UN reinforces Rio+20’s call for stronger science in policy-making

Echoing the call for better interchange between scientists and policy makers made in the draft agenda for the upcoming Rio+20 conference, a UN report published last week stresses that a strong scientific basis is critical in political decisions, particularly in relation sustainable development.

The report, entitled ‘Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing’, reiterates the importance of science throughout its 56 recommendations and identifies a ‘pressing need’ for better integration between science and policy at all levels. Some recommendations for steps to be taken towards achieving this are made, including the creation of a UN-level science advisory board.

A focus on ongoing scientific research in order to properly define terms such as ‘environmental thresholds’ and ‘tipping points’ is recognised as necessary to allow concrete and effective policy to be made. The panel also recommends that a ‘global sustainable development outlook report’ should be produced, drawing together disparate knowledge on a range of issues including climate change, energy, agriculture, health and development. It is envisaged that this would prompt officials from a diverse range of international organisations to work together, as well as with scientific advisors and governments, to decide a holistic approach to pursuing sustainable development.

The Stakeholder Forum, a civil society pressure group actively engaged in the run-up to Rio+20, has welcomed the report and suggested the although it is ‘meant to be used beyond Rio+20, it should be read as a blueprint of what could be achieved in Rio and as a wake-up call for action’.