West must cut appetite for cars and TVs, says UN official

Rich countries will have to stop the consumer high life as part of any deal to heal the world's social and environmental stresses, a top UN official said ahead of a key development summit this week.

"We don't need more cars, more TVs, more whatever" UN Development Program chief Helen Clark told AFP in an interview ahead of the Rio+20 summit starting Wednesday.

The 116 heads of state and government and their populations -- rich and poor -- face "chaos" unless the three day summit can at least lay the groundwork for economic growth that eases poverty and preserves natural resources, said the former New Zealand prime minister.

"I think there is a high level of awareness that the planet is in peril, to put it bluntly," said Clark, who will be one of the key figures at the Rio de Janeiro event.

Negotiators are struggling to get agreement on the final declaration.

Differences between rich and poor, east and west on topics such as how to define "green economy" and how to set new global development goals have bedeviled negotiations for months.

Clark insists though that every leader agrees on the key problem: how to ensure economic growth that helps the most destitute without further damaging an environment that is being "wrecked underneath our feet."

"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 TVs, more whatever.

"Our needs are by and large satisfied, although the recession has put a lot of strains on that."
"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," Clark added.

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