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Stockholm+50: Drafting the narrative for a green future

Ann Linde is Sweden’s minister for foreign affairs. Matilda Ernkrans is Sweden’s minister for international development cooperation.

It’s time to take on the responsibility of leadership for a shared green future. But taking responsibility doesn’t only mean doing more — it means doing better.

Following two U.N. General Assembly resolutions, and after months of work, the world descended on Sweden’s capital last week for Stockholm +50 to discuss the acceleration of efforts to create a healthy planet for the prosperity of all.

Hosted by Sweden and Kenya, the U.N. meeting was more than just a commemoration of the landmark 1972 Stockholm conference — the first world gathering to make the environment a central issue. New complexities in the areas of environment and energy, security and development, and climate and equity mean that isolated responses are simply not good enough. And now is the time for stronger global action that demonstrates the potency of multilateralism.

Along with hundreds of U.N. officials, heads of state, ministers and other government representatives, Stockholm +50 was a gathering that involved civil society – including activists, businesses and scientists – in ways that set new standards for multilateral meetings. And ahead of the meeting in Stockholm, over 50,000 people from all over the world — men and women, young and old, from all walks of life — provided their insights and recommendations.

From this clamor of voices, one message arose loud and clear: the need to speed up green and fair transitions. If 1972 was the starting point for global efforts to address environmental challenges, Stockholm+50 was about shifting to a faster gear.

The urgency isn’t surprising. These are difficult times.

A triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution is already impacting people all over the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over; inequalities and hunger are increasing rather than receding; and through its invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s challenging the rules-based global order, causing a humanitarian crisis reaching far beyond Ukraine’s borders, deepening the global hunger crisis.

All of this demonstrates the connectedness of our challenges. Human wellbeing and human security depend on a healthy biosphere, requiring broad engagement by responsible governments and vibrant civil society, as well as a functioning international system characterized by adherence to agreed principles, multilateralism and cooperation.

So how do we bring this to life?

Before all else, we must work together. If our aim is human security for all, we’ll need integrated analysis and action, and with the Stockholm Hub on Environment, Climate and Security, Sweden’s offering a resource for the global community to navigate a complex landscape and make sounder decisions for a safer and more sustainable future. Sweden’s newly named ambassador for climate and security will also play a key role as our government moves this agenda forward. We hope that others will follow.

Time is also of the essence. We only have eight years to deliver on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, and even less time to change the course on climate and the environment. There is no time to lose, and we all need to do more and do better.

International development aid can play a catalyzing role here, increasing both public and private financial flows into building resilient societies that are net-zero, nature friendly and zero-pollution. Climate adaptation is a global priority, and scaling up support for the least developed countries so they can adapt to a warming climate is a question of justice and solidarity.

The good news, however, is that the acceleration has already begun, and the transition is full of opportunities for people and our planet.

Visualizing our destination means imagining a world that’s safer, healthier and more stable than the one we live in today — but transitions underway are already improving lives, while providing ecological and climate benefits.

In Sweden, for example, a green industrial revolution is emerging with flagships, such as the HYBRIT partnership for fossil-free steel, bringing new jobs and development to its neighborhood. Sweden’s also one of the few countries allocating 1 percent of its gross national income to international development aid — with the intention of doubling its climate aid in the years to come as well.

But as Stockholm+50 demonstrated, it’s not just Sweden — there’s a wealth of such examples from all over the world. And these positive stories must feed the engine of transformation.

Today, on World Environment Day — one of the legacies of 1972 — the outcome of last week’s conference brings momentum to our efforts for the months and years to come.

Together, we can change the story of the future.

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