The EESC debates the 2012 UN conference on sustainable development (Rio+20)

This morning the EESC’s plenary session held a thematic debate on the theme of the EU’s preparatory work for the 2012 Rio+20 conference on sustainable development. The Committee’s guest speakers were the European Commissioner responsible for the Environment, Janez Potocnik, and the Head of the Brazilian Mission to the EU, Ambassador Ricardo Neiva Tavares. The EESC’s President, Staffan Nilsson, has made sustainable development a major pillar of his work programme and is determined to make sure that the voice of organised civil society is heard in this context. Potocnik, who described the Committee as ‘a key link to business, labour and civil society’ was eager for ‘feedback from your depth and breadth of experience’. Moreover, he saw civil society as having ‘an important role as a catalyst’ in the greening of national economies. The Ambassador spoke about two potential developments at Rio: one the setting of Sustainable Development Goals (like the Millenium development Goals) and the other further reflection on measuring growth beyond GDP. Also prominent in the debate were two Committee members, rapporteurs of related opinions on the Flagship Initiative for a Resource-Efficient Europe (part of the Europe 2020 Strategy), Lutz Ribbe (Various Interests Group, Germany) and on Rio+20: towards the green economy and better governance, Hans-Joachim Wilms (Employees’ Group, Germany). The Commissioner’s speech should shortly be available here and deserves to be read. One comment he made stuck in my mind. It used to be said that those who preferred a green lifestyle were ‘opting out’. Now, however, we had to shift to the contrary culture: sustainability had to be mainstream. Given limitations on finite resources and demographic developments there truly is no other way.


  1. Steve

    “Given limitations on finite resources and demographic developments there truly is no alternative.”

    Maybe you should read a few articles/books from Matt Ridley

  2. Martin

    I have read a few, Steve, including this one:

  3. Bruno

    “There is no alternative” – an ideology with a very dodgy pedigree indeed Martin, truly the EU is her heir
    TINA is anti-politics (and of course anti-democracy) what’s the point of voting/contesting something when “given limitations on finite resources and demographic developments there truly is no alternative”?

  4. Martin

    Dear Bruno,

    Touché! I have changed ‘alternative’ to ‘other way’ and thank you for pointing out my intellectual laziness. It is true that TINA is ideologically laden, though I used it unthinkingly (trying to keep the blog up to date in a busy week – weak excuse, I know). However, I maintain the simple underlying point. Put simply, if we rely for our energy on finite resources then, sooner or later, we will, logically, run out. And then what? Presumably, we must switch to ‘another way’. What that should be, how to get there and when seem to me to provide plenty of opportunity for voting and contesting. Meanwhile, TINA is firmly back in her box! (Lunch sometime?)


  5. Bruno

    It’d be great to meet for lunch.
    You’re a gent, but personally, I’m very suspicious of policies that are given the Malthusian imperative of rising population and diminishing resources.
    Resources are finite but our relationship to them through invention, innovation and society is not.
    Demographics and natural limits always seem to me, historically as well, to be about shutting down choices – and are usually, like Malthus, proved to be worng.

  6. Martin

    Touché again. In addition, I am uneasy about how we reformed sinners give solemn warnings against the delights of the sins we have enjoyed so much for so long. I’ll be in touch about lunch (my shout). All the best, Martin

  7. Steve Lindsey

    “Resources are finite” ?

    Known resources maybe, but we moved from wood to coal to oil to nuclear and I’m enough of an optimist to believe we’ll keep on moving forward.

    And please don’t bring George into a serious discussion, he’s not known as Moonbat for nothing

  8. Martin

    There is nothing pessimistic or Malthusian in the post.

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