Changing our approach to the environment

16 May 2011

Solar solutions for a family in Mongolia.  A family in Tarialan, Uvs Province, Mongolia, uses a solar panel to generate power for their ger, a traditional Mongolian tent Solar solutions for a family in Mongolia. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Conventional models of development have done and continue to do huge damage to our planet.

Productive soils are being lost to erosion and land degradation; water supplies are increasingly scarce or contaminated; and climate change is a present and pressing reality. 

Business as usual cannot continue. Transformational solutions are needed to put us on a sustainable course, and achieving that will mean turning the old development models on their head.

To start with, gone are the days when clearing the world’s great forests for other land uses can be regarded as synonymous with development. 

Nearly 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from tropical forest degradation and outright deforestation.  Far sighted governments, including those of Indonesia and Norway, are working to tackle climate change by put REDD+ into action - the UN’s collaborative programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries – that  links development gains to forest preservation.

But governments can’t produce the needed results alone. Win-win outcomes need to provide gains for local communities, and the private sector needs to be on board too. 

In Brazil, for example, the soy industry has agreed not to purchase soybeans produced on rainforest lands deforested since 2006. Industry commitments like these, including in innovation, can make a big difference. 

As inclusive and low carbon growth increasingly make better business sense, “business as usual” will not be profitable.

Above all, delivering transformative solutions for our planet will require vision and commitment from all stakeholders and a passionate belief that we can transform living standards while also sustaining our environment. 

Next year is the Rio+20 Summit in Brazil which will see the international community gather as it did at the Earth Summit in 1992, to discuss the future of development and environmental challenges. 

Talk to us: What do you think should be the priorities for the world, including the private sector, in ensuring a more sustainable development model?

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