25 April 2012
Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister
Speech by Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt at Stockholm+40
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Mister Prime Minister, Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, 40 years ago, in 1972, world leaders met here in Stockholm for the first UN Conference on the Human Environment. 113 countries and more than 400 organisations gathered under the banner "Only One Earth".
The theme indicated a milestone event. It was the first international recognition of the interdependence between human beings and nature - and a need for a significant shift in the international development agenda was expressed.
The strength and the continuity of the Stockholm Agenda turned out to be a lasting phenomenon in multilateral cooperation. The concept of sustainable development with its three dimensions - social, economic and environmental - has been firmly established ever since.
The Stockholm 1972 conference also meant that issues concerning the human environment became areas of both national and international concern and cooperation. A special UN programme for the environment, UNEP, was established. This organization has now been serving the people and the planet for 40 years. With modest means, but with immense commitment, UNEP has played a crucial role in driving the development of international environmental law and collaboration.
Today, 40 years later, we meet again in Stockholm. Government, civil society and the academic community has been joined by the business community, which is increasingly driving sustainability. Quantum leaps are possible when actors join hands and take the lead in contributing to sustainable development.
Today, globalisation, innovation and economic growth are bringing an increasing number of people out of poverty. At the same time some of the greatest challenges to mankind cannot be dealt with successfully without additional action.
I am thinking of such universal challenges as climate change and global warming; the energy crisis; water shortages; widespread poverty in parts of the world; the impact of current demographic changes; prolonged international conflicts and the risks of pandemics.
The Rio+20 Conference in Rio de Janeiro later this year represents a unique opportunity. To build a renewed and reinforced political and institutional foundation for sustainable development. It offers an opportunity to elaborate a clear vision for a sustainable planet and for a sustainable use of its rich - but in the end - limited resources. How our generation manages to create such a vision might be the most determining question for the future of our planet and our children.
We have learned a number of lessons over the years. For instance, Sweden's development from a poor agrarian country to today's ambitious welfare state illustrates that economic, social and environmental developments are inter-linked. Ambitious social and environmental policies contribute to long term economic development.
For instance, since 1970 Sweden has cut carbon dioxide emissions by a third while GDP has more than doubled. This shows that decoupling between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions actually is possible. Sweden's history also shows the importance of securing respect for the rights and freedoms of the individual - combined with an inclusive society that seeks to minimize the inequalities.
For all this to be possible, public finances need to be sustainable in the long term, something Sweden painfully learned in the early 1990. We have since then introduced a comprehensive fiscal policy framework - long before the EU even dreamed of a fiscal compact.
The opportunities for change and the benefits of action are vast. Globalisation has lifted millions of people out of poverty, which enables people to make economic choices. Democratization has at the same time given voice to many millions of people. Advances in science have given us better understanding of the state of our ecosystems and increased knowledge about how to use natural resources in a sustainable manner.
Information and Communication Technologies provide tools for liberating information sharing. Demographic change will provide a significant dividend. If we are able to integrate into the labour market the large bulk of young people, who are healthier and more educated than any previous generation.
Furthermore, women's economic and political participation are necessary conditions not only for equality, but also for economic growth and equitable and sustainable development. It is a fact that increased gender equality would have immediate economic benefits.
Every day, millions of choices are taken by individuals, businesses and governments. Our common future lies in all those choices. When actors have the necessary insights about sustainability, and are supported by the right policies and incentives, change is possible at the local, national and global level.
Achieving sustainability is about enabling people, markets and other actors to make sustainable choices. An ambitious political pull by governments, establishing the right incentives, will enable sustainable production, innovation and lives. Transparency, monitoring and reporting by governments and businesses are key elements for ensuring accountability and making sustainable choices happen.
Today we see a number of challenges to sustainable development from our Swedish horizon. 20 years after signing the Climate Convention at the Rio Summit, global emissions are still increasing every year. We see worrying trends in other areas as well, for example biodiversity, which is rapidly decreasing.
There is a need for better implementation of existing commitments. Well-designed policies can reverse the trends, safeguarding economic growth and the well-being of future generations.
International structures also need to be strengthened so as to better integrate sustainability. New forms of collaborations between the public and private sectors are required. The business sector should be increasingly involved. This sector has a decisive role in mobilising resources, creating innovation and employment and upholding corporate social responsibility. By aligning their operations with universally accepted norms in the area of human rights, labour and environment, businesses can ensure that markets advance in ways that benefit people and the environment.
More than half of the world's population lives in cities, and urbanisation continues at a rapid pace. A large share of energy consumption and environmental and social problems, are concentrated to urban areas. We need to promote an integrated perspective on sustainable cities, including urban planning, energy- and resource efficient techniques among others. The sustainable use of energy, water and sanitation must be turned into a reality for all people. The way these resources are used determines people's health, their access to food, and their livelihoods.
Furthermore, sustainable agriculture, forestry and fishing are central for the livelihoods of many people around the world, especially people living in poverty.
Linked to resource use is how ecosystem services - that is, the good things that we get from nature - should be valued and priced. There is a need for economic incentives that make the polluter pay. There is also an urgent need to phase out environmentally harmful subsidies. The validation of ecosystem services in national accounts and in business plans is an important step towards the conservation of biodiversity.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In light of these challenges let us focus on the opportunities. And let us rise to the task and make this meeting a substantial input to a successful Rio conference.
In this context, I am pleased to announce that Sweden and China have agreed a Framework Document to strengthen our cooperation in Sustainable Development - confirming our commitment to these tasks.
It is time to follow the lead of those who initiated our joint sustainability journey - 40 years ago. It is time to be farsighted and innovative. It is time to take action.
Thank you for your attention.