monitoring progress


Views from civil society on the 10 year framework

1. What progress have you seen since Rio?

As you know, unsustainable production and consumption patterns continue to expand and are the main cause of worsening environmental and social trends (e.g., climate change, biodiversity loss, the food and water crises, and economic insecurity.) Since the 1992 Earth summit, what progress have you seen in addressing this overarching problem?

Peter Adriance, Baha'is of the U.S.

  • Greater awareness through education for sustainable development initiatives (curricula development, campaigns) both formal and informal.

  • Books and publications, articles, editorials, blogs and journals, websites devoted to awareness of the issue.

  • Recurrent crises have generated increased awareness of the interconnectedness of issues (climate change, biodiversity loss, food and water shortages, economic difficulties) and their relationship to our patterns of consumption and production.

  • Greater emphasis and the development of programs in the religious community, K-12; Higher education.

  • Efforts by business to improve environmental performance and demonstrate increased social responsibility

Bas de Leeuw, The Sustainability Institute

There has been tremendous progress on all levels, from individual to global. Toolbox for SCP has been filled and was used: legislation and international regulation (eg Climate Change, Ozonlayer), financial and voluntary initiatives (labeling, ecodesign, marketing campaigns, efficiency standards etc.). Also many projects carried out in developing countries, enabling them to leapfrog. However, progress is seriously lacking. Despite all efforts still no sense of urgency (comparable for instance to the recent financial crisis which mobilized mega financial flows for saving our financial system; we know that such amounts would make a difference for saving our ecosystem!)

Rajan Gandhi, SAG (India)

(I would prefer to restrict my comments to India, although I suspect they will be applicable to most of South Asia)

Even as on date, the term “sustainable consumption & production” is relatively alien in India;  people still prefer to use the words “sustainable development”. 

India has a plethora of excellent legislation when it comes to prevention of pollution in manufacturing processes.  The problem lies more in the implementation;  laws are often circumvented and often, corruption plays a major role in this.  Resource efficiency in production is not such a major issue, since the sheer economics of manufacturing for Indian domestic (and even export) demand requires that producers use the least possible resources for a given output.  India is still too poor to afford the luxury of profligate manufacturing.

Where India does have problems in the area of sustainable production is:

  •  Access to superior technology which could serve to further increase resource efficiency and/or to reduce wastage and pollution.  Often, the access is denied because the technology is far too expensive and/or protected by IPR.
  • Sustainable design of products.  Many non-traditional products manufactured in India are simply copies of products designed elsewhere.  Even MNCs tend to produce or assemble products in India which are a generation or two behind and which, therefore, are designed for a less demanding era.  Simultaneously, traditional products  were designed with functionality and aesthetics in mind, rather than sustainability – although it must be said that some traditional production techniques are far more sustainable than today’s processes.
  • Competition from other, less particular countries such as China.  It is difficult for Indian producers to survive by adopting sustainable production processes when cheap imports are available.

On the consumption side, India’s record has been poor.  Most of India is still at the bottom of the purchasing pyramid where the meeting of basic needs of food, shelter and clothing are paramount.  On the other hand, India is said to have a “consuming class” of 200-250 million which blindly apes the West in purchasing habits with scant regard to sustainability.  Compounding this is the absence of any criteria (such as a functioning eco-label) by which consumers could assess the environmental impact of a product or brand.

Some progress has been made;  a highly successful Energy Star rating has been introduced, Compact Fluorescent Lamps are being heavily subsidized, public transportation systems are being re-vamped, environmental education is compulsory at the primary school level. 

There is, regrettably, no holistic or “big picture” approach on SCP  What we have instead is a series of un-related initiatives which, while undoubtedly contributing to increased environmental sustainability, could be far more effective if the Government of India took an integrated/consolidated view and acted accordingly.  This has been our endeavour for the last 4-5 years.

Ke Chung Kim, Ph. D., Dipl.-ABFE
Professor of Entomology and Curator Emeritus, Frost Entomological Museum, Department of Entomology;
Director Emeritus, Center for BioDiversity Research, PSIEE, The Pennsylvania State University

We have not made much progress in real terms because of the continued expansion of human population, soon reaching the 7 billion and related demands of continued expansion of production and consumption along with continued conversion of natural habitats and environments into human habitation and development. At the same time humanity continues to demand and likewise develop technology of convenience and economic advancement irrespective of wealth levels, as all of human species with intelligence and curiosity aspire to satisfy endless desire and comfort without preventing disastrous consequences as we see in today’s continued negative trends of unsustainable production and consumption.

Sylvia Lorek, SERI (Sustainable Europe Research Institute, Germany)

In the sense of ‘talking about it’ addressing sustainable consumption and production is much better than early 1990s, at least at a governmental and IGO level. However, with inventing the technical term SCP for the issue the discussion also became much technical and quite often it is hiding more than enlightening the real problem(s). A broad variety of NGOs and/or grassroots organization working on core problems to overcome unsustainable consumption don’t know what SCP is, how they are linked to it or if they like to be linked to it at all.

The main problem is the market and the commodity focus of SCP. Substantial systemic changes towards less material intensive lifestyles are neglected (see as a prominent and indeed depressing example the European SCP Action plan).

Addressing the problem in the sense of stopping or revising it is not in sight. While some production side problems has be solved (e.g. acidification, ozon depletion) the general situation is worsening.

Leonard Sonnenschein, World Aquarium

  • Public awareness has shifted from focusing on specific species preservation (i.e. tiger, panda) to ecosystem/habitat preservation.

  • Public support for green, sustainable living is increasing due to increased exposure in the media. This exposure needs to continue along with dissemination of information about easy, affordable things people can do to decrease their carbon footprint, whether it be choosing different food sources or changing their lightbulbs to high efficiency bulbs. When people see the impact of their choices on their own financial bottom lines, they are much more apt to make the necessary changes.

  • In 1992, there was a disjoint between stakeholder levels.  The government was trying to address these issues on its own power. Today, the trend is to include people at all levels of society to play their part in addressing the problem.

  • There is a clear recognition of the problem and definition of t he problem and its source relevance (we know what the sources of the problems are now and can effectively address them)

  • Emergence of microfinancing institutions is key to prevention of unsustainable patterns in developing countries.

  • Multistakeholder dialogues from every level of society are crucial for the implementation of positive actions

























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