HM The King's speech at Rio+20, High Level Dialogue on Global Sustainability
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In June 1972, 40 years ago, the first UN Conference on Human Environment took place in Stockholm. I attended that meeting, so it is of course a pleasure to come to Rio de Janeiro and to see the results of the process which started in Sweden. The Stockholm meeting placed global environmental problems on the political agenda. The need for environmental and development aspirations to go "hand in hand" was recognised.
Over these 40 years much has happened. Important environmental legislation has been put in place on the national scale. Governments have signed a large number of international environmental agreements. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio made a very important contribution. The fight against poverty has helped many millions of people to a healthier and more decent life.
However, despite all this progress, we are not doing enough. There is still too much poverty, too little freedom with no balance between economic development and environmental concerns. The global challenges, ahead of us, are the reason for leaders and decision makers of the world to gather here in Rio de Janeiro.
Climate change and the degradation of ecosystems are examples of global challenges that will affect all of us. This was recognised already at the 1992 Earth Summit. Yet, 20 years after governments signed the Climate Convention here in Rio de Janeiro, emissions of greenhouse gases still increase every year. Scientists now warn us of crossing global tipping points, with devastating effects becoming more and more likely. Likewise, 20 years after signing the Convention on Biological Diversity, biodiversity is still being lost and ecosystems are under severe pressure. The losses are threatening local livelihoods and the functioning of the planet. For sure, our efforts need to be stepped up.
At the same time, the development aspirations of poor people should be supported. Most urgently, the basic and growing needs of the world's population for food, water and energy need to be met, while staying within the planetary boundaries.
Last year, I had several opportunities to listen to the insights from the science community, not least during the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability, held in Stockholm. Yesterday, I once again had the pleasure of participating in talks between Nobel laureates, members of the UN Secretary General's high level panel on global sustainability, leading scientists and leaders on global sustainability.
One thing is clear: science has a crucial role in diagnosing and improving the state of our Planet. From these dialogues, I understand the message that this decade, and the coming few years, are critical if society is to change direction onto a sustainable pathway.
It is essential that we strengthen the link between the foresight and insight science, as well as our policy actions. History has shown us that we cannot look at, or manage, only one issue at a time. In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, policy is dependent on scientific guidance in order to move in the right direction.
We must accept reality as a starting point, but be smart enough to turn problems into opportunities and thereby get the future we want. Sweden acknowledges the benefits of action and we can see that we stand a good chance — environmental, social and economic — in moving towards a more circular economy.
Only by acting together can we reach turning-points towards sustainability rather than tipping-points for the environment. We are choosing our future for our children. My hope, and my sincere belief, is that leaders here in Rio will listen to the message from science and agree on action, so that the following generations can look towards the future with faith, trust and joy.
I am thinking of my newly borne granddaughter, and hopefully — you do the same — thinking of your family!