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

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.

The formal text for Rio+20's official outcome document was agreed to today. Meanwhile, WRI hosted its event on governance (watch the video recording here), and I had the opportunity to spend some time with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who visited Rio de Janeiro's operation center. Plus, the Mayor of Rio highlighted the EMABARQ Center for Sustainable Transportation's work on the city's first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor.

The official, three-day Rio+20 conference begins tomorrow, June 20th. Here's what's on tap:

Green vs. Gray Infrastructure: When Nature Is Better than Concrete

Infrastructure is essential for economic growth. But as governments debate the future of sustainable development at the Rio+20 conference, there is one infrastructure solution that can provide a good return on investment: nature.

People often don’t think of forests, wetlands, coral reefs, and other natural ecosystems as forms of infrastructure. But they are. Forests, for instance, can prevent silt and pollutants from entering streams that supply freshwater to downstream cities and businesses. They can act as natural water filtration plants. As such, they are a form of “green infrastructure” that can serve the same function as “gray infrastructure,” the human-engineered solutions that often involve concrete and steel. This example is not alone (see Table 1).

WRI's Experts Weigh in: What Do You Hope Will Come Out of Rio+20?

More than 50,000 international experts and leaders from government, NGOs, business, and other sectors are flocking to the United Nations' Rio+20 Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Taking place 20 years after the first Earth Summit, Rio+20 aims to address two major, globally important themes: building a green economy and establishing a framework for sustainable development that will decrease poverty, boost social equity, and protect the environment.

Rio+20's informal sessions kicked off last week and will continue right up until the official conference on June 20th-22nd. WRI's experts in business, climate, energy, forests, governance, transportation, and more are on the ground for all the action. (Check out a full list of official WRI events at Rio+20).

Before WRI's staff headed to Rio, I asked our experts the following question: What is significant about the Rio+20 conference, and what do you hope will come out of it?

What's Happening at Rio+20: June 19th

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 governance and other events happening tomorrow. And be sure to visit the full list of WRI events at Rio+20.

Today was an especially exciting day, as I woke up early to tour Rio de Janeiro's first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Corridor. I was joined by a few journalists, members from WRI's EMBARQ Center for Sustainable Transportation, and Rio transportation officials. After listening to so many talks about sustainability, it was great to see an example of this principle in action.

Dispatches from Rio+20: Tackling Complex, Global Problems in a Beautiful City

I’ve been to many great cities around the world, but none surpass Rio’s stunning setting. The city sits along the coast, where ocean waves splash up on wide, white sand beaches. Across the way, mountain peaks line Rio’s winding roads. It’s winter here, though it sure doesn’t feel like it. Temperatures are in the mid-70s, with a cool breeze in the evenings. Not a bad place to spend a few days.

In some ways, this beautiful setting could make you forget about the environmental challenges we face, which is, after all, the reason I’m here. This week, some 50,000 people are expected to gather in Rio to advance solutions around sustainability. That sounds like a good idea, but, like many others, I’m struggling to figure out what exactly it means.

What's Happening at Rio+20: June 18th

We're moving into the final week of Rio+20, and WRI’s experts are on the ground for all the action. Each day, we’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.

As for me, I'll be at the climate events all afternoon today. Tomorrow morning, we'll be bringing some journalists to visit Rio's new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor, a system launched with guidance from WRI's EMBARQ Center for Sustainable Transportation.

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.

Why Transportation Needs to Be on the Rio+20 Agenda

Ten years ago, world leaders convened in Johannesburg to establish the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), global strategies designed to end poverty, hunger, and disease by 2015. While the pledges were ambitious, they neglected to recognize a critical component of sustainable development: transportation. Development banks, governments, and other decision-makers spent the next decade focusing their attention on MDG priorities. Meanwhile, cities around the world faced worsening traffic congestion, increased air pollution, and dangerous roads.

We’re now face-to-face with the next major global development summit, the U.N.’s Rio+20 Conference. One of the biggest tasks at hand will be shaping new “Sustainable Development Goals,” plans that will pick up where the MDGs left off. This time, we can’t leave transportation out of the agenda.

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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