This article was published by MediaGlobal News on February 16, 2012 but is no longer available on their website. It has been copied below.
New York - In just over four months from now heads of state will convene in Brazil for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, called Rio+20 in reference to the city where the first such conference took place 20 years ago. Rio+20 will focus on promoting a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and the institutional framework for sustainable development.
Recognizing the need for collaboration between the public and private sectors in order to achieve these goals, one of the world’s largest professional services networks, KMPG International – in collaboration with the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, the UN Global Impact, and the UN Environment Program – invited 400 international business leaders to participate in “Business Perspective on Sustainable Growth: Preparing for Rio+20.”
Opening today in New York, the three-day conference aims to serve as a forum for identifying and prioritizing key sustainability issues. To that end, distinguished panelists hailing from business, government, and academia share their best practices and lessons learned with respect to overcoming challenges related to energy security, climate change, and resource scarcity.
In his opening remarks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the success of some sustainable development initiatives, but warned the international community is nearing the point of no return on climate change. “I am here to ask you to do more,” Ban told attendees, urging them specifically to report publicly on their corporations’ sustainability, engage in responsible lobbying and advocacy, and avoid taking the hypocritical stance of proclaiming a broad commitment to sustainability while blocking green initiatives.
Highlights from the first day of the conference include a fruitful plenary session on global sustainability trends during which Ron Insana, CNBC senior analyst and commentator, moderated a discussion over to what extent technology can relieve food scarcity and how the public and private sectors might improve their risk mitigation. Overall, the need to address the risks and opportunities stemming from obstacles such as population growth and increased consumption by a burgeoning global middle class emerged as a central theme of the discussion.
Later in a session on “Ensuring an energy secure future,” panelists representing the entire spectrum of energy producers from fossil fuels to renewables debated over what incentives and regulations policymakers should implement to enable a stable transition to sustainability and energy security. John Gimigliano, Principal-In-Charge of KPMG’s Sustainability Tax, posed questions such as, “Do we need to establish a common, fixed definition of sustainability?” and “Is the emergence of shale gas a positive or negative development with respect to sustainability?” A consensus emerged around an answer to the first question (no, sustainability means different things in different contexts and imposing a rigid definition should not be a priority), while panelists remained split over the second one.
Ultimately, panelists proposed a long laundry list of the usual recommendations from capacity building in developing countries to phasing out inefficient uses of natural resources. More innovative or novel recommendations included phasing out renewable energy subsidies (at the right time, which is the key here) as well as eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, enacting energy policies that strategize progress over several decades at a time, improving marketing and communication about the benefits of sustainable growth, and overcoming the common perception of energy, water, and transport as separate sectors.
Coming up on the agenda, at Thursday’s highly anticipated closing session, former United States President Bill Clinton will deliver the keynote address.