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Saturday, December 7, 2013
- As the host of Rio+20, the Brazilian government has defined guidelines for achieving success at the upcoming world summit, whose aim is to assess and strengthen what has been done since the 1992 Earth Summit, the first global meeting on sustainable development.
There is still no consensus on the draft outcome document for Rio+20 – the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – but Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira confidently forecasts positive results.
“Those who do not attend will regret it. Representatives from assertive, self-confident economies will be present,” said Teixeira, referring to countries that have already confirmed their attendance at the Jun. 20-22 summit, including “emerging countries with a new importance” in their own right.
Participation by many heads of state is seen as a first step for the success of the conference in Rio de Janeiro, as it demonstrates “the great extent of international interest on the topic,” said the executive secretary of the National Commission for Rio+20, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo.
Giancarlo Summa, the coordinator of the U.N. Information Centre in Brazil, said that so far 135 heads or deputy heads of state and government have confirmed their attendance, including presidents, vice-presidents and prime ministers, among the 183 confirmed country delegations out of the total of 193 U.N. member countries.
In Minister Teixeira’s view, the conference will be “exceptionally” successful if it concludes with “an obligation for everyone” to meet commitments on sustainable production and consumption.
This implies a type of consumption that involves “rights and obligations for all,” she said at the 2012 Sustainable Congress organised by the Brazilian Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Sitting next to Figueiredo, with whom she participated in a debate with journalists who will be covering Rio+20, Teixeira spoke of other expected results, such as agreement on “a business platform that will engage in a commitment to the green economy.”She said the private sector had played a “very timid” role at the Earth Summit 20 years ago.
Figueiredo, meanwhile, outlined a list of issues the Brazilian government would like to see enshrined in the final document, so that the meeting is not dismissed as a failure by the press.
Among them, the diplomat mentioned the need for the conference to leave “a legacy” for the future, like the 1992 Earth Summit, which had an “essential” role in persuading “entire generations to be concerned about sustainability.”
He also said he hoped that Rio+20 would define “what we want in terms of a green economy” and establish sustainable development goals.
In regard to the controversial idea of creating a new U.N. environmental agency, Figueiredo said Brasilia supports strengthening the existing U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).
“UNEP should be strengthened as an environmental pillar, because in its present condition it is incapable of adequately carrying out its task,” he said.
Brazilian environmental organisations have criticised what they see as a lack of leadership from the government of President Dilma Rousseff in the run-up to the summit, as well as the generally abstract tone of the document negotiated so far between U.N. member states.
The deputy executive secretary of the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA), Adriana Ramos, told IPS that in terms of the formal discussions, “it is hard to envisage that the conference could succeed, because there are in fact no concrete proposals in the official document to generate commitment.”
Given this limitation, Ramos’ hope is that Rio+20 “will serve to draw people’s attention to the difficulties and the necessary changes to ensure the future sustainability of the planet.”
Agreements are needed, such as changes to development evaluation systems so that they take into account environmental variables, or commitments to limit exploration for natural resources in the oceans, she said.
In Ramos’ view, commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, established in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, should be renewed, although she believes it would be hard to meet them, especially for the Brazilian government in the light of the enthusiasm raised by the discovery of major oil reserves in undersea deposits off the Atlantic coast.
Ramos does not agree with the idea of strengthening UNEP as an environmental governance body, and is in favour instead of creating a new structure within the U.N. “to guarantee fulfilment of environmental accords.”
“We need an agency that has real power to apply sanctions,” she said.
For his part, Nilo Dávila of Greenpeace said the success of the final document would depend on its reflecting not only what has to be done, but also the path that must be travelled to get there.
The environmentalist commented to IPS about specific needs, such as preservation of oceans and forests, regulation of consumption and an end to fossil fuel use.
Dávila said Rio+20 should renew commitments made at the 1992 Earth Summit that have not been fulfilled, like Agenda 21 (a comprehensive action plan on sustainable development) or the conventions on biological diversity and on climate change, while setting new goals based on the latest research and technological advances.
“Rio+20 can be the beginning of that road. What we cannot do is miss another opportunity,” he said.
At the conference, world leaders and representatives of civil society will aim to make decisions about how to reduce poverty and inequality and at the same time ensure environmental protection in a planet that is ever more populated.
The debates will contribute to setting the sustainability agenda for the next 20 years, as well as identifying goals and solutions for urgent global challenges, including lack of access to energy and clean water, overexploited oceans, food insecurity, growing inequalities and rapidly expanding cities.
The conference will also try to come up with ways of boosting corporate sustainability, “green” job creation, the role of science and innovation, and funding for improved international cooperation, according to the U.N. Information Centre.