Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rio+20, an explanation of some key points

Most of us from the [earth] team spent yesterday recovering from a six hour-long action at the RioCentro that included a People’s Plenary and walkout. There is a lot to be said about that process of protest, catharsis, and democracy in its rawest form, but I’ll leave it to someone else. For some reason I’m still itching to talk policy.
We ripped up the final document yesterday. With any kind of long-term vision, it’s obvious the outcome falls far short of the change we need. But initially even delegates and their governments were expecting Rio+20 to be a failure. So it came as a surprise to everyone when negotiators were able to make some tough compromises and come out with a trickle of progress. People put a lot of praise on the Brazilian presidency and their chairing of the negotiations. Here’s a breakdown of what was on the table and how it turned out, the successes and the complete failures:
Sustainable Consumption and Production. At the 19th Commission on Sustainable Development last year in New York, the world’s delegations finished negotiating a 10-Year Framework on SCP, but because the conference was unable to come to agreement on the other issues, which included waste, chemicals, and others, the Framework couldn’t be officially adopted. At Rio the U.S. played the elephant in the room for a while and refused to accept any outright inclusion of SCP in the text, but they eventually caved. The Framework was accepted. The American way of life is officially up for debate.
Rights. As someone on the inside told us, some of the text turned out to be Rio-1, Rio+1 or Rio+2, but some of it is, in fact, Rio+20. His example was the recognition of rights to food and water, as well as those of indigenous people, all in one document. Some of the hottest anger during the conference boiled when these rights were in danger, and some of it is still simmering at the absence of any reference to reproductive rights in the section on women.
UNEP. There was a recognition coming in that in order to give all three pillars of sustainable development (social, economic, environmental) an equal say in the international system, the status and power of the United Nations Environmental Program would have to be elevated. Many expected it would be made a specialized agency, which would mean putting it on the same level as the WTO and ILO, and that a name change to United Nations Environmental Organization was in order. The final document doesn’t go that far, but UNEP will get universal membership in its governing body, greater financing, and a strengthened hand in coordination within the UN system.
High Commissioner for Future Generations. Originally in the text was a proposition for a High Commissioner or Ombudsperson within the UN system who would be responsible for assessing the long-term impacts of current policies and advocating on behalf of future generations. There’s no reference to such a person in the final document, but the Secretary General is invited to make a report on “the need for promoting intergenerational solidarity for the achievement of sustainable development, taking into account the needs of future generations.”
The Future of the CSD. One of the major outcomes of the original Rio summit in 1992 was the creation of the Commission on Sustainable Development, which has met every year since. The Rio+20 document brings that era to a close. It will be replaced by an as yet unnamed high level political forum which will have the same mission as the CSD but be more action-oriented, have a larger role in bringing UN and other international multi-stakeholder groups to the table and ensuring coordination and cooperation between them, and produce a sustainable development report.
Fossil fuel subsidies. There was hope Rio+20 would herald a call to all nations to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and start using that money to promote renewable energy. No such luck. The language on the reduction of fossil fuel subsidies is really weak.
Means of Implementation. The G-77 got pissed about the pace of MOI negotiations. At one point the bloc refused to show up to Green Economy talks because there was no progress on MOI. They said did not see the point of discussing the what when there was no attention give to the how. The end result still isn’t very good, and it may actually backtrack from the original Rio summit on the issue of technology transfer to developing countries.
Rio Principles. It was downright sad to see developed countries removing left and right references to the Rio Principles, which come from the 1992 summit and lay out in clear, concise language the principles on which sustainable development should be based. The most contentious debate was on common but differentiated responsibility (CBRD). The United States never liked the principle and now sees it as a way for emerging countries like China to point their finger at the developed world while shirking the burden their own economies are placing on the environment. Developing nations, however, are adamant that the countries putting the most pressure on the global environment should bear the biggest responsibility for changing their behavior and contributing to efforts to fix the problem.
Green Economy. The green economy has meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Some felt Europe was pushing a type of green neo-colonialism on the developing world in order to stimulate the economies of its member states. However, because of its inability to hold a strong common position or put money on the table, the EU failed to radically change the way the world economy will be structured. The end result encourages all countries to find their own ways to a green economy through a few a basic principles like poverty eradication, and encourages international partnerships and funding.
SDGs. Many have hoped for bold sustainable development goals that will replace the MDGs when they finish in 2015. These would apply to both developed and developing countries, focusing on sustainability and not just development. The outcome document, while failing to identify thematic areas for the goals, sets up a process for their creation.
Was Rio+20 a success or a failure? Civil society judged it the latter two days ago. As far as the historians go, a lot will depend of their narratives of the conference will depend what happens next. Now that the summit is over, how hard will governments push for new visions of development? What changes get implemented, which get swept aside, and what new ones are dreamed up? And how long will it be before humankind’s impacts on the planet become too obvious to ignore and the inequality within it becomes too much to bear?
Here’s to world that doesn’t need a Rio+40. Cheers.


  1. This is the first time I found anything on the web that gave me any idea of what was really accomplished at Rio + 20. Thank you!

  2. Hello

    Apologies if you have received this info before.

    I think your readers will want to know about this exciting, new Green Technology that is proven to neutralize pollution emissions.

    Stockholm based HydroInfra Technologies STC AB has already began forming joint ventures to deploy the technology.

    HIT is also in high level talks with governments and industry bosses excited about using the technology to help combat their increasing air & ocean pollution issues.

    After several years of research & development, HIT discovered a method to generate a nano gas that neutralizes all types of pollution emissions.

    Hydro Nano Gas ( HNG ) has been independently tested and verified by government licensed inspectors. Please see the reports on the HIT web site

    HNG will be deployed into power plants and ships that burn coal and oil.

    When HNG is injected into power plant and ship exhaust outlets, the pollution emissions are neutralized instantly.

    There is zero residual pollution left over.

    HNG is safe, incredibly cost effective and can be deployed rapidly into power plants, ships and any other industrial plant with a smoke stack emitting pollution.

    HNG makes any fossil fuel carbon neutral.

    Recent pollution emission legislation for ships using EU & Baltic waters is already opening up joint ventures with HIT as shipping companies look for viable solutions to keeping their ships on the seas.

    In the USA, 1200 coal fired power plants are scheduled for closure unless they can reduce their pollution emissions. HIT has already had meetings to explore deployment of the HIT solution.

    Read more at the HIT web site:

    Thank you very much and my apologies once again if you have already received an email about HIT from other people. A small group of us are helping with the HIT awareness campaign. We are excited about sharing the info with everyone and are sending info to web site & blog publishers.

    Regards : Mike