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Policymakers, corporations and civil society put partnerships at the heart of sustainable development at Brussels Summit

19 December 2012
Policymakers, corporations and civil society put partnerships at the heart of sustainable development at Brussels Summit

BRUSSELS: Participants ranging from high-level decisionmakers to distinguished experts lead a heated two-day debate on accelerating sustainable development, post Rio+20.

Brussels Sustainable Development Summit 2012 was initiated and oragnized by VITO (Flemish Institute for Technological Research) and TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) with The Climate Group as supporting organizer. The Summit took place on December 17-18, 2012.


High-level speakers included HRH Prince Philippe of Belgium, Steven Vanackere Federal Minister for Finance and Sustainable Development, Belgium, Pascal Cangin, Minister for development, France, John Griffiths, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, Wales, Kris Peeters, Minister-President, Flanders, Manuel Barroso, President, European Commission, EU-Commissioners Connie Hedegaard and Janez Potočnik, Marie-Hélène Aubert, Special Adviser to French President Hollande, Yvo de Boer, Former UNFCCC Executive secretary, Brice Lalonde, Executive Coordinator, UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Vice-Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. RK Pachauri, Director-General, TERI and Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University joined by videolink.

Day 1

Following on from online discussions, representatives from leading businesses, organizations and governments including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, EDF, DG Energy, DSM India, International Chamber of Commerce, and different regional governments discussed topics such as urban energy, the bio-based economy and international collaboration, in a series of workshops.

Opening the Summit, Minister-President Peeters, emphasized the Flemish SD Strategy focus on transition arenas for sustainable building and living and materials management.

The cities sessions saw common catalysts for improving cities emerge as the workshops progressed, including behavioral drivers, social innovation through new business models and citizen movements, and infrastructure enablers such as policy, cities, communities and technologies.

The international collaboration workshops emphasized the need for closer local population involvement for corporate project assessment and called for a better coordinated bottom up global joint venture, to push the national and international decisionmakers to more action.

In his concluding remarks, Pascal Canfin, Minister Delegate for Development, France, called for opportunity sharing instead of burden sharing on climate change, and said France will intensify outreach to third world countries at all levels to build trust for reaching a global agreement in 2015.

President Barroso closed the first day by assuring that the Commission would continue to strive for a strong emphasis on sustainable development actions in the still-to-be concluded European budget discussions.

Day 2

The second day was opened by Belgian Minister Vanackere in the presence HRH Prince Philippe. It was followed by panel dicussions on the different themes with Brice LaLonde, Minister John Griffiths and Commissioner Hedegaard.

Lalonde began by highlighting the need to nurture citizen action: ‘You mobilize people when you paint the positive side of things - the potential of how we could live".

John Griffiths then shifted the focus to the need for greater federated states and regional government leadership. He said: ‘We’re working at a sub-national government level to coordinate actions between cities, and we're seeing success in many areas."

Agreeing on the need to boost collaboration, Hedegaard said: "I believe one of our big challenges in the EU is that whilst there are a lot of good things going on in cities we need to be better at sharing best practice. In the commission we will develop an adaptation framework that lays out more clearly what actions should be taken at city, regional and national level. We waste too much time reinventing solutions that have already been implemented in neighboring territories."

The afternoon included a panel on Sustainable Development Goals with Jeffrey Sachs, Janez Potocnik, Marie -Hélène Aubert and Kathleen Rogers, President, Earth Day Network

The discussion focused on the still vast and unused potential of technology, of which needs to go hand-in-hand with systemic economic changes. It was affirmed that civil society also needs to find better ways to communicate on unnecessary over-consumption as a key challenge to sustainable development.

The opportunities for a green economy panel were also discussed. The panel included Yvo de Boer (KPMG), Peter Tom Jones (University of Leuven), Luc Bas (The Climate Group) Alain Hubert (Polar scientist on video from South Pole Station Queen Elisabeth) and Mohan Munasinghe, Founding Chairman, Munasinghe Institute for Development, Sri Lanka.

Peter Tom Jones highlighted how subnational action can drive the national and international agenda to move ahead, and Yvo de Boer emphasized how large parts of the business community is embracing sustainable development principles, not just out of moral obligation, but because it improves business - and profits.

Luc Bas, Director European Programs for The Climate Group, summarized his leadership call in saying: “Achieving sustainable development needs to be much more than talking about the necessary transition on the longer term. It’s about acting at scale now. Our Clean Revolution campaign is exactly aiming at getting that on track now.”

Mohan Munasinghe said: “Next to the Millenium development goals and envisaged SD goals we need to include Millenium Consumption Goals in order to secure a globally equal share of consumption within the planetary boundaries.”

Alain Hubert concluded with a call for different metrics to be used at the heart of policy and decision-making, examples being the Genuine Progress Index or the Ecological footprint.

The Summit reached a very diverse audience from different sectors and all levels of decision-making. There was a clear commitment to continuing the BSDS Dialogues in 2013 to ensure outcomes continue to feed into policy decisions at the European and international levels.

Dirk Fransaer, Director VITO concluded with: “BSDS 2012, organized in close collaboration with The Climate Group, was all about an optimistic and yet realistic shared vision for a sustainable future, one that inspires people to strive for such a society."

Luc Bas added: “This first BSDS has started an interesting process as a counterpart to the Delhi SDS, and The Climate Group is excited to have collaborated with VITO and TERI on this successful event.”

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