Empowering local people to ensure natural assets

The International Institute for Environment and Development urged governments to invest in resilience, strengthen local control over natural resources, and apply realistic values to the environment and human wellbeing in order to steer societies onto a more secure path. The call comes in a paper published by IIED’s director Camilla Toulmin, ahead of the Rio+20 conference in Brazil next month, when world leaders will meet to agree ways to tackle the environment and development challenges facing humanity. IIED recommends action in three areas.
Evidence shows that local control of natural assets is the best way to ensure strong investment in and sustainable use of forests, water, soils and other resources, in ways that create jobs, profits and secure livelihoods in both rural and urban areas. “When governments recognise the rights and organisations of local communities, they encourage long-term decision-making, and sustainable management of key assets. It’s also a better option for outside investors, since returns need to be balanced to generate long term stable outcomes,” says Toulmin.
Investing in Resilience: Environmental, economic and social shocks are becoming more common and include climatic extremes, volatile food and fuel prices, and financial instability. Governments can build resilience to such shocks with policies that prioritise long-term adaptive capacity, more diverse economic activities, and climate-resilient growth. “Decentralised energy supplies, new approaches to urban density, inclusive business models, and greater accountability in global institutions are among the building blocks of resilience to the shocks tend to hit the poorest and most vulnerable communities hardest,” says Toulmin.
Realistic valuation: Today, true environmental costs and benefits do not appear on balance sheets, and we use GDP to measure development despite knowing that it does not reflect human wellbeing and can mask the unsustainable aspects of growth. “We need to change the way we measure progress and address the market failures that today’s false environmental accounting allows to endure. The first and most urgent steps are a significant and rising price on carbon, and an end to fossil fuel subsidies.” says Toulmin.
The paper shows how the June meeting in Rio — the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit – is an opportunity for leaders to agree change in these three areas. “The environmental, social and financial crises that face us are interconnected, and so are their solutions,” says Toulmin. “After four decades of research on the links between the environment and development, IIED has identified three clear policy shifts that are realistic, achievable and effective ways to reshape our future and create a fair, greener and more secure world.”

-With The Independent input

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