More than a year ago, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon likened Rio+20 to a “free-market revolution for global sustainability,” calling for the event to inspire innovations that move the world toward more sustainable pathways to economic growth and development. Later in the year, U.N. Commission for Sustainable Development Chair, Sha Zukang, explained that the main difference of Rio+20 from earlier conferences “will be the sharp focus on renewing political commitments and on implementation…” Said Sha, “My message is: come to Rio ready to commit.”
This piece originally appeared in The Guardian.
Big business seemed to be everywhere at Rio+20, arguably more visible than the 100 or so heads of state and government, who arrived for the final few days.
Hundreds of business initiatives were announced through groups including Business Action for Sustainable Development and the UN Global Compact's Corporate Sustainability Forum. And the corporate leaders who flocked to Brazil made all the right noises. "We have to bring this world back to sanity and put the greater good ahead of self-interest," Unilever CEO Paul Polman told the Guardian.
But how much substance lies below the surface of these declarations?
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.
La primera reunión del Fondo de Clima Verde (GCF) se acerca rápidamente y dos de los grupos regionales—Asia-Pacífico y América Latina y el Caribe—todavía no han nominado a sus representantes para la Junta. El GCF fue desarrollado durante los dos últimos años, y ahora se espera que ofrezca financiamiento a gran escala para ayudar a afrontar los efectos del cambio climático en países en vía de desarrollo. Sin terminar las nominaciones, la Junta no puede lanzar “el principal fondo global de finanzas para afrontar cambio climático.”
Dans le cadre de la première réunion du Conseil du Fonds Vert pour le Climat (GCF) à venir, deux groupes régionaux – Asie/Pacifique et Amérique Latine/Caraïbes – devraient encore désigner leurs membres auprès du Conseil de Direction du GCF. Négocié au cours des deux dernières années, le GCF aura pour but de fournir aux pays en développement des financements substantiels en vue de lutter contre le changement climatique. La désignation de ces membres du Conseil de Direction est une condition essentielle au lancement opérationnel de ce Fonds « instrument central du financement sur les changements climatiques ».
Rio+20 glided to a close today. Many people are still milling about, but many others are already heading home. It will take some time to understand what this conference truly means. WRI’s Manish Bapna called it a “missed opportunity.” That said, we know that we cannot give up. The stakes are too high for that. And perhaps it’s even possible that the embers here will grow and evolve into the solutions that we need for a more sustainable world.
As the dust settles, our experts will continue to provide new information and analysis on this blog. And be sure to check out our latest posts on governance, cities, and transportation.
The main focus of the formal negotiations at Rio+20 is the outcome document, “The Future We Want.” The text, which was approved earlier this week and will likely be agreed upon by heads of state and U.N. officials, outlines a global framework for sustainable development and building a green economy. The text will have an impact on areas ranging from climate change to business to transportation, but the document’s biggest implications for governance is its references to Principle 10. By including this Principle and modest action, the outcome document offers glimmers of hope that citizens—including poor and marginalized communities across the globe—will no longer fall victim to environmentally degrading, exploitative development projects.
One lesson from Rio+20 is you shouldn’t confuse what’s happening in the hallways and negotiating rooms with what’s taking place on the ground. A great example of this is the new bus-rapid-transit line that has just started running in Rio de Janeiro. The BRT has gotten a lot of attention this week– not least because New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s visit to Rio de Janeiro brought focus to the city’s transportation system.
On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to join Mayor Bloomberg and Rio’s Mayor Paes, along with my EMBARQ colleagues to visit Rio’s operations center. Mayor Bloomberg was primarily here to promote the C40 Climate Leadership Group’s announcement of C40 cities' actions to reduce 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030. The Mayor also cited city-level actions already taken that will cut 248 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
It’s the final week of Rio+20, and WRI’s experts are on the ground for all the action. Each day, I’ll bring you highlights of what’s on the horizon. Check out the details below on the exciting things happening tomorrow. And be sure to visit the full list of WRI’s Rio+20 events.
We are heading into the last day of the conference. I'd say we are coasting in, because it seems that there won't be much drama around the resolution. I don’t think many people are really satisfied with the formal outcome, which isn't nearly ambitious enough. But it was certainly a busy, stimulating week with lots of opportunities to meet people, have interesting conversations, and wrestle with the big issues. I would also say, once again, that's it has been enjoyable to be in Rio - though the sun has turned into rain. A metaphor? Perhaps.