The theme of the Rio + 20 Conference was "Green economy in the context of sustainable development and eradication of poverty" and it has not been possible to the find common ground in the serious differences over what constitute economic growth and human wellbeing – ‘the future we want’. Humans have always altered their natural environment, what is new is that the adverse effects of economic activities exceed those of resource extraction. Soon the Earth will not be able to absorb the carbon dioxide generated by excessive consumption. The lifestyle in industrialized societies threatens half of humanity that has yet to enjoy the standards of living available to the others, and their wellbeing will entail huge pressures on global ecosystems in the form of infrastructure, energy and food. The optimum pathway of keeping within global ecological limits continues to be under discussion.
The issue is intensely complex because the way the global concerns, or goals, are defined will have differentiated implications for countries. The US and EU sought to define the ‘green economy’ in terms of changes that governments, largely in developing countries, will need to make to convince investors by aligning asset allocation with the environmental concerns for long term investments in new technology to improve production processes. Developing countries were focused on human wellbeing seeking agreement to modify longer-term trends in consumption patterns, largely in developed countries, and link ecosystem scarcity to the sharing of new technology as a global good in the common interest. In a multi polar world the optimum possible at Rio + 20 was that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities that has guided international cooperation over the past 20 years has now been re-defined, even as it has been reaffirmed.
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