Seven critical issues will be at the forefront of discussions and receive ‘priority attention’ at the upcoming Rio+20 Summit. The broad range of issues on the agenda includes decent jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans and disaster readiness.
With growing calls to move from policies to action, the challenge has been set for all stakeholders – including citizens and the public and private sectors – to help this happen. While significant work is still required to connect the various policies that impact these issues, a lack of real commitment would be detrimental to the success of Rio+20.
Energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity the world faces today. Be it for jobs, security, climate change, food production or increasing incomes, access to energy for all is essential. Sustainable energy is needed for strengthening economies, protecting ecosystems and achieving equity. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is leading a Sustainable Energy for All initiative to ensure universal access to modern energy services, improve efficiency and increase use of renewable sources.
Economic recession has taken a toll on both the quantity and quality of jobs. For the 190 million unemployed, and for over 500 million job seekers over the next 10 years, labour markets are vital not only for the production and generation of wealth, but equally for its distribution. Economic action and social policies to create gainful employment are critical for social cohesion and stability. It’s also crucial that work is geared to the needs of the natural environment. “Green jobs” are positions in agriculture, industry, services and administration that contribute to preserving or restoring the quality of the environment.
Cities are hubs for ideas, commerce, culture, science, productivity, social development and much more. At their best, cities have enabled people to advance socially and economically. However, many challenges exist to maintaining cities in a way that continues to create jobs and prosperity while not straining land and resources. Common city challenges include congestion, lack of funds to provide basic services, a shortage of adequate housing and declining infrastructure. The challenges cities face can be overcome in ways that allow them to continue to thrive and grow, while improving resource use and reducing pollution and poverty.
The challenge for cities and regions in these three areas remains great, but are not insurmountable if partnerships and innovative solutions are found. Are we able to make any progress on ‘green jobs’ when economic policies differ so greatly between countries? When 1 in 5 people still lack access to modern electricity, is green energy accessible enough to improve this? With so many cities facing similar issues in dealing with urbanization while at the same time attempting to become more sustainable, why haven’t we made more progress?