Dr. Henok Wendirad (DVM)

On 20th – 22nd, June 2012, the UNCSD also known as Rio+20 will take place in Rio de Janeiro.  Rio+20 is a key milestone in a series of major United Nations conferences, in which the 1992 Earth Summit, United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, was the pride and joy for its proponents that put sustainable development as a top priority on the agenda of the UN and the international community.

The conference has two themes agreed upon by the member states: Green economy within the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and Securing Institutional framework for sustainable development.

But the issue of climate change and sustainability seems to face a huge obstacle due to a long established system of governance and economy – capitalism. Most experts doubt the achievement of sustainability and climate restoration unless a complete or partial change in the systems of nations is secured.

Capitalism and Sustainability

The twin pillars of the capitalist system – private ownership and free markets – are undergoing a significant shift as a result of the financial meltdown. The days of companies “privatizing the profits” and governments “socializing the losses” seems to have been gone for now. It is no longer business as usual as governments worldwide rewrite the ground-rules.

So for the question “is capitalism sustainable?” the answer would be not the type of capitalism that dominates American and most global economies today. Sustainability ultimately depends upon energy because anything that is useful in sustaining life on earth ultimately relies on energy.

However, capitalism, as we know it today, provides no economic incentives to sustain an environmentally friendly life on earth, The fact that in the past few decades humans in large numbers have abandoned their basic nature as caring beings in pursuit of their narrow, individual self-interests cannot be taken as a mere coincidence with the growth of capitalism over the world.

Schemes of Sustainability

According to the 2011 UN Human Development Report, sustainability is inextricably linked to basic questions of equity — fairness, social justice and greater access to a better quality of life. The report calls for urgent action to slow climate change, prevent further degradation and reduce inequalities, as environmental deterioration threatens to reverse recent progress in human development for the world’s poorest.

To restore sustainability, people must make conscious, purposeful decisions to rely on renewable energy, not just for consumption, but also to rebuild stocks of natural capital for the benefit of future generations.

The sustainability of capitalism is simply too important to be left to the politicians and economists.

Considering these limitation countries are trying to device new strategies in to their system. The UN Environment Program’s Green Economy Report demonstrates that green economies are a new engine of growth, generate decent jobs and are vital to eliminating persistent poverty. Ethiopia is one of the countries with an attempt to tackle two of the basic challenges. Poverty and Climate change. The country had recently devised a new 20 year plan ‘Reduction of Emission and Green Economy’ which ambitiously aims to reach a zero emission level and middle income level within 20 years.

The brighter future

The UNEP’s Green Economy report believes investing just 2% of global GDP  into ten key sectors such as agriculture, energy, fisheries, forests, and water and waste management can kick-start a transition towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy. The report also shows that in a green economy, global demand for energy is projected to be about 40% lower than under a business-as-usual scenario by 2050, thanks to substantial advances in energy efficiency.

The other good thing about the green economy is its equitability. In a transition to a green economy, new jobs will be created, which over time exceeds the losses in “brown economy.” jobs, particularly in the agriculture, buildings, energy, forestry and transport sectors.

So, considering the facts and challenges, shall we expect a better future from this year’s Rio+20?

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