and Coordinator of Science and Technological Major Group, observed that the problems facing the environment, economics, equity and social justice are intrisincally linked. He advocated for a greater understanding of interconnectedness of natural and socio-economic systems, and policy integration and coherence from the Rio+20 outcomes.

Amb. Jean-Francis Zinsou, Permanent Representative of Benin to the UN, highlighted the need for globalized research, which is results-driven and focuses on the urgent problems that humanity currently faces. He reiterated the call for increased collaboration and suggested that the use of indigenous knowledge be ‘revitalized’ and encouraged its use at the international level. He noted that the current situation requires all of humanity to ‘adjust and adapt’.

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