Factbox: Rio+20 Conference

Activists march in protest during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio 20, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo: AAP)

Activists march in protest during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio 20, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo: AAP)

The Rio+20 Conference brings together world leaders, NGOs, the private sector, scientists and interest groups to discuss social equity, global governance and environmental protection


The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) is being held in Brazil on June 20-22 at the Riocentro Convention Centre in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. World leaders, NGOs, government ministers, the private sector, scientists, and other interest groups will meet to discuss social equity, poverty, global governance and environmental protection.

Rio+20 will see more than 190 countries and 130 leaders take part in formal sessions. Some 50,000 participants from grassroots organisations, business groups and other members of civil society will meet and participate in side events.

Why is there another conference?

• According to a report by WWF, demand for natural resources had doubled since 1966 and we are now using the equivalent of 1.5 planets to support our activities. If the planet continues along this path, we need the equivalent of two planets by 2030.

• Biodiversity has also declined, carbon emissions have increased by 40 per cent in past two decades and the World Food Programme reports that one in seven people are undernourished.

• This is all set to worsen with the global population predicted to rise from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050.

• The first conference of this kind happened 20 years ago. The landmark 1992 Earth Summit in Rio awakened the world to environmental issues such as climate change, the loss of species diversity and rainforest destruction.

• This time round, it is reported that organisers are less ambitious and are not expecting concrete outcomes. Rather, they hope that countries would at least agree on common principals, goals and what it means to be sustainable.

• “This was never going to be a conference that solved everything,” Jim Leape, director of WWF International told BBC News, “but it still can be a conference that puts the world on a different path.”

Ecological Footprint Index (WWF)

What are the aims?

The two themes for the conference are: Building a sustainable global economy that alleviates poverty and doesn’t destroy the planet, and improving the institutional framework to govern this.

Much like the Millennium Development Goals – whereby participating countries worked to improve things like education and mortality rates on a global scale – Rio+20 aims to get the international community to agree on implementing a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The specifics of these goals will then be worked out over the next three years.

The seven priority areas are: green jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security, water and sanitation, oceans, and natural disasters.

Other draft texts include proposals to:

• Upgrade the UN Environment Programme

• Produce ‘state of the planet’ reports

• Have alternatives to GDP as a measure of a country’s progress

• Strengthen the protection of oceans

• Encourage investment in natural capital

• Give financial support to developing countries to pursue a greener economy

Who are the major political players?

The obvious players are emerging economies and developing nations such as Brazil, China, India and Russia. UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Germany’s Angela Merkel and US president Barack Obama have all declined to attend.

What are the talking points?

Dividing responsibilities between developing and developed nations has proven to be a contentious issue.

The United States, for example, opposes the inclusion of a phrase favoured by emerging economies. The phrase, “common but differentiated responsibilities,” places less responsibility on developing nations and their carbon emission. So while China lags behind developed nations in per capita prosperity, it actually emits the most greenhouse gases in the world.

With global economies in turmoil, developed countries are also reluctant to foot the bill for poorer nations seeking to “green” up their economies.

Meanwhile, climate change and renewable energy have been overshadowed by other issues. Countries also disagree on the environmental reporting and accountability process.

Ultimately, the conference runs the risk of inaction; producing vague and unenforceable outcomes that will not make a significant mark towards a more sustainable future.


Posted on June 21, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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