Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is once again host to a major environmental summit, this time the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20 because it comes two decades after the Earth Summit in 1992. Over one hundred heads of state and government are in Rio to discuss poverty, social equity and the environment.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 20 to 22, 2012, twenty years after the Earth Summit in Rio, after countless discussions and round tables and plenary meetings, the world comes together again to discuss pressing environmental issues at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). On the table are the reduction of poverty, the advancement of social equity and the protection of the environment.
Besides the more than 100 heads of state and government, over 40,000 people are attending the event, which is hoped to build substantially on the Earth Summit in Rio, 1992, which adopted Agenda 21, in the words of the UNO, "a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection".
In his opening address, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said: "Let us not waste this opportunity. The world is watching to see if words will translate into action, as we know they must."
The text of the Conference's Outcome Document, "The Future We Want", has already been agreed upon by the 191 countries represented at the event, this being a guideline as to how to implement and accelerate sustainable development across the globe.
The issues raised in this document are:
Beginning the process to establish sustainable development goals; detailing how the green economy can be used as a tool to achieve sustainable development; strengthening the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); promoting corporate sustainability reporting measures; taking steps to go beyond gross domestic product to assess the well-being of a country; developing a strategy for sustainable development financing; and, adopting a framework for tackling sustainable consumption and production; improving gender equity; recognizing the importance of voluntary commitments on sustainable development; and stressing the need to engage civil society and incorporate science into policy.(1)
The Secretary-General of Rio+20, Sha Zukang, stated: "We think the text contains a lot of action, and if this action is implemented, and if follow-up measures are taken, it will indeed make a tremendous difference in generating positive global change,"
Action or hot air?
In plain English, what the world community has seen in general terms since the Earth Summit, is a lot of hot air at conferences, and sometimes sinister manoeuvring by the more powerful nations as we saw at Copenhagen; a lot of words and less action.
As Sha Zukang said, "if" this action is implemented. If, being the operative word. This time around it is up to the international media to take up the case and press for action. Intervention journalism has won countless battles over the years and has forced results out of those reluctant to spoil the party for those with vested interests. This time around, the good sign is that there is substantial movement also from civil society groups, businesses and universities, as well as Governments - translated, in tangible terms, into at least 500 voluntary commitments.
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