Sudan Seriously Prepares for Rio+20 Conference for Sustainable Development in Brazil (2-3)
Issues of Sustainability is embedded in any development activity
The preparations for Sudan participation in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio + 20) is going at full speed spearheaded by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Physical Development.
It was a intelligent choice that the Ministry of Environment decided that the quick-up of its activities was a Forum convened on 2 May 2012 to orient the Media on the Conference and the challenges of sustainable development.
The second and major event came with the Ministry of Environment organizing a three days workshop from 8 to 9 May 2012 on the three basic issues that will be the focus in the Rio+20 Conference .On the first day of the Conference which was also attended by the Enlivenment Minister Hassan Hilal to express his strong concern for the environment and the good preparation of Sudan participation in the Rio+20 Conference.
The global panel of experts invited by UNEP to a wide range of consultation with major groups and institutions have provided a list of 120 issues and they ranked according to prioritization mechanism. The post issues in social resilience related to Sudan situation are: Global environmental policy has become a core item on the agenda of the UN system and of regional organizations alike. including Jordan (2008) have pointed out the need for better integration at these levels.
Incrementalism and piecemeal approaches to global governance may not guarantee the urgently needed transition to more sustainable means of production and consumption.
It appears that we may be seeing the emergence of a ‘constitutional moment’ in the development of international relations and governance, comparable in recent times only to the major constitutional moment of 1945 ‘post World War II’ that saw the emergence of a multitude of new, and often unprecedented, international norms, institutions, and agencies. Similar fundamental revisions in norms, processes and mechanisms of global governance would help address the global sustainability challenge.
Modes of learning, management approaches and research efforts. Starting with job skills, a UNEP report in 2008 noted that the US, Germany, Brazil, China and other countries, were already suffering from a shortage of skilled workers in the ‘green’ sector of the economy. With regards to modes of learning, Beddoe and others (2009), argue that our current pedagogic methods, from schooling to professional training, are unsuited for achieving sustainable development. Not only are more training programs needed to provide workers for the green workforce, but background education in sustainability principles is needed for virtually all professions, so that these principles can be built into the day-to-day affairs of government and commerce. Current management approaches also have their drawbacks when it comes to building a Green Economy. The aforementioned UNEP report also notes that ‘new perspectives, awareness, and managerial capacities’ are needed for the green sector of the economy. Finally, many question the adequacy of traditional research efforts in meeting global environmental challenges. Experts advocate a shift from independent, curiosity driven research to a much deeper level of engagement of science with society. As put by the International Council of Science ‘…the global scientific community must take on the challenge of delivering knowledge required to support efforts to achieve sustainable development in the context of global environmental change…’
There are already indications that the paucity of job skills in the green sector may be holding back society’s ability to cope with global environmental change. Lack of personnel, for example, is apparently slowing the growth of the renewable energy industry, which has the knock-on effect of slowing the control of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. Hence, society has a more difficult time coping with climate change and air pollution impacts. More generally, UNEP suggests that current shortages in skilled labor may ‘frustrate efforts by governments to transition to a Green Economy and deliver the expected environmental benefits and economic returns.’ In addition to the gap in job skills, similar deficiencies in modes of learning, management practices, and research efforts all undermine efforts to deal with adverse global environmental change.
Options for action
What steps can be taken to build up society’s capabilities to meet the sustainability challenge of the 21st century? One obvious and important step would be to train workers to fill in the gaps in the green workforce, as discussed above. How can we improve our modes of learning to make them better suited for the sustainability challenge? One way is for educational systems to extend their curricula and programs to better prepare students for jobs in the Green Economy. Conservation a management of natural resources which of the source of livelihoods for 70% of Sudan population.
The research community must also build up new capabilities to address global environmental change and support the Green Economy. The International Council of Science (2010) argues that this will require basic changes in the structure of current research that promote interdisciplinary research, that allow for more regional-based research, and that strengthen the interaction of science with decision-makers and other stakeholders. The form of these changes is now being debated within the scientific and funding communities, but could include a new governance structure for the organizations that coordinate global change research and new research priorities for the scientific community.
On the other hand, society could follow an alternative pathway to the future and make a special effort to fill in the skills gaps in the green sector. It can also update educational institutions to better cover educational needs for sustainability work, and train managers to better respond to global environmental change, and retool research efforts to better address the sustainability challenge. If society follows this pathway, then it is likely that a decade from now we will be in a much stronger position to contend with global environmental change.
Food, Biodiversity and Land Issues
Although food security is an age-old preoccupation of humanity, new threats to this security are constantly arising. The most recent list includes climate change, competition for land from bioenergy production, heightened water scarcity, and possible shortfalls of phosphorus for fertilizer. Many of the older challenges still remain, including degradation of agricultural land, competition for land with cities, and increasing demand for food due to growth in population and affluence.
Options for action
There are many options for enhancing global food security. One general approach, sketched out in the UN Secretary General’s ‘Comprehensive Framework for Action’ (2008), has the first goal of covering the immediate needs of those already suffering from hunger, and the second goal of building up the resilience of vulnerable populations.
To cover immediate needs, the Framework recommends that ‘emergency food assistance, nutrition interventions and safety nets are enhanced and made more accessible; that smallholder farmer food production is boosted; that trade and tax policies are adjusted; and that the macroeconomic implications are managed.’
To go beyond the immediate hunger crisis, and to buildup food security over the longer term, the Framework calls for ‘social protection systems to be expanded; for smallholder farmer-led food availability growth to be sustained; for international food markets to be improved; and for an international biofuel consensus to be developed.’
Over and above what the Framework calls for, food security can also be enhanced by strengthening the long term ecological foundation of the world’s food supply. This includes ensuring the long-term sustainability of fish stocks, promoting ecologically-sound cropland intensification, and reducing waste such as post-harvest losses in the food system. A viable option for enhancing both food security and food safety is to introduce or expand sustainable agriculture. As described by UNEP, sustainable agriculture involves a wide range of actions, including: water conservation and water harvesting; soil and nutrient management; restoration of degraded landscapes; efficient plant harvesting; and early transformation of products to reduce post-harvest losses. All of these steps would strengthen the ecological basis of the food supply and make it safer and more reliable for consumers.
The issue of urban environmental sustainability has two important aspects: there is the environmental quality within cities that city residents have to live with, and the environmental changes caused by cities outside of their borders. Neither is particularly sustainable. Consider the case of motor vehicles in cities: they pollute the air and water in cities and threaten the health of urban residents, but also contribute to air pollution outside of city limits and to global climate change. Within cities, it comes as no surprise that air and water pollution levels often exceed recommended limits, especially in lower income countries. A 2007 UNEP report indicated that levels of particulate matter in the air over cities in many developing countries are many times the public health guidelines of the World Health Organization. Likewise, the level of nitrogen dioxide exceeds guidelines in most large urban areas. Cities, of course, entirely alter the natural environment within their borders and at their edges, pointed out that the interaction of humans and the natural environment within cities may even be creating a unique biochemistry of the environment.
It is also easy to understand that the concentration of people, industry, infrastructure and energy in urban areas has a major influence on the environment outside of cities. UNEP (2007) pointed out that this impact can be greater than proportional; whereas cities contain 35% of Sudan population, they consume about 60 to 80% of its energy and emit about 75% of its carbon dioxide emissions. And outside their boundaries, cities have a large ecological footprint. In addition to the air and water pollutants transported to the surrounding countryside and beyond, cities require an area much larger than their own for the food, materials and other resources needed for their existence.
Options for action
There are, in fact, many different ways of achieving sustainability and resilience in urban areas. These ideas have been compressed into the concept of ‘green cities’, also known as ‘ecological cities’, ‘eco-cities’, or ‘sustainable cities’. Green city concepts usually include the following features:
Compactness – Research has shown that a denser settlement pattern can reduce average trip distances and make walking, bicycling, and energy-efficient public transportation a more practical option for travellers. This reduces the dependence of urban dwellers on private vehicles which tend to use more energy and produce more air pollution per passenger-km than alternative modes of mobility. Higher density also brings lower costs for water and sewage systems, streets and other infrastructure, as well as lower per capita demands for land.
The multi-story buildings typical of denser cities have a lower surface-to volume ratio, which can reduce heating and cooling loads compared to those of single story buildings. Such buildings often use less building materials per person than single story buildings. However, all of these economies depend on the income levels of city inhabitants. Usually the lower the income level, the lower the level of per capita consumption.
Rush for Land
Although the area of agricultural land has been expanding in developing countries for decades, a boom in commodity prices in 2008 led to a surge in investments from abroad. The size of the surge is uncertain, but a 2011 Oxfam report stated that up to 227 million hectares have been sold or leased worldwide since 2001, with the bulk of the acquisitions occurring in the past two years. Another report in 2010 by the World Bank says that investors expressed interest in around 56 million hectares of land in 2009 alone, with about two-thirds of the investments taking place in Sub- Saharan Africa. In the same vein, the Global Land Project estimated in 2010 that between 51 and 63 million hectares of land were either part of finalized land deals or under negotiation in 27 African countries in 2009. By comparison, m agricultural land worldwide grew by around 1.8 - 4 million hectares per year before 2008. Deininger and others stated that the 2009 demands for land in Africa equates to more than the total land development on the continent over the previous 20 years. It should be noted, however, that not all land deals have been converted to farmland.
On top of these international pressures come national pressures for land development, such as continued urbanization, expansion of infrastructure, and demand for new cropland to satisfy growing domestic food requirement.
By Alula Berhe Kidani, 26/05/2012