Sunday, 27 May 2012

UNAA Australia at Rio+20 Seminar in Melbourne

Report on the UNAA Australia at Rio+20 Seminar
Melbourne, Thursday 17 May 27, 2012

On Thursday 17 May, the United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA) Victoria Branch held a stakeholder forum on Australia at Rio+20. The forum was facilitated by Rosemary Sainty, Former Head, Secretariat UN Global Compact Network Australia and Advisor, Corporate Engagement, Transparency International Australia. The forum involved a panel of high profile Australians involved in the Rio+20 Conference sharing their views on Australia’s position and the outcomes expected from Rio+20.

Julie Melrose and Tatiana Stotz attended the Melbourne Forum on behalf of the ANU Rio+20 Delegation.

Donna Petrachencko
First Assistant Secretary, Australian Government Rio+20 Taskforce

Ms Petrachencko is one of the Australian Government’s Chief Advisors on sustainability and was a former Commissioner to the IWC, UNEP and APEC.

An interesting point that Ms Petrachencko opened with, was that “this is not an environmental conference – it’s about sustainability”. She explained that there could recently be a strong case for another “pillar” of sustainable development being social inclusion, especially since the events during the Arab Spring.

She explained that Rio+20 was about a “renewed political commitment to sustainable development” and involved discussion around two main themes; (1) the ‘green economy’ and (2) new institutional frameworks for sustainable development. She also explained that Australia was leading the way in advocating for mining as a ‘catalyst for sustainable socio-economic development’ and poverty alleviation.

Charles Berger
Director of Strategic Ideas, Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF)

Charles Berger is the ACF’s in-house lawyer. He questioned what we mean when we say ‘the economy’. Too often the economy is seen as a series of market transactions rather than a social obligation/relationship. He gave the example of a private dinner party and pointed out that giving a gift (ie cooking dinner for a friend) is much more rewarding than a sale, and these forms of production and distribution in regards to social interactions and exchanges are currently not recorded within the current economic system. What we really should focus on is the “real economy” or “rainbow economy” if you like.

Charles Berger outlined 3 things that Australia should do after Rio+20

1.     Commit to integrating system of environmental accounting – allocate funding and resources to proper environmental accounting and statistics;
2.     Get rid of the $2-5 billion in fossil fuel subsidies: these are bad for market signals and polluting industries should pay the full cost of their activities;
3.     Implement an principle financial transactions tax to fund sustainability projects and initiatives including clean energy technologies.

Melanie Stutsel
Minerals Council of Australia

Melanie Stutsel, speaking on behalf of the MCA, said that mining is critical to the green economy. She said mining was a socio-economic catalyst for the development of local communities, with activities in developing countries generating employment opportunities and contributing to poverty alleviation. She also said that mining products were critical to sustainable development, such as copper and gold being used for the generation of batteries.

The MCA will be participating in a forum in Rio on the 17th June called “Fair Ideas” run by the International Institute for Environment and Development. It will discuss issues around sustainable production, life cycle accounting for use and disposal and recycling.

Interestingly, Ms Stutsel said that the MCA was disappointed by the lack of consultation on the part of the Australian Government in regards to engaging them in the mining for sustainable development policy.

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