24 June 2012
Rio+20 gives a solid platform to build on
World leaders finalized an agreement at Rio+20 on Friday that will advance action on sustainable development, as businesses, governments, civil society and multilateral development banks announced hundreds of voluntary commitments to shape a more sustainable future for the benefit of the planet and its people.
The full package of agreements, actions, commitments, challenges, initiatives and announcements made at Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, addresses a range of global issues that includes access to clean energy, food security, water and sustainable transportation.
“Rio+20 has given us a solid platform to build on,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “Rio+20 has affirmed fundamental principles - renewed essential commitments - and given us new direction.”
World leaders approved the outcome document for Rio+20, entitled “The Future We Want,” on Friday evening. In the months leading up to Rio+20, negotiations on the outcome document included several week-long sessions and many long nights, but under the leadership of the Brazilian Government, a compromise was reached and agreement made by the 193 Member States of the United Nations.
“The outcome document provides a firm foundation for social, economic and environmental well-being,” Mr. Ban said. “It is now our responsibility to build on it. Now the work begins.”
Calling for a wide range of actionsThe document calls for a wide range of actions, among many other points, including:
*launching a 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 and establishing a new forum for sustainable development;
*promoting corporate sustainability reporting measures;
*taking steps to go beyond GDP to assess the well-being of a country;
*developing a strategy for sustainable development financing;
*adopting a framework for tackling sustainable consumption and production;
*focusing on improving gender equality;
*stressing the need to engage civil society and incorporate science into policy; and
*recognizing the importance of voluntary commitments on sustainable development.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, concluding the conference, told participants that the outcome document is a great step forward. “I am convinced that this conference will have the effect of bringing about sweeping change.”
Voluntary commitments play a key roleBeyond the negotiated document, voluntary commitments played a key role in the outcome of Rio+20, with an estimated USD513 billion mobilized from the 13 largest commitments alone.
Over 700 voluntary commitments by civil society groups, businesses, governments, universities and others were listed on the main Rio+20 website as of Friday 22 June.
The total included more than one hundred commitments and actions announced by Mr. Ban Thursday in support of the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative towards achieving three objectives – ensuring energy access, doubling energy efficiency and doubling the share of renewable energy – all by 2030.
More than 50 Governments from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Small Island Developing States have engaged with the initiative and are developing energy plans and programmes.
Businesses and investors have committed more than USD50 billion to achieve the initiative’s three objectives. More than one billion people will benefit from Sustainable Energy for All’s public and private sector commitments.
Transport, oceans, business, access to foodEarlier this week, eight multilateral development banks announced they will provide financing of more than USD175 billion through 2020 to support sustainable transport in developing countries.
And the World Bank announced that more than 80 countries, civil society groups, private companies and international organizations have declared their support for the new Global Partnership for Oceans.
More than 200 commitments to sustainable development by businesses were announced at the conclusion of the UN Global Compact’s Corporate Sustainability Forum.
Mr. Ban also issued a ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ on Thursday, calling on all nations to be boldly ambitious as they work for a future where everyone enjoys the right to food and all food systems are resilient.
The Challenge aims to provide 100 percent access to adequate food year round, while increasing small farm productivity and zero loss or waste of food. Several countries have already taken up the challenge. For example, the United Kingdom pledged 150 million pounds (approx. USD234 million) to help small holder farmers feed millions.
Creating a new research centerThe Brazilian Government announced the creation of the Rio+ Centre, the World Centre for Sustainable Development.
The Rio+ Centre will facilitate research, knowledge exchange and international debate about sustainable development. Its partners include the State Government of Rio de Janeiro, the Rio Municipality and several UN agencies, as well as academic institutions, businesses and civil society groups.
“This Conference is about implementation. It is about concrete action. The voluntary commitments are a major part of the legacy of this Conference. They complement the official outcome of the Conference,” said Rio+20 Secretary-General Sha Zukang.
In the lead up to Rio+20, the Government of Brazil hosted a series of Dialogue Days, which engaged civil society in considering ten major sustainable development issues, including oceans, food security, energy and water -- all topics with action points in the outcome document.
Recommendations from the Dialogue Days were included in discussions at the four High-Level Round Tables held during Rio+20 that considered ways to move the outcomes of Rio+20 forward and featured a number of Heads of State.
EU supports the outcome
We support the adoption of this outcome document, stated European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik on behalf of the EU and its member states on the adoption of the outcome of the Rio+20.
Critics say "weak text"But a lack of consensus over the sustainable development goals in Rio de Janeiro led to an agreement that even some signatory nations said lacked commitment, specifics and measurable targets, writes Reuters.
As a result, many ecologists, activists, and business leaders now believe that progress on environmental issues must be made locally with the private sector, and without the help of international accords.
"The greening of our economies will have to happen without the blessing of the world leaders," said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of the World Wildlife Fund.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived early on Friday for a quick announcement on U.S.-backed projects in Africa and a series of bilateral meetings with various world leaders, admitted as much.
"Governments alone cannot solve all the problems we face," she said, "from climate change to persistent poverty to chronic energy shortages."
Most troubling for many critics of the summit is the fact that leaders arrived in Rio merely to sign a text that their diplomats had all but sealed beforehand. The text, dubbed "The Future We Want," left little room for vision or audacity from presidents and prime ministers, critics argued.
"The world we want will not be delivered by leaders who lack courage to come here, sit at the table and negotiate themselves," said Sharon Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. "They took no responsibility for imposing the action, the targets, the time lines."
But some warned that private initiatives, while helpful, could not be responsible for the rulemaking and law enforcement necessary to ensure that wholesale changes take place.
"The private sector has an enormous and important role to play but not as a substitute to governments and international leadership," said Malcolm Preston, who leads the sustainability and climate change practice at PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
'Not one size fits all'Instead of forging legally binding treaties, organizers say, the purpose of the summit was to initiate a process to define a new set of development principles.
But that process, like most global diplomacy, is rife with conflicting interests and tensions between rich countries and the developing world.
"The storyline is different from 1992," said Andre Correa do Lago, chief negotiator at the conference for Brazil, which led the final talks on the declaration.
"This summit recognizes more than the others that not one size fits all," he added, according to Reuters.
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