Working Paper

Green, Fair and Productive: How the 2012 Rio Conference can move the world towards a sustainable economy

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Our shared concern – 20 years after Rio, yet poor progress towards wellbeing

The first Rio Summit in 1992 showed the world that economic security and human wellbeing are fundamentally dependent on environmental goods and services – every person on earth depends upon healthy ecosystems to sustain their lives and livelihoods.

But 20 years on, much economic activity has failed people and the planet. International terms of trade that encourage negative impacts on the environment and people (‘externalities’), perverse incentives, weak legal frameworks and poor labour standards have neutralised many potential development benefits of globalisation. Under the current global economic framework, increased competition – as well as the sheer scale of economic activity – have hurt the environment, workers, consumers and economic stability. On the one hand, poverty has become entrenched, while on the other new problems of unsustainable consumption have escalated. While almost a third of the world’s population struggles to survive on less than US$2 per day, the lifestyles of citizens in wealthy industrialised countries result in an ecological footprint 3 to 5 times greater than the earth’s capacity. Consequently there is inadequate progress towards the wellbeing of all humanity.