Twenty-two Sisters of St. Joseph representing Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Peru and the United States are attending the Rio+20 conference sponsored by the United Nations. This conference will evaluate the progress made over the 20 years ago since the first historic global plan to address climate change occurred in Rio. World governments will hopefully renew their commitments to a “green economy” and sustainable world development.Our delegation’s most important message to the UN is that at the heart of the climate change discussion and decision-making must be a commitment to an ethical framework for sustainable development. In its six page statement, our delegation states that sustainable development is an ethical challenge which urges all nations and peoples to act on their ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ to care for the earth, protect human rights and eradicate poverty. Together, we must answer a fundamental ethical question: Will we choose human transformation or earth devastation?
We live on a finite planet. We are liquidating the earth’s natural assets to fuel our consumption. In system after system, demand is overshooting supply. Current agricultural practices account for 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change is already responsible for forcing some 50 million additional people to go hungry and driving 10 million additional people into extreme poverty. As climate change worsen, migration will become a growing issue.
We believe that developed countries need to take the lead in changing their patterns of production and consumption while developing countries maintain their development goals even as they move toward sustainable practices.
Our experience causes us to have deep concerns about human rights, which are fundamentally related to access to natural resources such as clean air, water and land. The ethical task is to ensure that the trajectory of the Green Economy is clearly in the direction of building sustainable, local economies which protect and enhance earth’s systems while meeting the needs of humanity, especially earth’s poorest peoples.
While we commit ourselves to personal changes that will reduce our consumption patterns and support a “green economy”, we also know that we must advocate for systemic changes at a local, national, and global level. We recommend that governments:
· End subsidies for large, export-oriented agricultural and resource extractive industries
· Ensure that trade agreements protect the environment and address climate change
· Incorporate gender analysis into governmental policy development– women produce half the world’s food, yet typically earn much less than men
· Create mandatory standards and regulations within all sectors of the green economy
· Ensure greater transparency and strict regulation on financial speculation especially with regard to carbon markets as well as food stock exchanges, future markets for food and agriculture