When we go to Rio De Janeiro in June next year, lots of emotional capital will be invested in the success of the Rio +20 Earth Summit. It’s the twentieth anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Brazil’s iconic city. This time those two elements are brought together as the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
The objectives of the Summit are:
'...to secure renewed political commitment to sustainable development; to assess progress towards internationally agreed goals on sustainable development and to address new and emerging challenges. The Summit will also focus on two specific themes: a green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development, and an institutional framework for sustainable development.'
The United Nations is hoping for something special:
'In June, six months from now, the world will come together in Rio. Two decades ago, they called it the “Earth Summit”. Today we call it “ Rio+20”. By whatever name, we know that we need more than an ordinary summit. This is no time for business as usual.
In Rio, we hope to chart a new path for development, sustainable development, which means growth consistent with the limitations and opportunities of our natural world.'
Andrew Charlton, Australian insider at Copenhagen summed up the challenge in his recent Quarterly Essay: Man-Made World: Choosing between progress and planet.
"Progress has its price. Each step of human advancement has left a footprint on the planet. Today our two defining challenges are managing climate change and eliminating global poverty. In Copenhagen we learned that these challenges are inseparable."
According to Charlton the lesson from Copenhagen is that changing geopolitics mean that the needs of the developing world must be met, as well as those of the developed world.
One thing is for sure. We’re in for a carnival of jargon and acronyms. Time to revisit the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), kickstart the GCF (Green Climate Fund), recalculate the level of ODA (Official Development Assistance), brush up on IGOs (An intergovernmental organizations, or an international governmental organizations –take your pick) not to forget LDCs (Least Developed Countries), NGOs (Non-government Organizations) and NPOs (Non-profit organizations).
Understanding the Climate Change Conference COP17 in Durban was child’s play compared with this alphabet soup.
It’s supposed to be a Conference at the highest possible level, including Heads of State and Government. Just like COP15 Copenhagen! Apparently British PM David Cameron isn’t going despite the dates being changed to accommodate the United Kingdom’s royal jubilee. Hopefully China, India, Russia and the United States will send their leaders. Certainly Barack Obama needs to crystallise hope in 2012 through some meaningful change at the summit.
The Green Economy Coalition has its own proposals to make this happen:
'...to kickstart longterm change we need to move away from the tired models of international meetings. We need a new approach to our common problems; we need fresh thinking and new solutions; and we need new voices at the table. Read our practical roadmap for making Rio 2012 count.' Road to Rio 2012
The host country has a lot at stake besides prestige. Brazil is the fifth largest nation with approximately 203 million people. It has estimated population growth of 1.134% (ranked 105 out of 231), a birth rate of17.70 per 1000 (109/222) and a fertility rate of 2.18 children born/woman (108/222).
Generation Y is expected to play a crucial role in promoting the aims of the conference:
'UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on young people to help combat the multiple threats faced by the planet, such as climate change and environmental destruction, as well as water, food and energy scarcity.' UN Secretary-General Calls on Youth to Address Global Challenges
Central to conflict at the summit is the contentious idea of uncoupling economic growth from environmental issues:
'Next year's Rio+20 United Nations summit must "un-environmentalise" the world's approach to sustainability so that it can reach out beyond the converted, according to a senior organiser in the host nation.' Rio+20 must 'unenvironmentalise' green issues, says G77 negotiator (The Guardian 12 Sep 2011)
The Bolivian government and its partners from Global Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Nature 2010 are on the side of ‘Mother Earth’:
'In this century, the central challenges of sustainable development are: on the one hand, to overcome poverty and the tremendous inequalities that exist and, on the other hand, reestablish the equilibrium of the Earth system. Both objectives are intrinsically linked and one cannot be reached independently of the other.'
Rio +20 needs to be more than a dream. It must come up with more than a platform to negotiate an agreement. It must deliver more that the bare bones ‘institutional framework’.
The summit can be a game changer, an earth mover. It’s over to you!