Poverty, Development and Climate Change: The Rio Drama
Poverty, Development and Climate Change: The Rio Drama
-Col DR. ABDUL RUFF
Recently, twenty years after the first Earth Summit, Brazil hosted Rio plus 20, officially known as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro from June 20th to the 22nd. Leaders from more than 100 nations are meeting in Rio de Janeiro for a three-day UN environmental summit. The leaders were expected to put the finishing touches on a draft document approved by diplomats from more than 190 nations that spells out a number of goals aimed at lifting billions of people out of poverty through sustainable development. Agricultural experts wanted food security be at the top of the agenda. But the leaders played their own sports, entertaining the media.
Environment and development charities say the Rio+20 agreement is too weak to tackle social and environmental crises. Plans to enshrine the right of poor people to have clean water, adequate food and modern forms of energy also foundered or were seriously weakened during the six days of preparatory talks.
The moves to eliminate subsidies on fossil fuels to boost economies and curb CO2 emissions - came to naught. Developing countries had argued that they needed financial assistance in order to meet the costs of switching onto a green development path. But with the US in an election year and the EU deep in eurozone mire, any mention of specific sums was blocked. Whereas developing countries have been demanding $30-$100bn per year in exchange for "greening" their economies, the draft text gives no firm numbers. As a consequence, developing countries refused to let the declaration endorse green economics as the definitive sustainable development path.
Governments wee set to weaken pledges on boosting access to water and energy after a new draft negotiating text was issued at the Rio+20 meeting. The summit text was issued by the Brazilian host government after it assumed leadership of the talks from the UN. It affirms that nations must not slide back on prior pledges and names ending poverty as the "greatest challenge". Brazil wanted the text signed off before 130 heads of government and other ministers arrive. However, only 37% of the UN's draft text had been agreed - which led to Brazil's decision to issue a revamped document.
Faced with a triple planetary crisis - climate catastrophe, deepening global inequity and unsustainable consumption driven by a broken economic system - the final text is neither ambitious enough nor delivers the required political will needed.
The need to put the world on a sustainable track, and the perils of not doing so, were outlined most influentially in a 1987 commission chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland, then Prime Minister of Norway. She is puzzled that nothing has happened and said there were "complex reasons" why governments had been unable to take the vision further - including the power of corporations. In global political system, corporations, businesses and people who have economic power influence political decision-makers - that's a fact, and so it's part of the analysis.
More than 40,000 people, including environmental activists and business executives, attended the Rio Plus 20 summit. The gathering marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark first Rio Earth summit that paved the way to the 1997 Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions believed to cause global warming.
Opening the conference UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said officials are now in sight of a "historic agreement." He called on those at the summit not to "waste this opportunity." The Asian Development Bank's Vice President for Knowledge Management Bindu Lohani spoke about the importance of the so-called "Sustainable Development Goals" for Asia. "Asia is growing fast economically," said Lohani. "We project by 2050, more than 50 percent of global economy will be in Asia. Asia is also rich in ecosystems, and therefore, very vulnerable. So with the sustainable development goals in mind, we would be able to develop Asia, still have growth, but we'd also be able to take care of the social and the environmental concerns at the same time."
Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and deputy head of the US delegation here, said the US was fully behind the "green economy" - and that the summit could help deliver the vision. Probably more important are the connections that are being made between businesses large and small, civil society, academia and of course governments at the national and sub-national level - all those things are pushing the green economy forwards. In response to charges that richer countries were attempting to weaken prior commitments on aid and other issues, the text is explicit: "We emphasize the need to make progress in implementing previous commitments... it is critical that we honor all previous commitments, without regression".
The environmental activists say the draft document is too weak and has no enforceable mechanisms. Stephen Howes, an environmental analyst at the Australian National University, said it is not surprising the diplomats failed to agree on any concrete actions in the document, because nations must first reach a domestic consensus before taking any action. Howes says the Rio summit has already succeeded by producing a document, unlike the 2009 UN climate change conference in Copenhagen. "I mean there are now detailed negotiating processes underway, in just about all of the areas that have been discussed in Rio. And it's not really possible to cut across those negotiating processes, each of them have its own dynamics, its own constraints, its own momentum, and in a sense they have to be respected".
The president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Haruhiko Kuroda, told a news conference that rapid motorization is creating more congestion, air pollution, traffic accidents and greenhouse gas emissions, but he said developing countries have the opportunity for a "greener future." The ADB, the World Bank and six other multilateral development banks announced at the summit that they would invest $175 billion in the next decade to help implement more environmentally-friendly transportation solutions in developing countries. The other banks joining in the transport pledge are the African Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the CAF-Development Bank of Latin America, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank and the Islamic Development Bank.
Mayors of dozens of the world's biggest cities held their own summit in the Brazilian capital to discuss measures they have already undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the world's cities have recognized they have a responsibility to take action, as they are responsible for up to 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emission. Even as progress at national and international level has faltered, it's fair to say that world cities have forged ahead. And, the reason for that is clear - mayors, the great pragmatists on the world stage who are directly responsible for the wellbeing for the majority of the world's people, just don't have the luxury to simply talk about change and not deliver it. The measures the mayors say they have undertaken include improved waste management practices, more efficient street lighting and electric-powered municipal transport.
The head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, or IFAD, said critical decisions on food security should be made at Rio + 20. This is an event that occurs perhaps once every decade. It creates a real sense of urgency. A lot can be achieved if we can show the same level of determination in alleviating global poverty and food security the way we are handling the global financial crisis. Determination should focus on helping the world’s smallholder farmers – something that could not have happened at the original Earth Summit. Calls for greater investment in smallholder farms grew following the 2008/2009 food crisis. Agricultural initiatives were launched at the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy and again at the recent G8 summit in Camp David, Maryland. The smallholder farmers are the first investors in agriculture and they’re the most. Also, they are on the frontline in terms of protecting the environment and saving our biodiversity. And they make up a big part of the world’s population. There are about 500 million smallholder farms globally. That’s half of the world’s population.
The IFAD president added that productive agriculture must be climate-smart agriculture. Smallholders have access to resources - to land, to irrigation, to inputs, to financial services, to infrastructure - productivity increases. They’re more conscious about preserving their land than anyone else. And improving smallholder farm productivity has a direct effect on development. Farmers establish “micro-enterprises” – small agriculture-related businesses. They’re adding value to produce. And they’re adding not only in terms of caloric value, but in terms of monetary value to their produce. They become economically viable entities. And they begin to demand government for infrastructure, for roads, for schools, for clinics. Communities begin to change.
But farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, currently face many challenges. They lack fertilizers, better seeds, and irrigation, as well as financial and social support. For example, African farmers apply only about 13 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare. Compare that to farmers in India where the average is over 140. In Europe, the average is between 200 and 250 kilograms per hectare. In addition, less than 5 percent of African farmland has irrigation systems. Most of that is in South Africa and North African countries. So, there’s plenty of opportunity to greatly boost crop yields without the need to clear more land. Africa has the potential not only of feeding itself, but of feeding the world.
The president of the most impoverished country in the western hemisphere, Haiti's President Michel Martelly, said the summit could have delivered more. "I feel like these poor countries, these countries that are always being hit by catastrophe - things have not changed much," he told the BBC. The head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development said agricultural investment needs to increase by tens of billions of dollars per year. He said delegates to Rio+20 should look for areas of common agreement, adding food security is the most plausible.
The ever-increasing quantity of emissions could render moot the aim that has guided international climate diplomacy for nearly a decade: preventing the global temperature from rising by more than two degrees Celsius above its preindustrial level. In fact, in the absence of significant international action, the planet is now on track to warm by at least 2.5 degrees during the current century -- and maybe even more. The known effects of this continued warming are deeply troubling: rising sea levels, a thinning Arctic icecap, extreme weather events, ocean acidification, loss of natural habitats, and many others. Perhaps even more fearsome, however, are the effects whose odds and consequences are unknown, such as the danger that melting permafrost in the Arctic could release still more gases, leading to a vicious cycle of still more warming.
The global recession has nudged global warming far down the political agenda and led cash-strapped countries to yank back renewable-energy subsidies. And some big government bets on renewable power have gone bad, most spectacularly the bet on Solyndra, the California solar-panel maker that received a $535 million loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy before going bankrupt last fall.
Over the past decade, governments around the world threw money at renewable power. Private investors followed, hoping to cash in on what looked like an imminent epic shift in the way the world produced electricity. It all seemed intoxicating and revolutionary: a way to boost jobs, temper fossil-fuel prices, and curb global warming, while minting new fortunes in the process.
Much of that enthusiasm has now fizzled. Natural gas prices have plummeted in the USA, the result of technology that has unlocked vast supplies of a fuel that is cleaner than coal.
In order to promote nuclear plants, regimes have been implementing non-nuclear means for electricity generation with hesitation and mischief. Renewable energy is being wrongly implanted. Critics of taxpayer-sponsored investment in renewable energy point to Solyndra as an example of how misguided the push for solar and wind power has become. Indeed, the drive has been sloppy, failing to derive the most bang for the buck. In the USA, the government has schizophrenically ramped up and down support for renewable power, confusing investors and inhibiting the technologies' development; it has also structured its subsidies in inefficient ways. In Europe, where support for renewable power has been more sustained, governments have often been too generous, doling out subsidies so juicy they have proved unaffordable. And in China, the new epicenter of the global renewable-power push, a national drive to build up indigenous wind and solar companies has spurred US allegations of trade violations and has done little to curb China's reliance on fossil fuels.
Nuclear power plants are thoughtlessly built in earthquake and tsunami zones by using the scientists to make false justifications. Spent fuel rods are stored within the plants, a practice that adds their destructive potential to a catastrophic accident or act of nature. Nuclear wastes are pumped into water bodies necessary for humans. States pollute water harming human survival.
Greedy and foolish among the mankind, unmindful of future human survival, has been destroying the world for a long time- both humans and nature. Once abundant, clean water has now become a scarce resource. Yet, in the ground water and surface water are being polluted, especially by the USA and made unusable by mountain top removal mining, fracking and other such “new technologies.” Offshore oil drilling and chemical farming run-off have destroyed fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. In other parts of the world, explosives used to maximize short-run fish catches have destroyed coral reefs that sustained fish life.
Focused on the expected short term benefits, so-called advanced nations are destroying nature’s resources. The newest threat, according to scientists caring for human rights, comes from genetically modified seeds that produce crops resistant to herbicides. In order to secure bumper crops for several years, people are destroying the fertility of soil, animal and human life.
What shocks us is people today have no better grasp of the consequences of their actions than superstitious and unscientific people centuries ago.
Fortunately, none of the leaders who gathered for Rio development conference committed suicide like the farmers in developing nations like India where prices of essentials are sky rocketing above the corrupt politicians and tricky bureaucrats, are doing, making the nations criminal states. .
That is a boon for the UN, the sponsor of the meet, and its Secretary Ban Moon.
The UN sustainable development summit in Brazil has ended with world leaders adopting a political declaration hammered out a few days previously. But the UN had billed the summit as a "once in a generation chance" to turn the global economy onto a sustainable track. But it absolutely did not do that.
World leaders who gathered, maybe for fun, really did not take decisions that will take the world forward. These fools did not show the leadership. They refused to correctly and precisely come out with resolutions that will have an impact on the lives of people being affected. It was a real lack of action that is very worrying, because we know how difficult the situation is in much of the world in terms of environment and poverty.
Rio summit ended with warning on corporate power perhaps as mere formality. Only future will tell the meaning of this warning. It is evident that the corporate power is one main reason for lack of progress. UN nations will spend three years drawing up sustainable development goals. They will also work towards better protection for marine life on the high seas.
Constitutions and regimes have failed to protect the weak from the wicked sections. It is revealed that globalism increases deadly the powerlessness of the people vis-a-vis the elites. Greed and over ambitions of rich and powerful sections have pushed the have-nots to the walls.
As usual, the leaders "fixed" the next summit. The next key date on the sustainable development journey is 2015. The sustainable development goals should be decided and declared by then; also, the UN climate convention will have what some, with trepidation, are calling its "next Copenhagen" - the summit that should in theory usher in a new global agreement with some legal force to tackle global warming.
Global warming and rising prices are now the early warning to world
د. عبد راف
Dr. Abdul Ruff, Specialist on State Terrorism; Educationalist;Chancellor-Founder of Centor for International Affairs(CIA); Independent Analyst-columnist;Chronicler of Foreign occupations & Freedom movements(Palestine,Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc); Anti-Muslimism and anti-Islamism are more dangerous than "terrorism" Anti-Islamic forces & terrorists are using criminal elements for terrorizing the world and they in disguise are harming genuine interests of ordinary Muslims. Global media today, even in Muslim nations, are controlled by CIA & other anti-Islamic agencies. Former university Teacher;/website:abdulruff.wordpress.com/ 91-9961868309/91-9961868309