Rio +20 an ‘epic failure’

As world leaders gathered in Brazil for a three-day United Nations conference on global sustainable development, the fragile state of Europe’s economy seems to have overshadowed proceedings with many of the world’s leaders and decision makers not attending.

The flags of participating countries at the Rio+20 Summit.
The flags of participating countries at the Rio+20 Summit.

Under the shadow of the economic crisis, delegates said that these nations would not agree on new financing for developing nations to promote sustainable development. As the summit comes to a close, negotiators have produced what critics are calling a ‘watered down document that makes few advances on protecting the environment’.

A mere beginning

As reported, ‘With time running out, contentious issues like technology transfers from rich to poor nations and new financing for developing countries were set aside. Diplomats agreed on what all call a mere beginning, a step toward a roadmap on how to embrace sustainable development at the conference dubbed “Rio+20” — coming two decades after the landmark 1992 Earth Summit put sustainable development on the globe’s agenda.’

Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace summed up his perspective: “The future we want has gotten a little further away today. Rio+20 has turned into an epic failure. It has failed on equity, failed on ecology and failed on economy. This is not a foundation on which to grow economies or pull people out of poverty, it’s the last will and testament of a destructive twentieth century development model.”

The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh reminded the developed world of the commitments made 20 years ago to sustainable development and called for setting up a global system that allows each country to develop according to its own priorities.

New pathways

“The 1992 Rio Summit correctly acknowledged that poverty eradication must remain the over-riding priority for developing countries. Those living at the subsistence level cannot bear the costs of adjustment and their livelihood considerations are important in determining how scarce natural resources such as land, water and forests are used,” Manmohan Singh. “Moreover, current consumption patterns in the industrialized world are unsustainable. We need to find new pathways for sustainable living,” said the Indian leader amid a loud applause.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the world has made little progress on environmental issues since the first Rio meeting in 1992, but said leaders were working to reverse that at the Rio+20 summit. This sadly, seems not to be the case, yet again. “Twenty years ago, the Earth Summit put sustainable development on the global agenda. Yet let me be frank: our efforts have not lived up to the measure of the challenge,” he told delegates. “For too long, we have behaved as though we could indefinitely burn and consume our way to prosperity. Today, we recognize that we can no longer do so.”

We cannot wait for our world leaders to come up with solutions as we’ve seen from the outcome of previous summits over the years. We have to get on with making a difference at grass roots level in our own country and to continue to raise awareness and change attitudes to the way we do business and to take our environment into consideration in everything we do.

Post published in: Environment

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