Commentary

UN Official: Western Nations 'Don't Need More Cars, More TV, Whatever'

By Paul Wilson | June 19, 2012 | 10:57am EDT

Environmental concerns have caused one high-ranking UN official to declare that “the West” does not need more cars, televisions, and other consumer luxuries.

United Nations Development Programme head Helen Clark told AFP in an interview: “So the issue is how to get human development that will see it continue to rise for the world’s poorest people and people in developing countries. Because frankly human development in the West – we don’t need more cars, more TV, whatever. Our needs are by and large satisfied, although the recession has put a lot of strains on that.”

Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, also stressed the responsibility of richer countries to reduce their environmental footprint: "There is, in my opinion, a very heavy responsibility on the countries of the north to look at how they sustain their living standards with a much lower environmental footprint."

She warned of social and environmental chaos if governments failed to act: “The toxic combination of falling incomes, social unrest and environmental degradation. This is reality. We have got a common problem here. We need to have a shared vision of how to tackle it. We are heading for chaos if we don’t tackle these issues.”

Her remarks come on the eve of the Rio+20 summit, scheduled from June 20 to June 22, a major environmental conference seeking to “secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges.”

If Clark’s remarks are indicative of the goals of the conference, attempts to stress “sustainable development” in developing countries, at the expense of developed countries, will be put into motion.

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