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.

Related Reading:

US Youth Interrupt Durban Climate Talks [Video]

Was Cancun Climate Conference A Success?

What The U.N. and U.S. Can Learn From Cochabamba’s Climate Talks

Image via narghee-la/Flickr


Rosemary R Rannes

I'm optimistic! Being pesimistic based on the obvious track record so far, to me, seems to perpetuate negativity. So being hopeful that they get their acts together, so to speak, speaking bluntly, 'ya gotta go there sometime' ! For the health of our Planet Earth, the health of our Planet Ocean is tantamount to the survival of the human race, not to mention everything else.

Luiz Eduardo Rogerio

Unfortunately the results were timid, on a planet with the world economy in crisis, sustensavel development and reduction of pollution are for the background!

Ian Brown
Ian Brown5 years ago

The Earth's environment has certainly not improved in the 20 years since the original Rio Summit and I don't expect things will improve as a result of Rio 20. While our political leaders cow-tow to the big corporations, whose only aim is, "big profits now and the future can go to the devil", there is little prospect of achieving sustainable development!

Jeremy NathanJ Marks
Jeremy Marks5 years ago

I think conferences and awareness raising events are vitally important but you will forgive me if I just don't believe that these conferences are going to produce the needed responses by governments to help take steps towards curbing pollution, habitat destruction and overconsumption. There are few governments -if any- that are willing to fight for strong regulatory practices because the influence of multinational capital is so strong. The countries that really need to pave the way are the ones least likely to act like the United States and Canada.

Edo F.
Edo F5 years ago

The only real law this planet has is the laws of nature. As soon as we can align ourselves to this law the better it will be for all life on this planet.

Troy G.
Troy Grant5 years ago

The path to sustainability starts with direct democracy. People, not sold out politicians, know what is good for them.

John Mansky
John Mansky5 years ago

Thank you for the article...

Grace Adams
Grace Adams5 years ago

Global Thermostat claims to capture CO2 from ambient air cost-effectively. CO2 works even better than water as hydraulic fluid for Enhanced Geothermal Systems, so they can both store a lot of CO2 and produce base-load electricity. Somebody needs to do enough of a pilot project for both technologies to test their merit.

David Nuttle
Past Member 5 years ago

I don't see the kind of real concern or effective leadership needed for the U.N., or other entities/ nations to establish and keep serious sustainable development goals. As we progress with our self-destruction my hope is that at long last we will finally get serious about finding and implementing effective solutions. In brief, expect things to get worse before they even start to get better.

Michael Barth
Michael Barth5 years ago

I hope the leaders can come to an agreement. I do the best I can do in living a green lifestyle and would like to see other people do the same. If you are living a green lifestyle, please keep it up and great job for doing it.