Will Rio+20 change the way the world is growing?

By Roli Mahajan
Published: Thursday 14 June 2012

Over 50,000 people representing a cross section of society, from environmental activists to corporate representatives and from civilians to government delegates, are expected attend the UN summit on sustainable development at Rio this year. The summit provides a platform for people from all over the world to attempt to find solutions to some of the greatest problems facing humanity today--poverty and climate change.

But will the outcome of this conference bring any radical change to the way the world is growing? Roli Mahajan asked some of the people who are in Rio to give their views on the expected outcome of the conference. The responses varied from “expectations are high, but the outcome will be dismal” to “there will be no concrete outcome, but Rio+20 is the charging point for youth, governments and other stakeholders to continue their good work back home”. Here’s what some of them have to say:

Sébastien Duyck, climate activist, Rio+Twenties.

image“I think that there will be several outcomes from the UN process (Rio+20). Governments will have to reach an agreement and so they will probably agree on sustainable development goals, though, they might not get into the details with regard to on ground implementation,” says Sebastien Duyck. His organization aims to contribute to the capacity building and the empowerment of young people at Rio+20.
Duyck thinks delegates will also decide on some reforms for the UN institutions working on sustainable development or environment. “As for the Green Economy theme, I am not too sure. What I understand is that the governments will negotiate for what they think is important for greening the economy, but concrete decisions might not become a reality,” he adds.

On the whole the most important outcome will probably be the exchanges and networking among people who are working on local solutions in their home countries, says Duyck.

Matt Maiorana, activist, Avaaz.org

maiorana“One of the most important, and possibly the most tangible, outcome of Rio+20 could be eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and reinvesting that money in renewable energy and sustainable development,” says Maiorana.

He says every year over US $1 trillion dollars is given away to the dirtiest corporations on the planet—big oil, coal and gas majors. If politicians are serious about sustainable development then ending handouts to polluters is the first step, and at Rio+20, negotiators can do exactly that, he says.

Right now subsidies appear in two places in the negotiating text—Energy 6 and Trade 9. “This is a good start, but the text is vague and lacks a timetable or enforcement mechanism. Negotiators can do better. New Zealand and Switzerland have been actively working to make the text more ambitious, but we need the EU and the US to join them. If the force of civil society makes this is a priority, then I think we can get there,” says Maiorana.

Bernadette Fischler, policy analyst (post-MDG), Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD)

Fischler has worked on sustainable development goals (SDGs) and says SDGs will be the first step for global development framework that genuinely integrates environmental and political concerns. One of the highlights of the Rio+20 is the expected launch of a post-summit process for defining the nature and scope of SDGs and it may turn out to be the single biggest achievement of Rio+20.

image“The millennium development goals (MDGs), with the deadline of 2015, have failed the environment abysmally. The next step must be something better. From Rio, we need a clear process to integrate SDGs into the post-MDG framework or discussions. We need to see the political will to want to make it work as one global framework for all countries as well as the inclusion of all stakeholders into building this framework,” says Fischler.

“I am not asking for themes/targets/accountability measures as that would be unrealistic and unproductive at this stage. All I expect out of this is at least a crystal clear process for one global development framework after 2015,” she adds.


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