June 11, 2012
African elephants at Chobe River in Botswana. Photo by: Tiffany Roufs.
"We leave this Summit with a strong and robust commitment to give life to the good ideas that came from the debates, and to scale up the commitments contained in the Gaborone Declaration across the whole African continent and indeed the wider world," Ian Khama, President of Botswana, said at the end of the summit.
The signing of the pledge came less than a month before the UN's Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development, which marks twenty years since the landmark environmental summit in Rio in 1992.
The Gaborone Declaration declares that "the historical pattern of natural resources exploitation has failed to promote sustained growth, environmental integrity and improved social capital." Noting that the Africa's people and economy are imperiled by ecosystem destruction , the leaders pledge to protect ecosystems and biodiversity from "overuse and degradation."
To do so, they commit to adding natural capital into "national accounting and corporate planning." In addition, the ten countries pledged to transition major sectors (agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and mining) towards sustainable practices and to restore degraded ecosystems.
"What we have achieved has been a statement that really underscores the importance of valuing natural capital and the endorsement of ten key nations in committing to the valuation of natural capital as a means for making intelligent decisions about the future land use of their territories and their nations for the well being and benefit for all their citizens," said Peter Seligmann, the head of Conservation International and co-host of the summit, in a press release.
However, it should be noted that complying with the declaration is not legally binding.
President Khama addressed this in his remarks: "This meeting will not be of any value to our peoples if we fail to achieve the objectives that formed the core of this Summit, that is, integrating the value of natural capital into national and corporate accounting and planning. We must continue building social capital and reducing poverty by transitioning agriculture and extractive industries to practices that promote sustainable employment and the protection of natural capital."
Still, Seligmann calls the Gaborone Declaration, "a big step forward."
"It is truly a beacon on the hill for the rest of societies and it will be held up on top of that hill in Rio de Janeiro," he says.
Expectations for a landmark agreement at Rio+20 have been dampened by a declaration, also not legally binding, that has been significantly watered down. Ongoing spats between countries threaten to further erode the document, but, even if governments fail, observers hope the meeting will prove productive at least for the the thousands of attending NGOs, businesses, and experts.
Scientists: if we don't act now we're screwed
(06/07/2012) Scientists warn that the Earth may be reaching a planetary tipping point due to a unsustainable human pressures, while the UN releases a new report that finds global society has made significant progress on only four environmental issues out of ninety in the last twenty years. Climate change, overpopulation, overconsumption, and ecosystem destruction could lead to a tipping point that causes planetary collapse, according to a new paper in Nature by 22 scientists. The collapse may lead to a new planetary state that scientists say will be far harsher for human well-being, let alone survival.
Want to stop climate change: buy fossil fuel deposits
(06/07/2012) Governments, NGOs, and others fighting climate change should consider buying coal and oil deposits—not to exploit them, but to keep them from being exploited, according to a bold new policy paper in the Journal of Political Economy. Economist Bard Harstad with the Kellogg School of Management argues that climate coalitions could quickly slash carbon emissions by purchasing and conserving marginal fossil fuel deposits, a strategy that would solve the current problem of carbon leakage, i.e. when cutting emissions in one place pushes others to burn more elsewhere. Given that carbon emissions rose to a new record last year—31.6 gigatons—and carbon has hit 400 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere for the first time in at least 800,000 years, Harstad's analysis comes at a time when scientists are warning that urgent and bold action is needed to mitigate global climate change before it becomes irreversible.
Consumption, population, and declining Earth: wake-up call for Rio+20
(05/15/2012) Currently, human society is consuming natural resources as if there were one-and-a-half Earths, and not just a single blue planet, according to the most recent Living Planet Report released today. If governments and societies continue with 'business-as-usual' practices, we could be consuming three years of natural resources in 12 months by 2050. Already, this ecological debt is decimating wildlife populations worldwide, disproportionately hurting the world's poor and most vulnerable, threatening imperative resources like food and water, heating up the atmosphere, and risking global well-being.
As world bodies dally, private sector, local governments forge ahead on valuing nature
(03/28/2012) Despite slow progress via the U.N. process and other intergovernmental bodies, national governments, municipalities, and the private sector are moving ahead with initiatives to measure and compensate the value of services afforded by ecosystems, said a leading forestry expert speaking on the sidelines of the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship meeting this week in Oxford.
California cap-and-trade law spurs U.S. forest carbon projects
(02/15/2012) Now that California's carbon market has arrived, an Australian-based company that specializes in forest carbon offsets has jump started two forest projects with private landowners in the western U.S. The new company, Forest Carbon Partners, will make the projects available as carbon offsets for California polluters.