In the last two decades, the idea of sustainable development has revolutionized the thinking of millions. The understanding of our shared responsibility helped lead to 189 world leaders agreeing to the Millennium Declaration in 2000, which paved the way to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for 2015.
These goals include specific targets, such as cutting in half the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day. In many countries, we have seen determined action on the goals, for instance, reducing pollution and investing in renewable energy. Businesses now routinely look beyond the bottom line to consider the wider social and environmental impact of their decisions.
But the more we learn, the more we understand the gravity of the challenge. And we have not yet seen the necessary courage or political will to turn good intentions into effective, collective action. That political will and that courage is the common responsibility of the world’s citizens – only through us can it become the will of governments.
Until then, the results of our inaction are all around us. Unsustainable patterns of production and consumption are still imposing excessive demands on resources such as water. We continue to alter our climate by polluting our atmosphere.
Economic inequality between countries, and within them, is growing. The financial crisis and high food prices add to the challenge, and 1 in 7 of the world’s population won’t have enough to eat today.
Extreme poverty increases the degradation of the environment. It is hard to focus on the long-term when you face a daily struggle to feed your family.
The Rio summit gives international leaders the chance to come together to tackle these challenges and accelerate the progress of the last two decades. The agenda is broad, but we believe there are several areas where attention should be focused.