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action and leadershipAchim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) How to grow the global economy, generate decent jobs in sufficient numbers while keeping humanity's foot print within planetary boundaries is the challenge facing this generation of leaders.In 2012 both the G8 and the G20 come in advance of Rio+2 - a Summit two decades following the Earth Summit of 1992 which set the course for sustainable development including the establishment of global treaties on climate change, biodiversity and desertification. All these upcoming meetings and Summits are taking place in a world markedly different from that of the late 20th century - economically, geopolitically, environmentally and socially. Over the last 25 years, while the world economy has more than doubled, 60 per cent of the world's ecosystem services generated by forests to coral reefs are now degraded or used unsustainably.n Each year, 13 million hectares of the world's forests - the size of Greece - disappear. According to UNEP's Year Book 2012, 24 per cent of the global land area has already suffered declines in health and productivity over the past quarter century as a result of unsustainable land-use. Some kinds of conventional and intensive agriculture are triggering soil erosion rates some 100 times greater than the rates at which nature can form soil in the first place. n By 2030, without changes in the way land is managed, over 20 per cent of terrestrial habitats such as forests, peat lands and grasslands in developing countries alone could be converted to cropland-aggravating losses of vital ecosystem services and biodiversity Greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb, pushing the planet towards the CO2 threshold above which scientist fear some environmental changes could become irreversible - global warming could trigger increasing numbers of displaced people and make whole countries inhabitable, including the low lying island of the Maldives and Kiribati.Can Rio+20 deliver the kind of defining and decisive compass to meet these challenges while unleashing opportunities for seven billion people, heading to over nine billion by 2050? A Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is one of the key overarching themes of the June Summit. UNEP's Green Economy report suggests that investing two per cent of global GDP in 10 key sectors could, with the right enabling policies, kick start a transition to a low- carbon, resource efficient, employment generating economy. For example, investing about one and a quarter per cent of global GDP each year in energy efficiency and renewable energies could cut global primary energy demand by nine per cent in 2020 and close to 40 per cent by 2050, it says. Employment levels in the energy sector would be one-fifth higher than under a business as usual scenario, as renewable energies take close to 30 per cent of the share of primary global energy demand by mid century. Savings on capital and fuel costs in power generation would under a Green Economy scenario, be on average US$760 billion a year between 2010 and 2050. The report, Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication which has involved other UN agencies, experts and economists from across the globe, also highlights enormous opportunities for decoupling waste generation from GDP growth. 038 sustainable development - rio+20

" According to UNEP's Year Book 2012, 24 per cent of the global land area has already suffered declines in health and productivity over the past quarter century "n The Republic of Korea has, through a policy of Extended Producer Responsibility, enforced regulations on products such as batteries and tyres to packaging like glass and paper, triggering a 14 per cent increase in recycling rates and an economic benefit of $1.6 billion; n Brazil's recycling already generates returns of US$2 billion a year, while avoiding 10 million tones of greenhouse gas emissions; a fully recycling economy there would be worth 0.3 per cent of GDP. A transition to a Green Economy is not only about more intelligently managing wastes and hard infrastructure, it is also about "soft" infrastructure including the world's natural or nature based assets.Fisheries subsidies estimated at around US$27 billion a year have generated excess fishing capacity by a factor of two relative to the ability of fish to reproduce. The report suggests that investing in strengthened fisheries management, including the establishment of Marine Protected Areas and the decommissioning and reduction of fleet capacity, as well as retraining, can rebuild the planet's fish resources. n Such an investment backed by policy measures will result in an increase in catches from the current 80 million tones to 90 million tones in 2050, although between now and 2020 there would initially be a fall. "The present value of benefits from greening the fishing sector is estimated to be three to five times the necessary investment," says the report.Rio+20 has a real opportunity to correct this gross misallocation of capital and provide policies that better reflect the true value of nature in order to overcome poverty, generate social outcomes and deal with looming natural resource scarcities. Currently some US$400 billion to over US$600 billion are spent each year on fossil fuels subsidies. In Rio countries could press forward on this issue--some already have: Indonesia, Iran and Ghana with generally positive economic, social and environmental benefits.Rio+20 also needs to deal with the fundamentals of an overall, new and transformational indicator of wealth beyond GDP. Measuring well-being will require a shift to metrics that incorporate non-economic markets based aspects of well-being, including sustainability issues. The work on Inclusive Wealth, which is based on the World Bank's Adjusted Net Saving indicator, is developing a more inclusive indicator of national wealth, covering not only produced capital, human capital, and natural capital, but also critical ecosystems. Such initiatives are also being informed by the findings and the ways of measuring wealth outlined in The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) - a broad partnership that emerged from the G8 in Potsdam and eventually hosted by UNEP.n The EU effort to go "Beyond GDP" - launched in November 2007 aiming to come up with a broader set of macro - level indexes other than GDP and provide information on how economic growth affects its own foundation (stock of all assets). n OECD's initiative on measuring progress of societies The Earth Summit of 1992 put in place the foundations for a sustainable century. Rio+20 is the moment to take sustainability from theory and patchy implementation to realisation - the answers are flourishing all around us if world leaders seize the opportunity to scale-up and accelerate such transitions. nAbout the AuthorAchim Steiner is a UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Before joining UNEP, Mr Steiner served as Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and prior to that as Secretary General of the World Commission on Dams. His professional career has included assignments with governmental, non-governmental and international organizations including in India, Pakistan, Germany, Zimbabwe, USA, Vietnam, South Africa, Switzerland and Kenya. Mr Steiner's educational background includes an MA from the University of London with specialisation in development economics, regional planning, and international development and environment policy. Pictured: Achim Steiner sustainable development - rio+20 039