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Water flows through heart of sustainability challenges

TEN years ago, SA was the focal point of the world media as the host country of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). Held a decade after the iconic Rio Earth Summit, the WSSD produced a conceptual leap in understanding that sustainable development is about more than environmental activism and the balance of nature. It is essential to integrate ecological considerations and economic realities with the poverty challenge as the basis for a global sustainability agenda. Sustainable development is as much about food, energy and water security as it is about climate change and the protection of biodiversity.

As decision makers and presidents from around the world convened for the latest United Nations (UN) Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) last week, it was clear we were looking for a new breakthrough in thinking. The triple bottom line framework of sustainable development is now broadly accepted but the world is still trying to work out whether sustainable development is a continuing trade-off between economic, social and environmental considerations or whether it is possible to produce a virtuous cycle in which these elements reinforce each other.

The South African delegation had a strong mandate to push for a global “green economy”. This approach acknowledged that economic growth is essential to deal with the poverty and development agendas. But it needs to be based on social inclusion and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Source: Business Day

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