15 December 2011Delegates from United Nations Member States gathered in New York today to begin discussions on inputs, the structure and format of the outcome document to be finalized by world leaders at next year’s UN conference on sustainable development in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. The two-day Second Intersessional Meeting on UN Conference of Sustainable Development (Rio+20) marks a scaling up of the process to focus attention on global decisions that will help countries and communities move towards a green economy, while accelerating efforts to eradicate poverty and promote sustainable development.“As we work on preparing the zero draft, we must remember that it is a negotiating draft and not a negotiated draft,” said Sha Zukang, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Rio+20 Conference, at the opening of the meeting.Priority issues emphasized in the submissions for the draft include sustainable energy for all, water and oceans, according to Mr. Sha.On energy, many of the submissions have endorsed the concrete goals for energy proposed under the Secretary-General’s initiative on sustainable energy for all, which are anchored on the three pillars of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental concerns.Concerning water, one of the goals proposed would go beyond achieving universal access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2030, while others have suggested targets for improving water use efficiency in agriculture, power generation and industry.On oceans, proposals have come in for phasing out subsidies that encourage overfishing, tougher measures to deter illegal fishing, extending marine protected areas and cooperation in monitoring ocean acidification, Mr. Sha told the meeting.The President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, in his address to the meeting called for renewed international action on sustainable social and economic development.“I encourage the international community to build a stronger sense of urgency and responsibility regarding the outcome of Rio+20,” he said in a speech delivered on his behalf by Tariq Al-Ansari, the deputy chef de cabinet in his office.“We must build consensus, enhance coordination and cooperation, and develop an efficient and effective governance framework that is action-orientated and actor-driven. The benefits of sustainable development must also be extended to people of all countries,” Mr. Al-Nasser added.He called for a “concise” and “non-repetitive” Rio+20 outcome document.The open-ended and transparent process for collecting inputs for consideration at the Conference was decided at a preparatory committee meeting held earlier this year. read more

TORONTO — Canada’s small and medium-sized businesses were in a less optimistic mood in November compared to October, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.The CFIB’s monthly business barometer index slipped to 62.9 out of 100 in November, down from 65.6 in October.Measured on a scale of 0 to 100, an index above 50 means owners expecting their businesses’ performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting a weaker performance.Index levels normally range between 65 and 70 when the economy is growing at its potential.Small business owners in Newfoundland and Labrador remain the most optimistic in the country, with an index of 74.1, followed by British Columbia at 67.1, Alberta at 68.3, Saskatchewan at 66.4 and Ontario at 63.The New Brunswick index is 61.4 and it is 61.3 in Manitoba, 60.8 in Nova Scotia, 60.2 in Quebec and the lone province below the 50 mark is Prince Edward Island at 52.1.“Small business confidence took a step backward last month, although it’s still above the levels we observed in the June-through-September period,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s chief economist and vice-president.“The results suggest that Canada’s economy continues to grow at a modest pace.”Mallet said much of the decline in the overall average can be explained by “unusually low confidence in natural resources, manufacturing and business services.”On the other hand, said Mallett, the consumer-facing side of the small business sector looks relatively upbeat, with retail, hospitality and personal services all showing above-average confidence.The November findings are based on 981 responses in a random sample of CFIB members replying to a controlled-access web survey. Findings are deemed accurate to plus or minus 3.1%, 19 times in 20. read more