Rio+20 summit takes off in Brazil with optimism and many challenges
The United Nations conference on Sustainable Development opened in Brazil on Wednesday, launching a new round of debate on the future of the planet, its resources and people, 20 years after the first Earth Summit.
Opening the so-called Rio+20 summit President Dilma Rousseff, called on all countries of the world to commit to reaching an accord that addresses serious environmental and social woes.
We do not consider that respect for the environment only occurs in the expansion phase of the cycle. Rather, a pro-growth position, to preserve and maintain, is intrinsic to the design of development, particularly in the face of crisis, said Rousseff.
The UN conference, which marks the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit that declared the environment a priority, is the largest ever organized, with 50.000 delegates, the UN said.
Around 115 leaders are expected for the summit itself on June 20-22 but a series of business, environmental and nongovernmental organization conferences are being held in the runup.
This frenzy of contacts and deal-making could well be more fruitful than the UN process itself, say some, mindful of the failures of the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen. Still it is hoped that the leaders can seal a deal that has been in the works for three months but with two-thirds of proposals still lacking consensus.
The UN itself has not ruled out the possibility of intense negotiations continuing right up to the June 20-22 leaders summit that will be attended by French President Francois Hollande and China's Prime Minister Ben Jiabao among others world leaders.
Notably absent from the summit will be US President Barack Obama, who is facing a tough presidential re-election race at home, and German Chancellor Angela Merckel, whose country in the past has shown extraordinary commitment to environment issues.
A report released ahead of the gathering described an urgent need to tackle population growth and voracious consumption that are placing Earth's resources under intolerable strain.
According to UN figures, global food demand will double by 2030 and energy consumption soar by as much as 45%, putting mounting pressure on finite resources amid growing social inequality, water shortages and global warming.
Nations all agree that the summit comes at a turning point, and its outcome is crucial for the future of mankind. But privately delegates expressed doubt that a consensus on how to tackle these problems will be reached while many governments remain focused on the economic crisis.
The developing countries of the G77+China group have submitted a proposal to create a 30 billion dollars fund that would finance sustainable development in developing countries.
The G77+China group has the idea of creating a 30 billion fund for sustainable development, said Brazil's chief negotiator at the conference, Ambassador Luiz Figueiredo at a news conference at Riocentro. This is a proposal that has the support of this group and is part of the negotiations.
At the news conference, Ambassador Sha Zukang of China, the top UN official responsible for the Rio+20, requested that delegates speed up their deliberations on the final outcome document.
The Greenpeace ship ‘Rainbow Warrior’ arrived in Rio on Wednesday bringing ‘Greenpeacers’ to participate in civil society discussions after visiting the Brazilian cities of Manaus, Macap, Belem, Recife and Salvador.
In Manaus in March, Greenpeace launched a public initiative for zero deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon, which has attracted the support of social movements, indigenous organizations, artists and other members of civil society. The idea is to collect 1.4 million signatures of voters, to present Congress with a popular initiative to end deforestation. More than 300,000 signatures have been collected. The Brazilian Congress is now debating changes that relax the Forest Code and the partial veto of those changes made by President Rousseff.
Greenpeace Zero Deforestation campaign coordinator Marcio Astrini lamented that the protection of Brazilian forests was left out of discussions on the Brazilian Forest Code. We understand that in the National Congress, the discussion revolved around forgiving environmental crimes, legalizing deforestation that occurred in the past, he said.
The 1992 Rio Earth Summit resulted in three international treaties or conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
Twenty years later, governments and civil society organizations are back in Rio to take stock of the ways these agreements have enabled the world to address the related challenges of climate change and biodiversity, desertification and land degradation.