Press release

Stockholm+50: Why we need to get better

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Between 2-3 June 2022 the international environmental conference Stockholm+50 will be taking place, an event organised by the United Nations and the Swedish government to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first UN Conference on the Human Environment and the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme, both of which took place in 1972. The conference aims to reach agreements for expediting the implementation of global sustainability targets as defined by the Agenda 2030, the 2015 Paris Climate Treaty, and the 1993 Convention on Biological Diversity. On occasion of the anniversary and of the Stockholm+50 conference the Heinrich Böll Foundation will be publishing a number of essays and a special edition of its magazine boell.thema under the aegis of its former President Barbara Unmüßig.

In the run-up to the conference current Foundation President Imme Scholz stated: "Time is running out. Stockholm+50 needs to find answers for the concurrent global crises we are experiencing and which reinforce each other and are rapidly escalating. The climate crisis, the massive loss of biodiversity, and a world deluged with plastics are all part and parcel of our production, consumption, and eating patterns. Added to this are the economic and the still unresolved debt crises and, as their fallout, increasing poverty and inequality. At the same time, massive conflicts such as the war in Ukraine are creating new obstacles to international cooperation. Today, the pressure to act is higher than ever, as major crises can only be overcome through partnerships and joint strategies. This is why the top priority in Stockholm will be to renew and strengthen international cooperation and make multilateralism more resilient.

In order for this to succeed, it is crucial that high-income countries finally take decisive action. They will have to cut their own emissions and consumption of resources dramatically and offer comprehensive support to low-income countries especially in the areas of sustainable poverty reduction and economic development. I hope that during their meeting in Stockholm the participating governments will acknowledge this and thus agree to speed up the pace of the global social and environmental transformation. Also, I expect that particularly the high-income countries will present much more ambitious aims and financial pledges."

Looking back, Barbara Unmüßig, Foundation President until the end of March 2022, stated: "Fifty years of international environmental policy have brought clear results. All the while, however, the gap has grown between scientific findings and the necessary global action that needs to be taken. Today, for millions of people, the climate crisis is a reality. All UN Reports on climate, the oceans, soils, forests, bodies of water, and biodiversity document to what great degree we are overexploiting nature and its ecosystems, damaging many of them beyond repair. Many factors have slowed down the implementation of multilateral agreements, yet the economic globalisation that has taken hold since the neoliberal U-turn of the 1980s and 1990s is by far the most powerful driving force. The result was that geopolitical powers and spheres of influence with their respective interests, and, more specifically, the economic interests of the financial, fossil fuel, and the agro industries have blocked all necessary decisions to impose emission limits of all kind, to increase government regulation and for outright bans.

All climate data, especially over the last few years, will show even the most rabid anti-interventionist that time is running out. Today, more than ever, politics needs to act fast, decisive, and simultaneously. Germany‛s three-party coalition has redefined climate policy as a joint task, thus ringing in a paradigm shift. National and multilateral government action must take its lead from this. Especially for the rich countries of the North this change is not to be had for free. They will have to up their financial pledges, effectively lower their emission limits, get better across the board, – and bring all of this to the negotiating table. If we truly want to transform our system of production and our civilisation – instead of disrupting it – we do have to act very rapidly. We certainly will not be given another fifty years."

The most recent edition of boell.thema (22/2) focusses on environmental policy and the question "Do we need to get better still?"

Contributors include Barbara Unmüßig, Imme Scholz, Alexander Müller, Sascha Gabizon, Wolfgang Sachs, Anna Cavazzini, Danny Cullenward and Sunita Narain (engl)

The magazine is available for download at (german)


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Heinrich Böll Foundation

Michael Alvarez Kalverkamp

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