Rio+20 Or Bust: Activists Doubt Summit’s Impact
“15 Days To The Future We Want”
That’s the text that accompanies a ticker counting down the days until the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development on the Rio+20 website.
The statement seems to imply that the only thing standing between humanity and a better, cleaner world is to articulate what that future looks like. If history serves, however, it will take far more than words to produce an impact at this year’s global summit.
Today is World Environment Day, a symbolic holiday that many hope will remind world leaders exactly why they’re traveling to Brazil and what’s at stake if Rio+20 fails to achieve its goal.
“Currently we are a long way from where we need to be in these negotiations,” said WWF Director General, Jim Leape. “Heads of State still have a unique opportunity in Rio to set the world on a path to sustainable development – but they need to step up their game dramatically. As things currently stand, we are facing two likely scenarios – an agreement so weak it is meaningless, or complete collapse. Neither of these options would give the world what it needs.”
We’ve seen both of these outcomes at previous conferences designed to wrangle world leaders into an agreement that will prevent human accelerated climate change from dooming our species to extinction. Although there have been heated debates and countless revisions, no previous event has produced a binding agreement aggressive enough to actually make a change.
This means Rio+20 attendees are faced with both a huge opportunity and a massive responsibility.
“When they gather in Rio, governments must restrain the flow of weasel words that is threatening to emasculate any agreement,” said Leape. “They are not helping their people or the planet by ‘noting’, ‘recognising’ or ‘emphasising’. We need to see time-bound commitment and action words like ‘will’, ‘must’ and ‘deliver’,” said Leape.
“These talks about our common future risk being strangled by short-term views focused on national interests that are to nobody’s long-term benefit. Governments must come out of their corners, and together embrace a bold vision for a better future for all – and do what it takes to get there.”
Concretely, this means agreeing to integrate the value of nature into national and corporate accounting standards, eliminating harmful subsidies, agreeing to Sustainable Development Goals and strong regimes to protect oceans.
Do you think they’ll be able to do it? Share your thoughts in a comment and watch this channel for more news as the Conference convenes in just over two weeks time.
Image via narghee-la/Flickr