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Rio+20 in the Rear View: A Missed Opportunity for Climate Change Action

WRI's experts will continue to provide commentary and analysis of the results of the Rio+20 conference through our series, "Rio+20 in the Rear View." For more posts in this series, see here, here, and here.

Going into Rio+20, we knew that climate change wasn’t going to be a major focus on the formal agenda – yet its presence was amply felt. Simply put, you cannot create a more sustainable future without addressing the climate challenge.

From forests to energy, oceans to the green economy, our changing climate is already having an undeniable impact—and the recent signs are not good. Just taking the United States as an example, so far this year we’ve seen record-breaking spring temperatures, with another major heat wave sweeping through. In Colorado, dry, hot conditions are leading to massive wildfires. In the Northeast, the U.S. Geological Survey is reporting that sea levels are rising even faster than previously expected. These conditions come as global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise – and yet for the most part, governments are not putting policies in place at the scale needed to address this problem.

VIDEO: Leading Companies Use New Standards to Uncover Greatest Sources of Carbon Emissions

Last week’s Rio+20 conference failed to yield strong sustainability commitments from corporations. As Manish Bapna, interim president of the World Resources Institute (WRI) stated earlier this week, companies in Rio didn’t “grasp the fundamental recognition that the planet is on an unsustainable course and the window for action is closing.” The gap between where we need to get to avoid climate change’s worst effects and the actions companies are willing to take to get us there have never been further apart. While governments have an important role to play in setting policies to reduce emissions, legislation on its own will never be enough to put us on a development trajectory that is sustainable. Leadership from business is urgently needed.

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Rio+20 in the Rear View: A Look at Rio de Janeiro’s New Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program

WRI's experts will continue to provide commentary and analysis of the results of the Rio+20 conference through our series, "Rio+20 in the Rear View." For more posts in this series, see here and here.

During the informal sessions of the U.N.’s Rio+20 conference on sustainable development last week, Rio de Janeiro city officials and the World Bank jointly launched a very timely project: the Rio Low-Carbon City Program. Under this initiative, the city will introduce low-carbon strategies like bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors, upgraded urban rail systems, bikeways, and an integrated solid waste management system in order to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The program came about due to the city’s landmark 2011 municipal climate change law, which requires Rio to avoid 20 percent of 2005 GHGs emissions by 2020. This cut will amount to a reduction of 2.27 million tons of carbon dioxide from the business-as-usual scenario.

EPA’s New Source Performance Standards: A Positive Step Toward Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

On June 25, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released the 2012 Annual Energy Outlook (2012 AEO) – the same day the public comment period closed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for new power plants. The NSPS proposal marks EPA’s first step toward controlling carbon pollution from stationary sources, and the agency received a record-breaking more than two million comments supporting the rule. EPA will take the comments it receives into consideration before finalizing the rule later this year. (Get more information on the proposed rule, including WRI’s official comment).

Cities Take the Lead on Tackling Climate Change

Climate change may not have been on the official Rio+20 agenda, but that didn’t stop mayors from megacities around the world from making major headway on the issue. At the Rio+20 conference on Tuesday, the network of C40 city leaders announced new data showcasing the fact that these cities' initiatives could cut 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030.

At the decidedly urban event—perched in a colorful, high-tech auditorium miles from Rio+20’s official negotiations in the suburbs—Mayors Bloomberg (NYC), Paes (Rio de Janeiro), Park (Seoul), and Tau (Johannesburg)—as well as President Clinton (via video) and other leaders—made a compelling case for global action through cities. The mayors asserted that cities are proving to be the most effective government entities in addressing global climate change. In addition to announcing goals to reduce 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030, leaders cited already-taken actions that will cut 248 million tons of greenhouse gases by 2020. The cities’ achievements contrast with international negotiations (and some national governments), which have been unable to agree to binding CO2 reduction targets.

For the First Time, GHG Protocol to help Brazil Measure Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agriculture

This past Sunday, WRI’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol team conducted a session at the Rio+20 event, “The Green Economy: Driving Business Value and Competitiveness.” The session included great dialogue between business leaders, policy makers, and WRI experts, and featured one very significant declaration: The British Ambassador to Brazil, Alan Charlton, announced GHG Protocol’s groundbreaking new work with Brazil’s agriculture sector. For the first time, GHG Protocol will develop a guidance that allows Brazilian companies and individual farms to measure, report, and manage greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Q&A with Manish Bapna: Environmental Protection and Poverty Reduction Are Linked

This is a Q&A with Manish Bapna, WRI's interim president. The story originally appeared in the Brazilian publication, "Revista Epoca," and was written by Luciana Vicaria.

LV: In your opinion, what are the biggest environmental problems?

MB: Today’s environmental challenges are largely interconnected. Two-thirds of the ecosystem services (the benefits that people derive from nature that underpin economies and livelihoods) are degraded . This degradation is expected to accelerate in the first half of the 21st century, exacerbated by the effects of climate change. By 2025, up to two-thirds of the world’s people are projected to live in water‐stressed conditions. Food security is another pressing concern. To feed the world’s nine billion people (which we’re expected to pass by mid-century), the U.N. Food and Agriculture (FAO) organization projects that food availability needs to increase by at least 70 percent.

New Green Growth Alliance Will Help Spur Private Investment in Developing Nations

This week’s Business 20, or “B20,” summit in Los Cabos, Mexico signals the launch of the Green Growth Action Alliance (G2A2), a partnership between the public and private sectors designed to dramatically scale-up private investment in “green” sectors like renewable energy, clean transportation, and sustainable agriculture.

The G2A2 includes representatives ranging from financial institutions like HSBC, to corporations like Walmart, to key public sector actors like the World Bank Group. WRI joins the effort alongside other environmentally focused organizations as an “analytical supporter,” providing research input and guidance to the G2A2’s upcoming activities.

What's Happening at Rio+20: June 16th

The Rio+20 informal sessions kicked off this week, and WRI’s experts are on the ground for all the action. I just arrived in Rio myself this afternoon. It's a beautiful city--right on the water, with lots of mountains around. I'm looking forward to a very busy and productive week.

Each day, I’ll bring you highlights of upcoming WRI events. Check out the details below on what we’ve got going on tomorrow. And be sure to visit the full list of all WRI events at Rio+20.

Climate Change and Rio+20

Despite 1992 Rio Earth Summit being the birthplace of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, climate change doesn’t have a major place on this year’s official Rio+20 agenda. But we shouldn’t assume that it’s a forgotten issue. In fact, climate change cuts across nearly all of the other sustainable development topics.

However, news on the climate front is not good. Global emissions levels have reached record highs, according to the latest data from the International Energy Agency. We continue to see unusally warm temperatures, like the extraordinarily hot spring we just experienced in the United States. Extreme weather events, such as heat waves and droughts, continue to wreak havoc around the globe, reminding us of what the world will look like if emissions continue to rise.

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