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Procedure : 2011/2733(RSP)
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Texts tabled :

B7-0522/2011

Debates :

PV 28/09/2011 - 9
CRE 28/09/2011 - 9

Votes :

PV 29/09/2011 - 10.3
CRE 29/09/2011 - 10.3
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Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0430

Debates
Wednesday, 28 September 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

9. Rio+20 earth summit (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. − The next item is the debate on

– the oral question to the Council on key objectives for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 summit) in Rio de Janeiro, by Jo Leinen, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (O-000181/2011 – B7-0436/2011), and

– the oral question to the Commission on key objectives for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 summit) in Rio de Janeiro, by Jo Leinen, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (O-000182/2011 – B7-0437/2011).

 
  
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  Jo Leinen, author.(DE) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, Professor Kraszewski, Ms Hedegaard, Mr Potočnik, ladies and gentlemen, the European Parliament very much welcomes the fact that the United Nations is holding the Rio+20 conference. We are submitting a resolution to the European Parliament which has been sponsored by Members from a number of different political groups, in other words, it has broad support in this House, and which states that this Earth summit next year in Brazil must be a success.

If we look back 20 years to the first Rio conference in 1992, there was a huge amount of commitment and hope that we would be able to reverse the trend in our economic activities on this planet. When we consider what has happened over the last 20 years, there has certainly been a lot of commitment. Some things have been achieved, but the trends and the megatrends are still going in the wrong direction.

If we look at the economy, and we discussed it at length this morning, we can see that a financial economy has developed alongside the real economy, which is far more powerful than the traditional economy. The speculation in the financial economy is threatening the real economy and also jeopardising whole countries and regions and many, many people.

If we look at developments in the social sector over the last 20 years, there is incredible wealth and unfortunately also incredible poverty. The divide between rich and poor is getting wider. If we move on to the environment, it is clear that our environmental footprint on this planet is still a negative one. Over the last 20 years we have cleared huge areas of forest. We have overfished the seas. We have used up energy resources which took millions of years to form. We have damaged the soil. These are warning signs for the 21st century which indicate to us that we cannot go on like this. There must be a change of direction. We really need to make a renewed attempt to introduce sustainable development.

We need a new departure next year in Rio. We need a new political will and a new sense of commitment. We also need an agenda with concrete proposals. It is clear that the three pillars – the economy, the environment and social development – must be better integrated. Economic activities are a good thing, but the economy must serve people and the environment. An economy which destroys people and the environment is not a good economy. We must redefine our economic activities in this broader context. Parliament has made a number of proposals about what is needed: the creation of the right basic conditions, regulation, but also marketable instruments, which will help the economies in our countries to bring in private capital, and the management of natural capital in order to prevent it from being overused and to intervene when ecosystems are exploited.

The balance sheet for our activities is the gross domestic product or GDP. We know that GDP is no longer adequate, because it does not tell the whole truth about our activities from an environmental and social perspective. This is why we believe that the leitmotif for the next few years, for the next decade, must be a sustainable economy, a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy.

We know that people all over the world do not have fair access to resources. We see large estates being bought up and in many countries, including in Africa, there is the risk that people will no longer be able to cultivate their own food as a result of land theft. This is a phenomenon which we need to devote our attention to.

It is clear that many people do not have access to energy. Around 2 billion people have no proper, regular energy supply, which is a huge disadvantage in terms of development. Access to water is by no means evenly distributed all over the world. I only want to mention these three issues. However, there are other obstacles which prevent people from accessing resources easily because they are poor, underprivileged or have other problems.

To make sustainable development possible, we need to shift the burden of taxes paid by the citizens of our countries. Currently the major part of the tax burden relates to the work which is done and it is clear that this tax burden must be reduced and shifted from work to the consumption of natural resources and energy. This is an important subject for which we also need the support of the finance ministers and ministers of economic affairs in the Member States.

I would like to say in conclusion that sustainability requires commitment from the local level through to the global level. Civil society is a very important resource. People must take part and we must involve them. The state has a job to do, but the private sector also has responsibilities. We must ensure that the private sector does more to make use of its knowledge and expertise in the service of sustainability. At a global level, we simply need better governance, a better structure, in order to organise these environmental and sustainable trends. In Rio we will be discussing whether the United Nations environment programme (UNEP) is adequate in its current form. The answer is clear: it is not. We need better structures at a global level. We in Parliament are hoping that the EU will speak with one voice. We will have a delegation in Durban and we will help to ensure that Europe sets itself a genuine target and plays a pioneering role. We need an agenda 2020 for sustainable development on this planet.

 
  
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  Andrzej Kraszewski, President-in-Office of the Council.(PL) Mr President, Ms Hedegaard, Mr Potočnik, honourable Members, it is indeed the case that at the present time achieving sustainable development is probably the most important role of environment protection. Twenty years have now passed, and we are on the eve of an important conference, which on the 20th anniversary of the first one is going to try, firstly, to do a stocktake of everything which has been done in the field of sustainable development. Secondly, it is going to try to map out new courses of action so that this development can be achieved.

I am sure that all of you – and also very many people who are interested in matters relating to environment protection – are asking yourselves the same question which I heard in Mr Leinen’s speech: have we done everything possible to be able to say that sustainable development is on the right road? I do not have a very good opinion about this. I think that although we have made certain important advances, we have not done what we should have done. This therefore is why I think the Council has a very important task, so that here, too, the European Union will be a leader – just as it is in other fields – and so that an ambitious plan and ambitious conclusions will be drafted for this important conference next year.

The subjects of the conference are the green economy and institutional changes, which are also very much needed. This does not exhaust, of course, the question of sustainable development, but the green economy is something which – if I may repeat what Mr Leinen said – is an absolute necessity. How many examples do we still have, even in developed countries, of linear economies which operate on the principle of take, make, sell, use and dispose? This has to stop. The earth cannot afford to squander resources in this way. This is a very important factor. It is a factor which is not only to do with technology, but is about educating a new kind of consumer. A consumer who will know the importance of resources, who will know the importance of what the earth gives him, and who will know how to use those resources in such a way, firstly, as to conserve energy and raw materials, and secondly, he will know he should recycle what he uses. The conclusions we are working on now are about all of these matters.

I would like to thank Parliament very sincerely for giving thought to this matter and for adopting its own document, one which lends us support in our work. This is important for us, because thanks to this our document will be better.

The question of institutional changes is equally important, because we think that the current UN institution – the United Nations Environment Programme – is not enough in view of the challenges being faced by the modern world. We support the establishment of a specialised UN agency which will have a mandate which has been fully discussed and which will be able to work efficiently towards achieving, among other things, the priority objective of sustainable development. This is very important.

This does not mean we have not considered the social agenda, which is the third pillar of sustainable development. The conference, which will take place next year in Rio, will give time to the fight against poverty. This is extremely important, because the social dimension should on the one hand work against excessive consumerism and the type of economy which is happier the more humanity consumes, but which on the other hand should also care for those among us – the people of this planet – who very often do not have basic living conditions. Therefore, this other aspect of this work, which will also be discussed at the conference, is very important.

Honourable Members, the things which I have discussed here in brief will be contained in the conclusions we are working on now. We are working on them at the moment, and this includes questions of finance. I have to say that the Polish Presidency has made these questions one of its priorities, and in two weeks we will be holding a Rio+20 conference in Poland, which will consider these very matters and where we will discuss these questions.

Once again I would like to thank you very sincerely for inviting me to this important sitting. In coming here I am fulfilling, in a measure, the promise I made during the hearing before the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, that I would try to talk often with Parliament and with Members of Parliament. We have not finished yet, so I hope there will also be other opportunities for this. Thank you very much.

 
  
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  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. Mr President, thank you for this opportunity to outline the main objectives for the European Union for the forthcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development: Rio+20. As you have probably noticed, in his speech this morning, the President outlined Rio+20 as one of the major external action activities on which the Commission will focus next year.

I am also delighted that Commissioner Hedegaard is able to join me for this debate, particularly as she is a member of the United Nations Global Sustainability Panel and as I know that the resolution of this House particularly draws attention to the links with climate issues. I should also say that Commissioner Piebalgs is closely involved in the development of the European Union position for the summit, in view of the development and poverty eradication aspects.

Rio+20 is a unique opportunity for the world, and for the European Union, to advance its commitments on sustainable development through both themes which will be discussed there: firstly, the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and secondly, the institutional framework for sustainable development.

On the green economy, we need to be clear that this is a vehicle for delivering on sustainable development. It can secure growth and development and, at the same time, contribute to improving human well-being, providing decent jobs, tackling poverty and preserving natural capital. It offers opportunities for countries in all stages of economic development. Building on the Commission’s communication ‘Rio+20: towards the green economy and better governance’, adopted in June, we are now working towards a consolidated European Union position in time for the 1 November UN deadline for international input. Discussions with Member States are still ongoing.

Our objective should be to make sure that Rio+20 will give renewed political impetus to sustainable development through an ambitious vision, goals and tangible actions at both international and also national levels. Any such vision and goals will have to be backed with tangible action. On the green economy we propose to focus on the efficient and sustainable management of resources and natural capital: water, renewable energy, oceans, sustainable agriculture and fishing, and materials and chemical management. This reflects the approach we set out in the resource efficiency roadmap, as part of the EU 2020 strategy, which the Commission adopted last week.

The enabling conditions for the transformation towards a green economy in these areas can be established through the right kinds of regulatory and market conditions, mobilising public and private financial resources and also investing in capacity building. We envisage that a green economy roadmap should map out all actions undertaken at international level with specific time frames to ensure commitment well into the future.

As a complement to international actions and commitments, national actions would depend on national circumstances and could be supported with measures such as best practice examples and policy guidelines. Examples of specific international actions include the strengthening and expanding of the European Union Water Initiative, including new agreements on the Law of the Sea, particularly in areas beyond national jurisdiction, and establishing an international regime on chemicals. To monitor progress it will be essential to develop indicators and a globally agreed system of economic, environmental and social accounting. Through such concerned actions the sustainable management of resources in key sectors such as water, energy, oceans and forests can become the thrust of future economic growth and global markets.

The sectors we propose underpin the livelihoods of many and are, particularly in developing countries, linked to basic subsistence. Access to water, food and energy are some of the basic human needs that must be met to alleviate poverty. Please do not imagine that resource efficiency is only a concern for developed countries. It is also of crucial importance for the sustainable development of developing countries.

Last but not least, to reinforce global sustainable development and environmental governance through institutional reform is also essential. Strengthening sustainable development governance could be achieved by the reinforcement of ECOSOC in the United Nations or the establishment of a Council on Sustainable Development. These are the potential ways forward and we need to enhance the UN Environment Programme, possibly by upgrading it into a specialised agency. As I stated clearly in the plenary of the European Economic and Social Committee last week, Rio will also have to establish means for greater participation of business and civil society. I absolutely hope and count on your strong support and your presence in Rio.

I would like to apologise that I will have to leave the House before we conclude the debate because I have to catch the flight to Amsterdam and Berlin. On Saturday morning I am flying to New Delhi in India. We will have the preparatory ministerial meeting for Rio+20, where we will discuss precisely the issues which we are discussing together today and a part of our agenda. I want us to show via the European presence that we want to be active in all stages and also on all levels.

Finally, as I mentioned, last week we adopted the resource efficiency roadmap, which I hope will be supported by the Council and Parliament. Actually I do not doubt this after hearing both of the speakers before me, because many of the things which you both mentioned are indeed part of the substance of that resource efficiency roadmap. In a way it is also the roadmap to the green economy. So via that we would become a real, credible partner internationally, because we would show that we know how we have to clean up our own house in a way that shows how the work should be done in the future.

 
  
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  President. − Commissioner Potočnik, I wish you good luck and success in New Delhi.

 
  
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  Connie Hedegaard, Member of the Commission. Mr President, thank you for the opportunity to share some views also from the side of global climate policy and how to position the European Union best in the run-up to the Rio Conference on Sustainable Development.

Firstly, let me share a few points from the work of the Global Sustainability Panel, established by Ban Ki-Moon with the very clear view that we should give some recommendations for the Rio+20 Conference. The Panel will have its last meeting in December and will publish its recommendations by the middle of January, in time hopefully to make an impact on the Rio+20 process.

Sustainable development as defined by the Brundtland Commission in 1987 and as agreed in Rio in 1992 was never truly realised. Patterns of growth and consumption are by and large the same as before. Unfortunately, emerging economies did not learn enough from the mistakes made by us, the developed countries – the principle of grow first and clean up later – but this cannot be a growth strategy for the 21st century.

Instead we need political leadership to set a new growth agenda: growth, yes – but the important question will be ‘what kind of growth?’ It must be a growth that includes environmental and social concerns at the same level as economic ones. New indicators of growth, way beyond GDP, are necessary. We need to measure well-being of people and preservation of nature, and of course this agenda must appeal equally to developed and developing countries.

The world must also move away from the old north-south paradigm. We must move towards a paradigm of mutual interdependence. Interdependence in a globalised world is a strong driver for change. It is linked to population growth and growing resource scarcity. Business as usual will take this planet beyond its natural boundaries with catastrophic effects. We need science to guide political decisions on all environmental boundaries. A call for urgency must come out of Rio.

The focus of the Panel’s work has been the interlinked nexus of energy, food and water, with climate change as an overarching theme. The world community has already been mobilised on climate change. Climate change is still there and is also there in the minds of the people. It is important that we do not change from one topic to another. It is still the overarching theme and how we address it – and that we address it globally – is still decisive for what kind of world we will have in this 21st century. So climate change must still be an overarching theme.

To the very relevant points made by Mr Potočnik I would just add two other points for emphasis, first on energy. Eliminating energy poverty is a precondition to eradicating poverty. In the panel we therefore consider targets for access to energy, for sustainable energy and for renewable energy sources. At the same time, the global energy system – supply, transformation, delivery and use – is the dominant contributor to climate change, representing around 60% of total current greenhouse gas emissions.

I am glad to see highlighted in Parliament’s resolution that the transition towards a green economy requires a radical transformation of the energy sector. I think this is absolutely crucial and I actually believe this is one of the areas where hopefully Rio+20 can deliver a very specific recommendation that can lead to immediate action. This of course requires concerted and coordinated effort, but I think it is very important that we in Europe push in this direction.

Let me just mention a second point. Part of the reason for the inadequate progress on sustainability is evident: there is a significant market failure that we must correct, namely inadequate pricing. The negative consequences of the way we exploit nature and the environment are not usually visible or immediate. This must be corrected. Their externality and invisibility allows the end user often to remain ignorant of this kind of cost related to our growth, so the price signals to the markets and consumers today are flawed. To change this, people, corporations and governments must be made aware of the full effects of their choices. In other words, we need to price things in a way that reflects the true costs.

Internalisation of the external effects means factoring in the consequences, thereby making them a part of the decision-making process. This means introducing market-based instruments such as taxes, charges and emission trading, in order to give economic incentives to limit external effects.

I think this pricing issue should also be a very prominent issue for Rio+20. I think that with these things – access to sustainable energy and the pricing issue – among a lot of other recommendations in Rio, we could deliver something that would result in immediate action when we come back from Rio because, with many of the other things, we all know that it will take a very long time before we see them in the real world. Here are some tangible things that could lead to immediate action. I think it is very important also to focus on that.

 
  
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  Karl-Heinz Florenz, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in my early years as a Member of this House, I went to Rio in 1992 and I followed carefully what was decided and what we have actually implemented.

Mr Kraszewski, many of the things that you have said are right, including that we must push ahead with developing a green economy in Europe and throughout the world. However, Mr Potočnik, we must begin in Europe. When I consider that in Eastern European countries rubbish is still being put into landfill, while waste in other, more developed countries is taken to incinerators where it is burnt without giving this a thought, I realise that we need to set a good example. Fortunately, you have indicated that we need to work closely on one of these three pillars.

Mr Leinen mentioned the problem of poverty. I would like to look again at the three major issues: social concerns, the economy and the environment. In Europe and throughout the world these things are not sufficiently integrated. They are like trains which run on one track, then somewhere there is a crash and the end result is an unhappy one.

I believe that we must find the strength together to ensure that these trains run in parallel on the tracks, so that we can achieve joint results. Then there will no longer be these unnecessary disputes. In 2050 when there are 9 billion people living on the planet, there will be no alternative to sustainability. That is where we in Western Europe must make the most of the opportunity not only to develop elegant technologies, but also to sell them all over the world. This is one of my major concerns.

Ms Hedegaard, once you have won an election, you must begin campaigning for the next election the very next day. This is what we need to do in the case of the United Nations. We have always said that we do not like the structures there. You are right about that. That is the way it is in Europe and we have discussed this in detail this morning. The structures at the UN are acceptable, but they do not function effectively.

Immediately after this conference we must begin changing these structures and at some point we must move away from the rule of unanimity. We have just heard here this morning that the people who fight for causes like this very often do not have good intentions.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: GILES CHICHESTER
Vice-President

 
  
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  Vittorio Prodi, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the resolution on the Rio+20 summit highlights the crucial principle of fairness.

Fairness on an international scale that guarantees developing countries their right to development; intergenerational fairness that does not make those who come after us pay the price for our decisions; fairness that thus develops into genuine solidarity and a vehicle for a new kind of sustainable development. We must reject the old concept of the three independent pillars – economic, social and environmental – and instead recognise the interdependent nature of these elements, because they are indivisible.

Determining the conditions for genuinely sustainable development requires us not only to develop new standards, such as the Beyond GDP project, but also to guarantee the active involvement of all parties at all levels of governance. It is precisely by focusing on the indivisible nature of fairness, solidarity and global governance that we can break out from behind the barrier of false freedoms and return to social models based on the individual and the common good.

Rio+20 is therefore an appeal for a noble ethics and it is in such a context that both the financial and the technological proposals made by the European Parliament gain value. These span the tax on international financial transactions, support for environmental conservation projects, a broader horizon of comprehensive fiscal reform replacing taxes on labour by taxes on resource use and assessment of the impact that production of biofuels can have on food supply and biodiversity, with the focus on global assessment of impact of technology on the environment and society.

Our proposals are intended to prepare the ground for an international conference that would mark a true political turning point in planning the development of our planet.

 
  
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  Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, on behalf of the ALDE Group. Mr President, I would like to start by thanking the Commissioners and the Minister for their constructive contributions to this debate. I will not go back twenty years like Karl-Heinz Florenz, but rather I want to take you back 400 years when William Shakespeare wrote his famous words ‘to be or not to be’. I believe that a contemporary and more economically-oriented Shakespeare could now write ‘to be sustainable or not to be at all’. Because that is the question.

The world is currently developing towards a green economy; an economy where sustainability is a key condition for being competitive. Leading companies are aware of this and are investing in that vision, but unfortunately most companies still consider sustainability as something which costs a lot of money.

For that reason, Rio+20 comes at the right moment. It is a huge opportunity to show the world that being efficient with resources, emitting less and investing in green technology does pay off. Let Rio+20 be a worldwide wake-up call and not only involve the business community but let them commit themselves to the objectives of the green economy.

But that is the ‘green economy’ side of the Summit; what about the other top issue: a constitutional framework, governance, or politicians? Are they working along these same lines? No. Just watch the presidential debates in the US for five minutes, and it is rather painful to see how science is put aside for short-term political reasons.

I am afraid that governments speaking in quite general terms do not deliver on what they agree to do in international agreements, but is a clean environment and the conservation of species not a universal right just like human rights? Of course it is; that is why I strongly endorse the establishment of an international environmental court. It sends a clear message out into the world that environmental issues are trans-boundary and should be dealt with as such.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is not particularly known for its happy end, but if we are ambitious for Rio+20 the contemporary Shakespeare I started with will have the opportunity to find a happy end in his new play.

 
  
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  Julie Girling, on behalf of the ECR Group. Mr President, may I say how happy I am to see you in the chair; it is the first time I have had the pleasure.

Marking 20 years since the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, this is a timely opportunity to assess our approach to international dialogues on the environment and development. We need to ask ourselves if we are moving in the right direction. Rather than producing a wish list of outcomes based on the triumph of hope over experience, we need to accept the pace of development and find ways of mitigating its effects.

I would like to resist the temptation to grandstand on the bigger issues today and confine myself to talking about the resolution which we have in front of us, because there are a number of blind alleys that we can stray down. Firstly, nuclear energy. The Fukushima tragedy must not be used as a modern-day Trojan horse to push the anti-nuclear rhetorical agenda. Nuclear energy is an essential part of the energy mix. Yes, let us insist that future facilities are not situated in areas of seismic activity, but this is not an excuse for asking for a ban.

I would also like to mention GMOs. To suggest that they are not sustainable development is disproportionate. I am fully aware of the various arguments put forward by anti-GMO lobbies and pro. I know there are very strong feelings in Member States, but there are currently GMO crops authorised for use in the European Union, and it would be entirely wrong to label them as unsustainable and to promote organic agriculture only in this resolution.

Finally, the call for a financial transaction tax. We hear it almost every day; we heard it again this morning from the President of the Commission. It is fast becoming the panacea for all our woes. This is not realistic. With the current economic conditions, we need to think much more carefully. I welcome the Commissioner’s outline and look forward to more detail on that subject.

This is a non-legislative resolution. If it is read by the UN, it will merely serve to send out mixed signals ahead of our Member States’ negotiations. Let us resist the temptation to unnecessarily politicise, stick to a script we can all subscribe to, and get on with making a real difference.

 
  
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  Sandrine Bélier, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (FR) Mr President, President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, the context in which preparations are taking place for the fourth Earth Summit is difficult. It is incumbent upon us, of course, to tackle the financial and economic crisis in the euro area. However, one crisis does not chase away another and they are often linked. Indeed, the debt crisis does not affect only Greece and European finances. The crisis is not just financial. It is also a social and ecological crisis, which has to be brought to an end.

Today, we are running an ecological deficit. We began to eat into our credit forty years ago and the debt has been growing ever since. Inequalities are getting worse, assaults on mother nature are mounting every year, with imbalances in the weather system, deforestation, collapsing fish stocks and loss of biodiversity being the most flagrant signs. There is only one solution for humanity: it must settle its debt. For this to happen, it behoves the policy makers of this world to act in solidarity, now, in 2012, not in 10 years’ time.

I believe that the European Union has a crucial role to play and that the fourth Earth Summit in Rio in June 2012 is the ideal framework for making further commitments, for changing our economic development models, and for moving towards a new green economy. Let us say ‘yes’ to an economy that consumes fewer resources, a fairer economy, an economy that is committed to ecological sustainability and social justice; ‘yes’ to new indicators going beyond GDP; ‘yes’ to the principle of bioconditionality; but ‘no’ to the commoditisation and privatisation of common assets; and ‘no’ to the reproduction of the models that have brought us to where we are today.

Let us say ‘yes’ to an international status for environmental refugees; ‘yes to greater responsibility, justice and environmental democracy. We, elected representatives, 20 years later, what do we say to Severn Suzuki? What will our response be if another child stands up in Rio in June 2012 and expresses her fear of the future, her inability to understand the inequalities that exist across the world and implores us to act before it is too late?

The resolution we will vote on tomorrow is one of the elements of that response. This resolution, as adopted by this Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, is an ambitious, firm and responsible position, and I call on my fellow Members not to weaken it. I call on the Commission and the Council to give it the scope it deserves at the highest level for sustainable development on a global scale.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Oreste Rossi, on behalf of the EFD Group.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development represents a continuation of previous global summits and revisits the subject matter of the UN Millennium Summit held in 2000 and, in this instance, the Millennium Development Goals.

I believe that a sustainable economy is an opportunity for growth for European businesses, on the condition that the objectives are both realistic and achievable, and avoid an unjustified increase in the cost of production, which would expose them to competition from countries that are not subject to the same restrictions.

It is crucial that the European Union implements an effective international strategy to ensure that European environmental regulations, which are currently among the strictest in the world, are also adopted by third countries by means of comparable binding commitments. This goal is an absolute priority so that we can secure a level playing field for European businesses, allowing them to remain in the market and be competitive on a global level.

With this objective in mind, we consider that the main lever on which to insist with a wider strategic approach is the strengthening of international partnerships for the promotion and dissemination of sustainable low-environmental-impact technologies in emerging nations and developing countries.

It is absolutely essential if we do not arrive at a comprehensive agreement that Europe does not and must not make unilateral commitments, or we risk the failure of our business model. A means of applying pressure on third countries that are unwilling to commit themselves to an environmentally friendly future is to impose import duties in proportion to the assessed economic benefit these countries derive from their want of commitment.

 
  
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  Kartika Tamara Liotard, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (NL) Mr President, the Rio+20 resolution is ambitious with regard to sustainable development and, perhaps, the most important point to note is the way it distances itself from nuclear energy. It is essential that Parliament now speaks out against this ticking time bomb. The question is not whether or not nuclear energy will obliterate the world, but rather when. We saw fresh evidence of that at the beginning of this year during the terrible disaster in Fukushima and, less than a fortnight ago, much closer to home, in France. Many members were shocked by this and I hope that they will vote in favour of the resolution tomorrow. Energy demand is high, but destroying the environment and social stability with nuclear power is definitely not the solution.

In addition, the Rio resolution calls for the scale of deforestation to be reduced, particularly in Latin America. I have a comment on that. We in Europe ought to take action first before we can blame Brazil and neighbouring countries for destroying rainforests. The rainforests are largely being felled in order to grow soya for the European market. Europe is partly responsible for massive deforestation in Latin America and has to curb the importation of this ‘rainforest soya’. Otherwise, we will not be able to take Brazil and the neighbouring countries to task next year on the destruction of their rainforests.

The resolution also speaks out against GMOs and I welcome that wholeheartedly. However, earlier this year, Europe itself failed to introduce a total ban on GMOs. The message that a better environment begins at home applies here just as it applies in the case of rainforests.

Finally, let me turn to water management. Clean drinking water is a human right. Drinking water supplies should remain in public hands. I hope that we, as representatives of the people, will reaffirm that tomorrow. I am confident that the European Parliament will reaffirm the ambitions of the Rio resolution tomorrow and I ask the same of the Council and the Commission.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE). - (SL) Mr President, I would like to ask Ms Liotard which horrible nuclear energy tragedy in France she had in mind and whether she thinks that it would be a realistic scenario for us in the European Parliament to insist on nuclear energy being abolished altogether. How would this ensure increased safety and the more sustainable development of humankind?

 
  
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  Kartika Tamara Liotard (GUE/NGL). - (NL) Mr President, I did not entirely catch the last part of the question, but accidents did occur at a storage facility in France a fortnight ago. Workers were contaminated and there were some terrible accidents. Let us not pretend that nothing is wrong. Nuclear power comes with extremely high risks, as we have seen in Japan. This leads to social and environmental instability. We must put a stop to that. There are plenty of other sustainable solutions which do not generate nuclear waste and which we in Europe could make greater use of. However, we have to start doing that here, so that we can demonstrate the credibility of our intentions to other countries.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Dimitar Stoyanov (NI).(BG) As I caught the end of the question from the previous MEP, I will try to ask it in a way that makes it clearer to you. If we decide tomorrow to ban nuclear energy and shut down every nuclear power plant in Europe and ban the building of new ones, where will the energy that we will lose from nuclear power plants come from? What do you suggest we use to replace this energy?

 
  
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  Kartika Tamara Liotard (GUE/NGL). - (NL) Mr President, if we redirected all the billions of subsidies that are going into nuclear energy innovation into genuine renewable energy developments, which make use of hydraulic, solar and wind energy, we would be much further ahead than we are by just constantly investing in and maintaining nuclear energy. We need to look at genuinely sustainable forms of energy.

 
  
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  Nick Griffin (NI). - Mr President, for some years now climate realists like me have struggled to understand what lies behind the man-made global warming hoax which will be further exploited at Rio+20.

Various theories have been put forward. Post-1989, it gave the far left a new stick with which to beat the West. Maurice Strong and the United Nations saw it as a way of promoting one-world government. It has handed carbon traders and wind factory profiteers a taxpayer-funded blank cheque. But none of the above explains the hitherto puzzling role of big oil and neo-con foundations in funding the environmentalist protest groups which have led the climate-change and anti-nuclear propaganda offensives.

Now, however, their real agenda is coming to light. Phoney green hysteria has blocked the potential for nuclear and coal electricity to power our civilisation in the post-peak oil world. This gap allows those who will profit from gas fracking to say that we have no choice but to exploit this environmentally disastrous energy source. Of course we have no choice, because their useful idiot Greens have denied us the other alternatives.

So now we face a fracking gold rush in, among other targets, Lancashire, Wales, southern England, France and Poland, where George Soros has just won an almost exclusive licence to loot and pollute almost the entire country. The neo-cons and globalists are also excited about the potential of fracked gas to advance their geopolitical agenda of reducing the influence of Russia and destabilising the Arab world.

Climate change never was about drowning polar bears. It was always about big business profit and elite power.

 
  
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  Richard Seeber (PPE).(DE) Mr President, I believe that the document that we have tabled is very balanced. However, I would also like to express my disappointment that apparently we are conducting a nuclear debate here. The problem facing the world is not whether or not to have nuclear power. Let us address the real problems and not spend time discussing whether or not we need nuclear power.

One real problem is water. The Earth may indeed be 70% covered with water – after all, it is known as the blue planet – but only 3% of that is effectively available as fresh water. To illustrate this, let us say that this part of Parliament here is the land mass, and the rest here is the oceans – but only one row of seats here consists of the fresh water that people are competing for.

The fact is that today one billion people are already without water. It is also a fact that water consumption is increasing at twice the rate of the world’s population. That is one of the biggest challenges that we face.

Above all, let us not forget that at present water requirements are mainly taken from fossil reserves. This means that if these reserves do not keep being replenished they will be lost. To give you an example: in Beijing the water table is dropping by half a metre a day. I believe that this in fact shows very clearly how great the pressure on these reserves is.

We really need to come up with some answers here, and these answers must be on both supply and demand sides. On the demand side, agriculture faces a major challenge. Worldwide it currently consumes around 93% of the available water, but around 50% of this available water is simply lost through pipelines, conduits and evaporation. We need to do something about this using modern technology. Likewise, daily consumption: a sustainable level would be around 25 litres of water per day, such as is consumed in South Africa. In Europe our consumption is around ten times that level. We should therefore give consideration to what we can do about this too.

We also need to take action on the supply side, however. In other words, we need to think about how we can use modern technology to make water available. Let us work together on this – and please can we concentrate on the real problems, not on the issue of whether or not to have nuclear power.

 
  
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  Judith A. Merkies (S&D). - (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, twenty years ago, we emerged from the Earth Summit in Rio with a great deal of hope. However, twenty years on, we will be making a less hopeful journey to the next Rio summit. The question, therefore, is how can we revive that hope, the hope that prosperity is possible despite the increasing scarcity of resources and ecosystems being put under pressure? You and Mr Potočnik have put forward various proposals in that regard. The problem, though, is how do you achieve any concrete results at a global level?

We all have great visions and fine plans and you have put in a really good cross. Only, the question is: which specific targets do you want to achieve in Rio? A new body? A new scheme - internalising external costs, as it is called, that is including environmental and social costs in the price of products? Next, how are you going to arrange for all of that? Will the WTO and G20 also be at the negotiating table?

Water is obviously a very serious problem and we need to forge appropriate agreements. Only, how precisely are you going to work out what needs doing, because water does not lend itself to easy transportation across the world. Indeed, the use of water across the world is a very important topic, but are we going to get stuck in discussing this or are there going to be any specific measures?

On the Rio+20 website, all kinds of organisations are making wonderful recommendations about what we all could do or what the world leaders ought to do. What is the Commission going to do about that and how do we come up with a single platform? I would like to end with a quote used by one of the speakers. Oscar Wilde once said: ‘The world was my oyster but I used the wrong fork’. How do we use the right fork and find that pearl?

 
  
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  Jean-Luc Bennahmias (ALDE). (FR) Mr President, as indicated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the concept of a green economy is complementary to the concept of sustainable development. It is not intended to replace it. By means of this resolution, we wish to make it clear that it is about finally placing the economy at the service of sustainable development and not about delegating the management of the ecological crisis to multinationals and financial institutions.

It is no longer possible simply to call for the development of new market mechanisms and new technologies. Monitoring and the transition to a green economy will necessarily take account of external factors and new approaches to economic performance. New indicators, used in addition to GDP figures, for measuring the progress of societies, following the work of the Commission chaired by Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz and Jean-Paul Fitoussi, must therefore be discussed in Rio.

With a view to better governance, the UNEP must be given full status within the United Nations. The World Environment Organisation, which we have been talking about for too long, must finally be created. An international criminal court, set up to deal with serious environmental crime, must be attached to it. Civil society must also be fully associated. From this perspective, the Committee on World Food Security serves as a very good model of governance. One of the key demands of civil society will be that Rio+20 should result in a mandate for negotiations to draw up an international convention on the evaluation of the relevant technologies. That, in my view, is a crucial point, and I call on the Council to mention it in its conclusions.

Indeed, different technologies have different social, economic, and even geopolitical, as well as environmental, consequences, which need to be assessed. Are we going to allow powerful technologies such as synthetic biology and geo-engineering to develop without any control? Such a convention on the evaluation of the relevant technologies would be in complete conformity with European practices and laws. This is a matter of great urgency. It is more than time that we progressed to the stage of decision making and implementation.

 
  
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  Peter van Dalen (ECR). - (NL) (without microphone) … all kinds of topics are being included on the agenda. For today, I will pick out one specific one: overfishing. This one has gone in totally the wrong direction. At the moment, around eighty per cent of all fish stocks are being overfished, as a result of which all sorts of fish are at risk of extinction. In my opinion, we need to forge agreements when it comes to the world’s oceans, because we are all fishing from the same pond. Those agreements have to be about sustainable fisheries management, that is to say, about ensuring that fish stocks can remain at a stable level and that we use fishing techniques which spare the seabed and reduce bycatch. Many people work in the fishing industry and, for around a quarter of the world’s population, fish is the most important source of food. Therefore, Mr President, I will not quote anyone else but myself: if we fail to turn the tide in Rio, the damage will be irreparable.

 
  
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  Satu Hassi (Verts/ALE).(FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in Rio, just after the end of the Cold War, hopes were high that development would proceed along a sustainable path, but the results in the control of climate change and the protection of biodiversity have been far too insignificant.

Ten years later in Johannesburg, the EU raised the matter of resource efficiency. Unfortunately, even on this issue, we have not been able to provide a sufficiently good example.

Now almost 10 years have passed since Johannesburg and 20 since Rio, but in the Commission’s latest roadmap it is still mainly consultations that are promised regarding a resource-efficient Europe. All the right arguments are presented, and all the correct general objectives, but still no concrete targets are proposed, to say nothing of legislation.

We have to be able to do better. We nevertheless belong to that small section of mankind that uses a lot more than its fair share of the world’s resources.

 
  
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  Derek Roland Clark (EFD). - Mr President, the Rio +20 Earth Summit 2012 sounds important – but is it really? The Socialist one-world agenda has been having a hard time of it of late. Global problems require global solutions: sounds good. But global governance through scare stories about man-made global warming has fallen flat. People in the UK, US and China are hugely disbelieving. Everybody knows that CO2 is not the cause of the ice ages coming and going. So how can a little extra CO2 be a problem now, whether or not it causes a little extra global warning? Is not a little warming a good thing? Would anyone here really prefer icebergs in the Channel and polar bears in Brussels?

The same goes for the even more vague scare stories that have been peddled using meaningless rhetoric since Rio twenty years ago. No one knows what sustainable development really means – and who would want unsustainable development anyway? The environmentalists’ ‘ban everything accept windmills’ attitude is going to send us back to the Middle Ages unless we put a stop to it.

You are calling in this document for tangible actions and accountable targets, but of course that is all just Soviet five-year plans all over again. It is about time we recognised these failed Communist policies for what they are and go back to the honest free-market approach which creates wealth for all by innovation and hard work, not by endless interfering and political tinkering.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Karl-Heinz Florenz (PPE).(DE) Mr President, it is probably pointless, but I would like to issue him with an invitation. I have never seen him at the discussions on Rio or on other major worldwide conferences, but I always hear him talking here in plenary.

I would really like to invite the honourable Member to come along to committee some time. Come and argue with us, tell us what you have to offer and then we can talk further with you about the speeches. The speech that you have just given gives us nothing to work with.

 
  
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  President. − I think the question was: have you attended any Rio summits?

 
  
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  Derek Roland Clark (EFD). - Mr President, I have not and judging by the last, not the last Rio, but the last one in Copenhagen, I am glad I did not. It was a complete failure from beginning to end.

 
  
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  Sophie Auconie (PPE). (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, since the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, the concept of sustainable development has become integrated, a little more each day, into the habits of the people inhabiting this planet, including those of our European citizens.

I should like to say how much I agree with Mr Kraszewski and with Mr Bennahmias. Yes, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) must be strengthened by a UN agency, or a World Environment Organisation should even be created with real powers to act. In the interim, I welcome the ambition of the European Union, driven by this Parliament, to play a leadership role in future discussions, including those scheduled for June 2012 in Rio.

I therefore endorse the broad thrust of the resolution drawn up by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and I would like to thank Mr Florenz for his forbearance.

However, one point in particular concerns me. As you know, Article 194 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union states quite clearly that the choice of energy mix is a national and purely a national matter. There are some Members of Parliament who, apparently, attach no value to the Treaty and would like the European Union to ask, suddenly, the entire world to abandon nuclear power, knowing that some countries in the European Union are producers, and other countries are large consumers, of nuclear energy.

We will only be credible if our prospects are realistic. If Parliament embarks on this path and prepares to send this type of message to the entire world, I will not, unfortunately, be able to vote in favour of the resolution that will be put to the vote tomorrow.

Commissioner, sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Nuclear energy contributes directly to sustainable development, as it is one of the sources of energy that emit the lowest amount of CO2. It is therefore clear to me that the response to Fukushima must be to ensure an optimal level of nuclear safety and to promote that requirement at international level. What we need are higher safety standards which are better controlled and implemented in a fully transparent manner.

 
  
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  Rovana Plumb (S&D). - Mr President, I would like to congratulate the Commissioners and the Minister speaking on behalf of the Polish Council for their contributions, and I would also like to thank Mr Leinen who is the author of this resolution. Now I shall speak in my mother tongue, Romanian.

(RO) I think that this is a resolution which expresses a strong stance from the European Parliament and must be put to good use. We are all, of course, committed to sustainable development and the measures for guaranteeing not only present generations, but future generations as well, a safe and fair future. I believe that we must focus on providing proper and fair access to natural resources because this is a prerequisite not only for sustainable development and eradicating poverty, but for protecting the environment as well. The concept of a green economy, as was also mentioned by Mr Kraszewski, is one which must be considered globally. Indeed, the European Union must maintain its leading role in assuming and keeping its international commitments, especially on climate change, while highlighting the potential offered by investments in new technologies, clean industries and clean technologies as a driving force for sustainable economic growth, job creation and environmental protection. Social dialogue is also a prerequisite for ensuring sustainable development.

 
  
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  Struan Stevenson (ECR). - Mr President, we must take great care that we adopt a strategy for greening of the economy that supports policies that in fact achieve those objectives, and not policies that achieve the exact opposite.

In Scotland right now we have set targets of 100% energy from renewables by 2020. The Scottish Government has stated that it will not allow new nuclear power stations to be built, but rather it will race ahead with a mad dash for renewables based mainly around onshore and offshore wind, tidal and wave energy. But these projects are being funded by a sea of subsidies paid by the poor beleaguered consumers. What we are witnessing is a dramatic transfer of money from the poor to the rich and from the consumers to the wealthy estate owners and power companies. Scotland’s consumers have recently seen their bills go up by between 10% and 20%. In July the Department of Energy in Whitehall revealed that rising bills have pushed 5.5 million households into fuel poverty. That is one-fifth of British homes. The most vulnerable people in society will be forced to make the choice between food or fuel.

This is a scandal of unparalleled proportions, but it is one of the unintended consequences of pursuing a policy of greening the economy, which is in fact driving people into poverty rather than eradicating it. Nor can such a policy be described as sustainable when wind turbines only provide energy for around 22% of their working life. They do not work when there is no wind and they have to be switched off when there is too much wind. So every megawatt of installed wind capacity has to be backed up with a megawatt of installed baseload which, in the case of Scotland where no nuclear power will be allowed in the future, means a heavy reliance on high CO2-emitting gas or coal plants. A green economy is worth striving for, but not at any cost.

 
  
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  Bas Eickhout (Verts/ALE). - (NL) Mr President, twenty years on from the last sustainability summit in Rio de Janeiro, we have not actually made very much progress. Biodiversity is still declining throughout the world. Greenhouse gas levels are increasing. The oceans are being depleted more and more. Desertification is increasing.

Does that make our economy so much better? The current economic crisis is showing us the consequences of the financial bubble on which we have built our economy. Rio de Janeiro therefore means that we have to change both our economic and environmental course. As is often the case, we all agree with each other here in this Chamber. Minister Kraszewski wants a greener economy, Commissioner Hedegaard, Commissioner Potočnik, they are all in favour of that greener economy. However, if we want to be credible, then we really ought to put this in place ourselves and set an example. Where is Poland in terms of an ambitious climate agenda? We hear nothing coming from Poland about the green economy. In terms of our agricultural policy, when will we see the real greening? In terms of our fisheries policy, are we really going to address depletion? When we talk about Rio de Janeiro, we, as Europe, really ought to lead by example.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Mr President, some twenty years have gone by since the first UN conference on the environment which is a long enough timeframe to allow us properly to judge what we have done towards environmentally sustainable life on Earth. It has also given us ample time to show that we are qualified to set new tasks and objectives for the years to come.

The forthcoming United Nations Rio+20 conference on sustainable development will focus on two main issues. The first will be greening the economy in the context of sustainable development and fighting poverty, and the second will be institutional development within the framework of sustainable development. This conference could be a major stimulus for moving towards a world-wide green economy. We must, however, make the effort to ensure we have prepared effective mechanisms to implement its resolutions in everyday life. To secure the vision and goals of the summit we will have to prepare a sound plan for greening the economy which defines the scope of international, regional and national steps and measures, with measurable indicators and targets for progress. We should use the time that remains until the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June 2012 to prepare such a plan, for example, a road map to a green economy.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE).(PL) Mr President, I would like to invite Mr Eickhout to Poland, because I have lived there for several decades and have not seen rivers drying up, and as for CO2 emissions, Poland has reduced them under the Kyoto Protocol by about 30%, something which no country in Western Europe has achieved.

Rio+20 is a great challenge and an opportunity to develop supranational measures to ensure sustainable development while also meeting the needs of society and the environment. The three Rio Conventions on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Desertification are a response to a number of related problems. They are well-known and have been widely discussed in the forum of the European Union. The Rio+20 summit should primarily be a stimulus to developing a coordinated approach to the three conventions, and the Union should be a leader in talks on a coherent strategy. The outcome of the summit should be specific action which will provide a stimulus to aid development of the green economy, including, for example, plans on the costs of environment protection arising from economic decisions and the establishment of effective mechanisms and programmes adapted to global challenges which will meet the needs both of developed and developing countries.

The Rio conference should not be used to further particular party, political or ideological interests. I am thinking here, for example, of information which has emerged recently about attempts to prevent the use of nuclear energy or shale gas, which is currently known enigmatically as an unconventional fuel. The energy mix, as Ms Auconie said, is a matter for the Member States. Only consensus and a judicious compromise will allow us to combine the Rio+20 objectives with the necessity of sustainable access to a variety of energy sources.

 
  
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  Kriton Arsenis (S&D). - Mr President, Rio+20 is an opportunity to set the planet on a sustainable path, to go into the mechanics of the details and how we are going to do it. We speak a lot in this Parliament, but the main task is to vote tomorrow on the resolution. I would like to mention some points about some split votes and separate votes that have been proposed by the EPP.

I know most of my colleagues in the Committee on the Environment from the EPP and I wonder how the EPP can ask for the deletion of the need to integrate biodiversity into the national accounts. This is one of the basic reasons for us going to Rio+20. How can you ask to delete our concern about the Brazilian Government’s new forest code? It is very well known that this will not allow the Brazilian Government to meet its obligations on deforestation. How can you delete the concerns about offshore oil exploration in environmentally fragile areas, or be against access to adequate and healthy food as a basic human right, or oppose the measures against speculation on the price of basic food that leads to food crises around the world? I am sure that this was a mistake and I hope you will fix that.

 
  
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  Konrad Szymański (ECR).(PL) Mr President, we do, naturally, agree that development should be as sustainable as possible. This resolution, however, is about something else. Under the pretext of making global development sustainable, the authors are proposing measures which are either inadequate or positively harmful. What does sustainable development have to do with introducing a tax on financial transactions? I would like to remind everyone that this morning Mr Barroso already managed to spend the money collected from this tax, except that he spent it on measures for fighting the financial crisis, so it will be very difficult to spend the money again, this time on climate policy. I would also like to remind you that linking a tax to specific expenditure is at variance with the principle of the universality of taxation.

The ban on the production of unconventional oil, which concerns a tiny part of the territory of Canada and the United States, has nothing to do with sustainable development. Similarly, reducing the use or even a global end to the use of nuclear energy has nothing to do with sustainable development. Inclusion of these matters in this highly overestimated resolution means only one thing – the European Union will not have a united position for the conference in Rio.

The resolution also contains recipes which can produce simply catastrophic results, in particular for the poorest part of the world’s population. I am thinking of the proposal to abandon, once again on a global scale, the use of fossil fuels and to replace them with renewable energy sources. Even in Europe, the wealthiest societies are not in a position to bear the costs of this change and are complaining about the high costs. How are these costs to be borne by societies which live on the edge of poverty? Who will pay for the construction of new networks, for the installations which will make up the shortfalls in energy supplies, or for the new installations themselves? The resolution in this form is not suitable for adoption, but if it is adopted, it will only have a harmful effect on coordination of European policy before the world summit in Rio.

 
  
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  Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE). - (SL) Mr President, we are talking about sustainable development and international negotiations and, since joining Parliament, I have noticed that these topics tend to put members in a dilemma. They present them with two options: the first is to focus on the issue at hand and try to resolve it, the second is to exploit the issue for political reasons.

The former presents a risk: it involves working hard to reach an uncertain result with the public probably learning little or nothing about this work. This is bad for our political careers. If we go for the latter option, on the other hand, we are forced to speak only of polemical home issues, regardless of how little they pertain to international negotiations. However, this ensures media interest, which is good for our political careers.

I am in favour of us focusing on resolving problems. However, this also means that our resolution should be shorter and more focused. It should encompass the global context without including superfluous home affairs. The paragraph on nuclear energy is erroneous and offers no solutions. What would we achieve by adopting it? No country would abolish nuclear energy just because the European Parliament had called for this.

If we want to do good, we must ensure a healthy environment and safety for the people. As far as nuclear energy is concerned, we can help this cause by insisting on the highest nuclear safety standards possible and international harmonisation of these standards. This is a realistic possibility and the kind of action that the Union should commit to. It also very much has to do with the quality of life of people within and without the Union’s borders.

We face the threat of climate change and nuclear energy is a source of energy that produces electricity without greenhouse gas emissions. The energy industry represents an important part of the transition to a green economy and I, personally, support the development of sustainable sources of energy and a strong focus on energy efficiency.

 
  
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  Edite Estrela (S&D).(PT) Mr President, 20 years on, we have seen some progress, but we are also aware that there is still a long way to go to achieve the goals that were set back then. There are still 1.4 billion people living in poverty, and the majority of those affected are women.

In Europe there are 80 million people at risk of poverty, which makes this resolution important. The next summit should be used by the international community to address the challenges relating to the three pillars of sustainable development. The Commission and the Council should have an ambitious and united position in the negotiations, with a view to obtaining a strong political commitment to responding to the many challenges, such as the eradication of poverty, health, food, employment, gender equality and energy supply.

The summit should also promote the transition to a green economy, renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as measures that ensure universal access to energy.

Commitments should also be renewed at the summit in relation to promoting access to drinkable water and healthy food, protection of ecosystems and biodiversity, the efficient use of resources, sustainable forest management and combating deforestation. This is an important and urgently needed plan for defending the planet, as well as responding to the people and improving their quality of life.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D).(RO) Mr President, the Rio+20 Conference offers us an important opportunity to discuss global challenges such as the effective use of resources, sustainability and food security. I wish to highlight two important issues in light of tomorrow’s resolution. The first one concerns agriculture. In Romania 30% of the population work in the agricultural sector. Farming is the only source of income for millions of people, and the only major support for subsistence. Most of them own small holdings. This is just the same as in other Member States and in other countries outside the European Union. Small farms which have a low impact on the environment and offer food security to millions of people need to be supported and promoted. The second issue I wish to highlight is to do with the marine environment. This is a source we use jointly. This is why it needs to be managed efficiently at a global level.

 
  
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  Lena Kolarska-Bobińska (PPE).(PL) Mr President, we are all united in the very strong conviction that joint action to fight climate change is essential, and we have to work together to develop an action plan for sustainable development for the next 10 years and a better, more effective plan than we currently have for fighting poverty. It is essential that for this purpose we draft a global agreement, because at present we are in a very difficult situation. We are forcing our citizens and our businesses to accept changes which are very difficult for them, while other countries around the world are not bound by the same rules. How are we to explain to our citizens and businesses that they have to comply, while others do not? In Europe, we have our 2020 objectives, we have a legal system with the Court of Justice of the European Union and fixed standards, but these measures are not in use in the United States, India or China. How are we to persuade people that we need to close down coal-fired power stations when they know that 10 new power stations of this kind are currently being built in China? It is very hard to tell them that energy prices are to go up and jobs to go abroad. In India we very often hear that Europe just wants to use the climate agreement to stifle newly-emerging economic powers and reduce their ability to compete.

We certainly are able to do more than we are doing now, but these commitments must not apply to just one continent. Since the only fair way to strengthen the action we take is to make a joint agreement, it seems to me we must also look for a plan B and a plan C, in other words plans which will tell us what we are to do if we do not manage to reach that global agreement.

We often hear the phrase ‘think globally, act locally’, but perhaps that slogan should be reversed a little – we are told we must act and think globally, and only later think about how things should be in our own backyard, but perhaps, in fact, we should start slowly from our own backyard and take things on from there.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE).(PT) Mr President, despite the progress made over the two decades following the Rio Summit, many of the sustainable development commitments made have not yet been fulfilled.

The Rio+20 summit represents an opportunity to reaffirm the commitment to the transition to a green economy. This transition requires a radical transformation of the energy sector, which is to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Renewable energy and energy efficiency have the potential to mitigate climate change, contribute to social and economic development, and improve security of supply. In this regard, I would stress the importance of science and innovation, and the need for scientific and technological cooperation and technology transfer with developing countries, as well as the promotion of sustainable development.

In addition, it is vital to support education and training programmes, especially for young people of all countries. Promoting new skills will help to create new jobs and reduce social injustice.

 
  
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  Alajos Mészáros (PPE).(HU) Mr President, the Rio+20 summit offers an exceptional opportunity for us to lead our world, which is entwined in a complex system of interdependences, along the road to sustainable development. Despite the experience and positive results obtained over the previous years we can still see that there remain major challenges and deficiencies in implementation. We need to establish an economy that is capable of ensuring growth and development while creating jobs and reducing inequalities.

A green economy that incorporates the application of low-carbon and resource-efficient solutions could be such an economy. However, its implementation requires us to ensure several market and regulatory conditions. Since we intend to increasingly reduce our carbon dioxide emissions I disagree with the complete exclusion of nuclear energy from our energy strategy and firmly support the omission of point 46. For the time being we have no other alternative to generate large amounts of energy at zero emissions. I believe that the Rio+20 summit will be a key opportunity to promote sustainable development. However, we must not content ourselves with merely a declaration that reflects our good intentions; we need tangible actions.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D).(RO) Mr President, the issue of nuclear safety has re-entered public debate in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, an accident which provoked concern in European Union Member States. This event highlighted not only the risks of nuclear energy, but also the risk of political decisions on this matter which are made in the heat of emotion and under pressure from public opinion. I think that political decisions made on Europe’s energy mix must take into account the development of new low-carbon technologies in order to avoid forcing the implementation of support schemes which may distort the energy market and push up the price of electricity. I also believe that the main priority must be the expectations of consumers, who want safe, stable and affordable electricity.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). - (SK) The world population is estimated to grow to 9 billion by 2050, increasing the pressure on the world’s limited natural resources. With the current style of economic development, environmental problems can only get worse.

On the other hand, I believe that the planet is by no means overpopulated, that there are adequate sources of energy and there can also be enough food for everyone on this planet to have a dignified life. The need for world solidarity in supporting sustainable consumption and production does, however, call for closer cooperation between the developed and emerging countries, with a clear schedule for fulfilling the political undertakings made.

For the processes and policies of the European Union, sustainable development needs to be a priority across the board. In conclusion I should like to say that I disagree with paragraph 46, which calls for all nuclear power stations to close and no new ones to be built. This would result in real energy problems.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Mr President, the sustainable development summit in Rio must provide solutions for developing a global green economy which is efficient in terms of resource consumption and will help meet the Millennium Development Goals. Organic farming is needed, which is able to provide food for all the planet’s inhabitants. In this context, I wish to point out the importance of universal access to drinking water, which is a scarce resource.

We must also encourage the use of every low-carbon energy source and of renewable energy sources, not to mention the implementation of measures for increasing energy efficiency in the transport sector, agriculture, industry and housing. These measures will not only provide affordable prices for electricity, but will also enhance energy security. In order to achieve the objectives for providing consumers with affordable energy and climate change targets, we need to keep all the low-carbon energy sources.

Lastly, the development summit should ensure universal access to education and health care services. This action must be promoted.

 
  
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  João Ferreira (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, the Earth Summit that took place 20 years ago was the focus of the attention, concerns and hopes of many millions of people around the world. Twenty years later, following advances and setbacks, the concerns have deepened. The environment cannot be separated from everything else: society and the economy.

Today our biggest environmental problem is the existence of an economic and social system that is dominant at global level, and which Marx says either grows and accumulates or dies. A system that is constantly facing the limits of a world which, despite its generosity, is finite, and whose resources and vital processes often depend on a very delicate balance.

There is no point in trying to paint capitalism green. Capitalism’s inherent lack sustainability is what should be discussed in Rio next year. Current trade, agricultural, energy, industrial, economic and financial policy should also be discussed and questioned there.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI).(DE) Mr President, the UN conference on sustainable development that will take place in Rio in June 2012 will take its place among a historical series of conferences on the environment and sustainability. After each conference new objectives are defined under the banner of sustainable development. Some things have already been achieved. Our efforts must continue, however. There will be two main themes. The first is the green economy in the context of sustainable development and combating poverty. It must be ensured that resources for conserving the environment go hand in hand with economic development, particularly in developing countries and emerging nations.

The second theme is the institutional framework conditions for sustainable development. We need to find ways and means of making sustainable development a reality.

 
  
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  Connie Hedegaard, Member of the Commission. Mr President, thank you very much for Parliament’s expression of active support and for your useful written input on Rio.

As I have heard this debate, there is clearly a very strong resonance with our Communication and the position we are developing in the Commission with the Council, so thank you for that. We are looking forward to continued cooperation on the very long way to achieve what we want in Rio. We must work together now to get a strong EU position for our input into the UN system which should harness and express our common ambitions for Rio, and I think we are well on track to meet that.

I will make a few comments on everything that has been said. First, Mrs Merkies said we need specific goals. The Commission very much agrees with that. That is why we will try to come up with tangible proposals for specific goals when it comes to water, energy, the oceans, sustainable agriculture and forestry. We will really try to make very tangible proposals.

The other question from Mrs Merkies was how we are going to do it. There, I think we have something to offer in the European Union, because we have very good examples that pricing works and we have very good examples that setting targets works. I would also say that with the Millennium Development Goals, although they are not perfect, the world has seen that setting such goals helps to keep a lot of governments focused on what they need to deliver: access to water, access to education and so on. They have not been perfect and they have not been fully fulfilled, but the world has basically moved in the right direction, so that is why we should continue along this way. When the Millennium Development Goals were set, it was in a world that did not speak too much of environmental goals and not too much of energy goals and that is why we need to get that into the Rio+20.

Mr Stevenson was in favour of moving to a green economy provided that it cost nothing. This is not doable. It is true that to make the transformation into a green economy will demand investments. I think that it is very important to emphasise that to continue business as usual also comes at a very high price. We heard some of it here today: the depletion of fishing stocks, for instance, forestry, nature or raw materials. It is a misunderstanding in the debate that if we simply continued business as usual then it would cost us nothing. What we are talking about is whether we want to invest in business as usual – and then clean up afterwards and pay the very high price – or we want to choose a wiser development strategy and get the growth we need for the nine billion that have been mentioned many times. As long as we still have this choice, I think it is very important that the European Union is trying to push the world in the right direction.

That leads me to my third and last point. I agree with Mr Gerbrandy who spoke about the issue of whether to be sustainable or not. But then the question of course is whether the EU should then influence these kinds of global conferences, and I understood that the answer from Mr Clark would be no. I must say I disagree strongly. I think that we have a very fine track record in Europe over many years, that we can actually try to push the world in a better direction by our very strong involvement. I think we should try to do that also for Rio+20.

The world is at a very important crossroads and I think the world would be poorer if we were not investing our energy and our policies in trying to use influence here. That is what we should do, and I look forward very much to working with Mr Leinen and the rest of Parliament to get a strong and united EU position on our way to Rio – hopefully to achieve not just a lot of words and fine declarations, but things and recommendations that can lead to immediate action moving the world into a more sustainable place.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ROBERTA ANGELILLI
Vice-President

 
  
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  Andrzej Kraszewski, President-in-Office of the Council.(PL) Madam President, Ms Hedegaard, honourable Members, what do we know 20 years after Rio? We know a great deal more. There have been many advances in science, and thanks to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for example, we have a much better understanding of the effects of human activity on the environment. This should be a lesson for us, and it should make us realise that we do not have time – we do not have much time left. Research is ongoing, and it is not unlikely that we will find we have reached the point known as ‘peak oil’. What will happen now if China, India or other countries which are on the fast track to development repeat the logic of Japan’s or Korea’s development, for example? This problem – which by the way involves a degree of fear that the planet will not be able to provide our grandchildren with what they need to live – this, honourable Members, is not our grandchildren’s problem, it is our problem. Therefore it is extremely important to escape the logic of exponential development, which expects that with each successive year development will be faster than the last one, and that next year it will be faster still. At the moment that is the way things are, and at the moment that is how people think.

There is a great role here for the European Union. The European Union has often shown that it has a role as a leader, and we are currently also making enormous efforts, and Ms Hedegaard and I in my capacity as a representative of the Polish Presidency are both well aware of the difficulties we encounter when we talk to the greatest emitters and try to persuade them to adjust their pace to that of the European Union. We must not stop at this. Rio must be the next step, our latest response to threats which are becoming a reality. It is important that we treat the green economy seriously. The green economy is not something which can be allowed to cause poverty to increase – quite the opposite. The green economy should be managed to allow the creation of new jobs and to ensure our prosperity – to fulfil our aspirations and also to give us work. So it is a certain kind of game, a fairly sophisticated kind of game, and one which we have to learn to play.

I would like to say a word about technology. We still do not know everything about the technology. Not all the technology is available to us to allow us to say with full certainty that we will only use renewable sources of energy, for example, and nothing else. However, if technologies for storing energy develop – if I can at least mention this now – perhaps that beautiful, ideal world we would like to have will be possible in a few decades – 20, 30 or 40 years.

Once again, I would like to emphasise how pleased I am, as a representative of the Polish Presidency, to be able to be a part, too, of what we call the European Union’s leadership. Having listened to Mr Florenz, and having listened to Mr Leinen, I feel sure that the European Parliament, together with the Council and together with the European Commission, will provide that leadership, and that we will be able to say that the matters of sustainable development dealt with at this important conference in Rio represent real progress. Thank you very much.

 
  
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  President. − I have received one motion for a resolution(1)in accordance with Article 115(5) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Thursday, 29 September.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Sebastian Valentin Bodu (PPE), in writing. (RO) The Rio+20 Summit scheduled for June 2012 offers a unique occasion for world leaders to set the agenda for sustainability for the next 10 years and to reaffirm the need for global solidarity. It would send an important message if the participating states were to be represented by their head of state or government.

The green economy and private sector must not lead to populist, economically unsustainable decisions being made. Sustainable development must become a priority at EU level as part of all EU processes and policies, if the Union wants to show consistency both internally and globally. The Rio+20 Summit is an extremely important occasion for reinforcing the partnership between industrialised and developing countries.

However, there is one item which I disagree with, which is the intention to ban the use of nuclear power to produce energy. Closing down nuclear power plants would hamper the economy and life in society. Consequently, I believe that the response to this kind of challenge is to tighten safety measures. I would therefore have liked the European Parliament to have granted the European Commission, as part of the Rio Summit negotiations, a mandate inspired by this idea.

 
  
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  Ioan Enciu (S&D), in writing. (RO) I support the proposals of the resolution on the UN conference on sustainable development, but I would like to point out that the paragraph referring to the total removal of nuclear energy from Europe’s energy mix goes against the interests of certain Member States, including Romania for one.

I think that nuclear energy is vital, at least in the medium term, with a view to providing end consumers with affordable electricity. This is also a low-carbon technology which can make a significant contribution to achieving the EU’s climate change targets.

Hasty political decisions about energy production, made under pressure from public opinion and in an unsuitable emotional frame of mind, can have serious consequences. They can affect energy supply security, lead to a rise in fossil fuel prices and even jeopardise the EU’s energy independence.

New energy technologies must be developed and the energy market operated for the benefit and not to the detriment of the consumer. We must provide a steady flow of affordable energy. This is why these aspects must be examined properly before any decisions are made, such as the one about the role of nuclear energy in Europe’s energy mix.

 
  
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  Véronique Mathieu (PPE), in writing. (FR) First of all, I am firmly opposed to paragraph 46 providing for the closure of nuclear power stations and prohibiting the construction of new infrastructure. We must not be taken in by the scaremongering triggered by recent events. We must, of course, ensure that all nuclear power stations comply with very strict safety standards. That is my primary concern. Be that as it may, this paragraph is irresponsible. Nuclear energy represents a significant proportion of our energy resources: 78% of electricity is generated by nuclear power. Nuclear power guarantees energy independence and stability of supply. Furthermore, nuclear energy is the cleanest and most reliable form of energy. We cannot currently do without it. Moreover, this resolution is disproportionate. While we do indeed need to protect the environment, we must also be realistic and not penalise our economies by placing excessive ecological demands on them. This resolution calls this delicate balance into question and goes beyond measures necessary to protect the environment. I therefore intend to abstain in the vote on this report.

 
  
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  Pavel Poc (S&D), in writing. - (CS) In spite of Article 194 of the Treaty, which gives Member States the right to set conditions for the exploitation of their energy resources, the right to choose between various energy sources and to establish a basic mix of energy supply, the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance has managed to insert a point 46 into the draft resolution on drawing up a common EU negotiating position for the Rio+20 UN conference on sustainable development, the second part of which calls for the decommissioning of existing nuclear power plants and a halt to the construction of new nuclear plants. A proposal such as this is unacceptable, and not only for the Czech Republic, which is and will continue to be highly dependent on nuclear energy. Other Member States are also counting on the exploitation of nuclear energy, and any form of restriction would mean greater dependency on fossil fuels, and growing emissions of greenhouse gases. If Europe is to meet its binding targets in the area of climate change, we must make use of all the available options for obtaining energy, including nuclear. There are risks connected with many other branches of industry, and despite that we do not prohibit the extraction of oil or the production of chemicals. Instead of this, there is an attempt to ensure by all means available the highest standards of safety and environmental protection. Rational discussion in the area of nuclear power should focus mainly on ensuring maximum safety and on the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel.

 
  

(1) See Minutes.

Last updated: 5 January 2012Legal notice