High Hopes for New UN Panel on Global Sustainability

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon holds a press conference to launch the High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability. Photo by: Paulo Filgueiras / UN

The new United Nations high-level panel on global sustainability may just help make a difference in promoting pro-environment economic growth, an Oxfam official says.

The panel, which will be headed by Presidents Tarja Halonen of Finland and Jacob Zuma of South Africa, will develop a plan to reconcile climate change and economic growth concerns that will be presented at the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

“Ban says he has ‘asked the Panel to think big’, so then the question becomes one familiar to anyone engaged in advocacy - how big? If it doesn’t go far enough in challenging received wisdom on the sanctity of growth, it won’t achieve anything, if it goes to the other extreme and starts preaching degrowth, it is unlikely to get a hearing,” Duncan Green, head of research for Oxfam GB, writes in a blog post.

The panel will also help to resolve stalled international climate change negotiations.

“What’s really welcome here is the recognition that there is a big picture challenge on the nature of growth that has been sidelined as governments grapple with the aftermath of the global economic crisis. Someone has to lead the thinking on it – let’s hope the Global Sustainability Panel can do so,” Duncan said.

The panel’s membership is “heavily weighted towards current and former political leaders,” Duncan said.

“That suggests that its job is more about influencing governments than coming up with any radical new insights, and highlights the welcome lack of overlap with the science-based work of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change),” Duncan said.

The panel is expected to commence its work in September around the U.N. General Assembly in New York, according to Janos Pasztor, head of Ban’s climate change support team, who will also manage the new panel’s administration.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon expects a report from the panel by the end of next year, in time for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in South Africa in December 2011 and the 2012 Earth Summit.

About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.