This week the Rio de Janeiro summit on sustainable development will open. Rio+20 is an opportunity to look back at changes in our environment since the first Earth Summit in 1992, and also a time to look to the future, re-evaluating the way our economies and our societies depend on the environment and natural resources.
In the 20-year gap between the two Rio summits, the
earth's population has grown from 5.4 billion in 1992 to more than 7 billion
now – a leap of almost 30 %. This has had a knock-on effect on global use of
natural resources, in tandem with increasing per capita consumption levels.
Although greenhouse gas emissions have fallen within
Europe, globally they have jumped by approximately a third over 20 years, and
the number of tonnes of natural resources extracted has also leapt by a third
in the same period. These figures mask huge inequalities – per capita resource
use and emissions are many times higher in some countries compared to others.
Many critics of the current economic model point out
that it is premised on ever-increasing exploitation of natural resources, while
materials and the planet's capacity to absorb waste are limited.
Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director said:
"The current economic model is heading toward obsolescence. Its
obsolescence is even more obvious if we want to improve living conditions and
opportunities for the poorest people while we continue to demand ever more
stuff in the richer parts of the world. Rio +20 gives us the opportunity to
start to build an inclusive green economy, which benefits both people and the
In Rio, heads of state will discuss global targets
for sustainability indicators, to help move towards a green economy. It is also
hoped that the conference will be the starting point for new cooperation
between states, the private sector, international organisations and civil
On Sunday 17 June, the EEA presented a new film,
'Planet RE:think', which tells the story of unsustainable resource use. The
documentary shows the truly global nature of the problem, from environmentally
devastating mining in Canada to recycling of electronic waste in India which
damages the health of workers. The feature-length film also includes positive
examples of ‘green economy' policies and business models, from Ecuador to South