On behalf of all the young people who have passed through the programmes of Peace Child International these last 30 years, doing work to promote peace, the end of the Cold War, and delivery on the promises of the Rio Earth Summit promise of sustainability, I call on governments to recognize the Rio 2012 as a Watershed moment: the moment when we kiss good bye to the Brown Economy that has cleverly built the unsustainable civilization we inhabit at the moment – and greet the dawn of the clean, Green sustainable Economy in which our children and their descendants must live if there is to be a chance for Humanity to survive beyond the end of the current century.
It is also the moment when we recognize that, in order to survive, we must lay the foundations of Global Environmental Governance and kiss goodbye to the sanctity of the nation state to which we have clung, often perversely, these last 66 years.
In order to achieve a smooth transition to the Green Economy, the UN must, on behalf of the “future generations” in whose name it was founded, persuade, cajole, and insist that its member states take action, by 2017, to -
1. Abandon Perverse Subsidies: A Green Economy is one that does not subsidise brown economy measures. Governments must take steps to phase out all subsidies on unsustainable practices NOW ( - a good time to think about it when many western, high consuming governments are close to bankrupt: always a good time to ask them to stop paying subsidies to unsustainable sectors of the business landscape.)
2. Introduce High Taxes on unsustainable Consumption and production practices. Make it cheaper for citizens of every UN member state to live sustainably. For example, when petrol is €10 a litre – and 5th generation algae biofuel is €2 a litre, the public will go ‘green / renewable’ in a heartbeat. Argue the wisdom of the ‘Double Dividend’ of green taxation: if taxes are levied on environmentally harmful goods and services, the funds can be used to reduce the tax burden on activities we want to encourage, such as employment and green investment.
3. Accelerate the transition to a Post-Carbon energy infrastructure – with massive and immediate government and private investment in schemes that build the solar-hydrogen energy infrastructure. The World Bank has calculated that this $43 trillion dollar project has to be completed within the lifetimes of the generation now passing through our secondary schools. It has to be started now – and planned, year-on-year for a total fossil fuel phase out by, if possible, 2025 – anyway 2050.
4. Deliver Education for the Green Economy: As Agenda 21 promised in Chapter 36, Education must be ‘re-oriented to deliver sustainable development.’ Any agreement reached at Rio+20 must commit to re-orienting education to prepare young citizens to help construct, and operate, a green economy. Current curricula, has barely been updated for over 200 years. Anywhere in the world, a child is likely to emerge from a traditional education with a much better knowledge of the challenges of the last 200 years than the challenges that s/he will face in the next 50. That must change: education has to have its heart the embedding of values of sustainability – knowledge and experiential learning about the construction and operation of a Green Economy, and the values inherent in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UNEP’s Charter for Nature and other excellent UN-generated agreements and conventions.
5. Promote Youth Green Entrepreneurship – a green economy is one that encourages green business innovations, especially in developing countries where young people must be taught not only how to seek a job, but how to create ten jobs. Youth must be encouraged to be entrepreneurial at every level, from no cost social enterprise to low cost SME start-ups on up to vast, transnational eco-innovative schemes. Training and education must inform every young person about the detail of the Green Economy: what it is, how to achieve it, the consequences of not achieving it, the win-win-win-win benefits of fully achieving it. It must teach green entrepreneurship and train, equip and support students, experientially (through the practical setting up of small green companies) - to develop SMEs that contribute sound building blocks of a Green Economy. In this way, students will graduate from High Schools, not just with a paper certificate, but with a fully operational small business that will provide the student manager, and some colleagues, with decent, green jobs. [PCI’s GEEBIZ contest offers a model that should be continued year-on-year to encourage the world’s youth to compete to deliver the most innovative building blocks of the Green Economy.]
6. Create Fair & Inclusive Indicators: We need a new measure of national environmental, social and economic well-being that goes beyond GDP: something that values intergenerational justice and human well-being: an indicator that measures and prices all human and environmental inputs and outputs; that measures the abundance – or lack of – Choices available to human beings young and old;
7. Enable Fair Trade: genuine equitable trade that supports import substitution, job-creating growth and a measure of autonomy for infant economies that allow them to grow.
8. Accelerate the fight against corruption: corruption is a cancer that gnaws at the sustainability of all societies. We would like governments meeting in Rio to declare that a Green Economy is a corruption-free economy with the integrity to deliver enough for everyone’s need but which does not seek to meet everyone’s greed.
9. Protect Natural Resources: In the same way that National Parks Services protect wilderness areas and areas of outstanding natural beauty, so the UN must administer ‘International Park Services’ – so that environmental resources that have cash value to economies, especially the poorest members of such economies, are protected from exploitation by national and international organizations.
10. Create New Institutions of Governance: The institutions of governance that brought us through the last millennium are not equipped to bring us through the next. So – our generation must start the move from national to universal human security: if not world government – at least a form of government that puts global, collective interests ahead of national self-interests. This should start with the following incremental steps:
• A re-organised UN Environment Organisation or Programme that brings the administration / negotiation of all MEAs under one roof;
• While reforming the UN, governments should act to strengthen the service to youth by UN institutions by doing for Youth what they did in 2010 for Women: appoint an A-S-G to champion the needs of Youth across the UN system, and draw together in a single office, UN YOUTH, all the activities relating to young people currently carried out by the different agencies and departments – to avoid duplication and maximize synergies.
• The introduction of global taxes administered by the Bretton Woods institutions on behalf of the international community to raise funds and eliminate extremes of poverty by providing a global welfare safety net administered by the UN Agencies delivering as one. These might include a financial transaction tax, a tax on the use of eco-system resources (air, sea, water, forests, biodiversity etc.), and a tax on the use of dwindling fossil fuel resources.
• Set up an International Court for the Environment – or some kind of judicial body that can prosecute governments, individuals and corporations that break private, national or international environmental agreements, so that, not only does the polluter pay – the polluter can be punished and locked up if s/he does not pay the fine;
• A rapid reaction force that can be deployed quickly to restore peace between warring factions in both civil and cross-border conflicts. Such a force needs to be skilled in the arts of conflict-transformation and peace-building as well as peace-making and peace-keeping.
• A Security Council agenda to accelerate resolution of the world’s remaining territorial flashpoints: young people in Model UNs around the world regularly resolve the outstanding issues in Cyprus, Kashmir, Western Sahara, the Kirile Islands, Nagorno-Karabakh and Israel-Palestine: it is time that the real UN Security Council use its powers of sanction and boycott to deliver solutions to these long-standing disputes that scar our world.
11. Promote Peace and De-Militarisation: Once there is a United Nations organization that can deliver on its founders’ promise to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…’ – we should accelerate dis-armament processes. For a Green Economy is a de-militarised, de-nuclearised economy with peace between its peoples. UN Member states must make an intentional link between the de-militarisation / Security Council agenda and the Green Economy agenda to reduce military aid and raise human and food security aid.
12. Infrastructuralise Service and Voluntarism: A green economy is one that encourages service and voluntarism: one that promotes the simple idea that the purpose of every life is to leave the world a better place than it was when we arrived on it. Every nation should promote national and international service as a transition period that every one of its young citizens should pass through – experiencing work in the sector to which they are drawn: doing the work because they want to, not because they are paid to. Investment in such service should take on a priority as high as that of universities.