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From Burden Bearing to Opportunity Sharing: Reframing Environmental Negotiations

Since the first Earth Summit in Rio, the focus of governmental efforts has primarily been on the economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development, but the social pillar needs much more attention. The repeated economic crises demonstrate that the global economy is far from sustainable. Income inequality has grown, millions still live in poverty, and the natural environment is highly stressed. International environmental negotiations have been largely disconnected from international economic affairs and development programs, and many of these environmental negotiations are mired in stale debates. The Rio+20 theme of the “green economy” once again places emphasis on economic development with an environmental flavor. Improvement of the human condition is secondary, and the idea of the “green economy” does not seem to offer any solutions on how to escape the international gridlock on issues like climate change. A re-framing is badly needed. This event will explore ideas for how to shift the approach from “burden bearing” to “opportunity sharing.” The focus will be on how the current negotiations can shift from a pollution prevention framework to opportunities for sustainable development through access to cleaner energy technologies, resilient development, access to fresh water, and improved health. The role of the World Health Organization’s environmental health indicators in sustainable development will be discussed.

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