Essays on Science and Society

Harnessing New Scientific Capacity

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Science  15 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6087, pp. 1397
DOI: 10.1126/science.1224006

There is worldwide recognition that progress on Agenda 21, the result of the 1992 Earth summit, has been woefully insufficient. Rio+20 must start a process where all countries, North and South, commit to sustainable development and the “greening” of their economic systems. But there will be no green economy without clean technology, innovation, and sound science. For the proposed Sustainable Development Goals to be effective, they should include a call for a mechanism for international scientific cooperation and coordinated research on major sustainable development challenges—building on, and working with, existing programs. Recent decades saw the development of a robust research community in many developing countries. They should be part from the start of an effort that would gather existing knowledge and coordinate research on key sustainable development and green economy issues—working with the private, public, and nonprofit sectors—and would enhance collaboration with policy-makers, funders, and other stakeholders in designing, implementing, and communicating research. Another important aspect of this mechanism would be promoting and coordinating capacity-building in science and technology where needed. To promote progress toward these goals, ICSU and its partners will launch, during Rio+20, a new, 10-year global initiative, Future Earth: Research for global sustainability—a voluntary commitment from the scientific and technological community. Such initiatives should allow a more effective transition to the sustainable development we want.


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