We are gathered here to discuss how we can ensure the right future for all of us : a future of “sustainability”. That future of “sustainability” is not only necessary – an absolute must - it is also possible.
Today, sustainability has become much more pressing on our agenda. Population growth, the rapid rise of the middle class worldwide, the spread of mega cities, ambitious development needs–all this are adding pressures for finite resources. More people want more in a world where less is available. If we do not succeed in ensuring a sustainable future, we will inevitably live in a world of utter chaos and desperation.
The good thing about the future is that we can control it. It does not happen by accident but by design. Decisions made today will make the world 20 years from now, just like decisions made in Rio two decades ago made our world today.
In 1992, the community of nations achieved a monumental feat at the UN Conference on the Environment and Development. It was the first time the global community got together, took stock of development and environmental challenges, and charted a common path forward.
Since then, we have seen many encouraging developments.
The world economy has grown from USD$ 34 trillion to over USD$ 64 trillion today. International trade has tripled to USD$ 28 trillion. Many countries have crossed over into Middle Income Status, including Indonesia. And along with this, poverty worldwide has been reduced significantly from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 1.29 billion in 2008. In Indonesia too, poverty has declined from 24% in 1998 to some 12.5% today. And we are seeing the spirit of enterpreneurship sweeping the world like never before - creating opportunity, jobs and hope for millions.
Along with economic achievements, the environmental agenda has made significant advances. Environmental regimes have grown, for example, on biodiversity, on climate change, on forestry. More and more nations are adopting green growth strategies.
Indeed, environmental concerns today are as much bottom up as well as top down, with civil society, families, individuals taking part to protect the environment. The corporate world too has increasingly embraced green business strategy and doing more CSR in social and environmental fields.
And we are seeing growing spirit of international cooperation and globalism in the international system to tackle the issues of the day, although this is yet to lead us into a comprehensive and long term global climate treaty.
Yet, we are also seeing some challenges.
To begin with, despite the considerable expansion of the world economy, we still have not reached a world economy that is “strong, balanced, sustainable”. Indeed, the world economy is experiencing sluggish growth; it is uneven and imbalanced; and in some areas it is not yet sustainable. In many cases, it is not inclusive.
We are also concerned that there is growing inequity. We are seeing this between countries and within countries. For example, according to the World Bank, the discrepancy on income per capita between developed and developing countries are almost seven-fold.
We are seeing growing pressures between population growth and resources availability. World population have already crossed the 7 billion mark and we are heading towards 9 billion people before 2050. Indeed, we have seen alarming cases around the world where resources competition turn into conflict.
Meanwhile, climate change in the past 2 decades has worsened – with the earth getting warmer and we are struggling to keep its rise to below 2 degrees celsius.
And for a variety of reasons, environmental priorities have not been placed in the mainstream of development agenda worldwide.
Our efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 have also faced uphill battles. There has been some progress, but also some setbacks and challenges in reaching our targets. For example, we made progress on infant and maternal mortality, poverty, life expectancy; but we are not on track as yet to reach MDG targets for improved nutrition for children, sanitation in rural areas gender mainstreaming, urban poor.
Despite all this, I remain OPTIMISTIC that we can ensure a future of sustainability.
I believe the key is : technology and innovation. Just think of it. When Rio convened 2 decades ago, we did not have the internet as we now know it. We did not have cell phone, social media, nano-technology, GPS, tablet computers. Yet, these are the things that are changing our society today, and driving the new economy. I believe that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, and we are certain to see more innovations flooding our society. We will see hybrid cars, energy efficient lighting; clean coal technology; solar panels; and even though they may be costly for now, the price is certain to go down just as we have seen with cell phones.
I have found it encouraging that many of these innovations are now blooming not only in developed world but also in developing countries. It is therefore very much possible that humans can do and produce more with much less energy, emission and resources.
20 years after Rio, our world continues to change with lightning speed, and our challenges have multiplied. It is time that we adjust our approach accordingly.
In Indonesia, we have actively pursued a policy of “growth with equity”. We have had some success. But we are also mindful that the central challenge is how to combine “sustainable growth” with “equity”. Growth for the sake of growth in the long run will not be tenable. Hence, a policy of “sustainable growth with equity”.
We are now in the midst of a difficult world economic situation. It remains uncertain how the Eurozone crisis will turn out, and we hope that the crisis will end sooner than later. Our challenge is how to ensure that world economic problems do not detract or distract us from sustainability goals and climate change objectives. It is important for us to maintain focus on our national commitments and global responsibilities.
To secure our climate future, it is also important for us to press on with “common but differentiated responsibility and respective capability”. Here, I believe that developed countries must take lead, but developing countries must also do more. Even when developed countries altogether reduce their emissions ambitiously – which by the way, is not yet the case - it is still not enough to achieve our target of keeping global warming below the 2 degrees Celsius. Everybody has to get into the act. This is why Indonesia, without waiting for global agreement, in the midst of a deadlock in 2009 made the voluntary decision to reduce emissions by 26 % by 2020, or 41 % with international support. There is no breakthrough without thinking outside the box.
We will also need greater collaboration, not confrontation. Of course, good arguments are always necessary to advance issues, but at the end of the day, we all need to work together. We all have the same objectives. In Indonesia, we have always been willing to partner with all stakeholders based on common interests : the NGOs, civil society, interest groups, business, the media, academia. We do not pretend to know all the answers, and the act of engaging and listening usually lead us to a better solution. Overly confrontational approach can only become counter-productive and widen gaps rather than closing them.
We also need to move on pragmatically with forward looking approach. Take our forestry situation. In Indonesia, we experienced serious deforestation in the 1980’s and 1990’s. It actually became worst in the year 2000 during our democratic transition, when 3,5 million hectares of forests vanished. But in recent years, we have rectified the situation. We promoted sustainable forestry as a key part of sustainable development. In 2010, Indonesia signed a letter of intent with the Government of Norway for Reducing its Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). In May last year, we implemented an ambitious moratorium on new licenses for exploitation of primary forests and peat land. We also launched a nation-wide campaign to plant trees, which in the last 2 years have resulted in 3,2 billion trees being planted – and I repeat, 3,2 billions, not millions. We do this out of our own volition, but we also expect the world to support our efforts beyond rhetoric and finger pointing. In the long run, sustainability will be achieved because it is economically viable to keep the trees up than cutting them down.
Looking ahead, we need a strong vision to mobilize the world community and carry us forward. This is a critical time as we are heading towards the end of the MDGs time frame by 2015, and the Kyoto Protocol also expires this year. It is critical that we maintain continuity of our global visions to ensure our sustainable future. This means that here in Rio, the world community will reaffirm its commitment to sustainable development and chart an even bolder course of global action for the coming decades. It also means that we have to come up with post-2015 post-MDG development agenda that is more ambitious, more comprehensive and more in tune with the changing global landscape. I believe that the concept of “sustainable growth with equity” will help bring all of us there. I appreciate the work of the UN Secretary General towards this end. And I am honoured that he has asked me to be Co-Chair of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on post-2015 Development Framework, along with British Prime Minister David Cameron and President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Finally, let me close by saying that no amount of international treaties and government policies and economic achievements will make a dent on sustainability unless individuals, families and societies are willing to change our lifestyle. In some ways, we have been victims of our own success. But we now recognize that we need to redefine modernity, development and prosperity, and move away from overconsumption and excessive consumerism. We need to move from “greed” economy to green economy. This is something that needs to be nurtured in our homes, in our schools, and in our workplace. If only citizens of the world pledge themselves to such a lifestyle, then sustainability will no longer be a vision but a reality.