Prominent economist Dr Jeffrey Sachs has urged civil society and private sector not to wait for their governments in setting new goals for sustainable development.
Speaking at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Sachs said sustainable development goals need to follow the example set by the Millennium Development Goals twelve years ago.
“These goals motivated governments by inspiring a generation around the world to fight poverty,” said Sachs.
“Civil society and private sector need to coalesce around goals set by us and set the example for governments.”
“Eventually our leaders will be followers.”
Sachs was critical of the progress on sustainable development made since the first Rio conference in 1992.
The treaties and decisions made in 1992 were still impressive, said Sachs, but despite so much changing since then, “little has changed.”
“The loss of biodiversity is stark, pervasive and terrifying,” said Sachs.
In this “grim reality”, the world needs to be “guided by shared commitment, guidelines, milestones” set by civil society and the private sector.
“The treaties [of 1992] didn’t work because they weren’t implemented… Signing things don’t work because societies are not organised around them,” said Sachs, urging participants at Rio+20 to lead the way by preparing societies for the changes required.
Sachs was also critical of the UNFCCC negotiations on climate change, the US Republican party’s stance on the environment and the US Congress, which he said was “virtually ruled by the oil industry”.
By Tim Hall, photo by Linh Do.