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RIO+20: Battles won and lost
RIO DE JANEIRO, 20 June 2012 (IRIN) - The adoption of the controversial
concept of a "green economy" was to have been the big story out of
Rio+20, the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
It features in the final outcome document put together by the
Brazilians to break the deadlock on various issues that saw
negotiations drag on through the night and into the early hours of 19
June. The text is set to be adopted by heads of state once the
conference opens formally on 20 June.
But the definition of a "green economy" has been left for each country
to decide and comes with several compromises. "Better a wishy-washy
concept of a green economy than a bad definite," said Martin Khor, the
director of South Centre, an intergovernmental body of developing
countries based in Geneva, Switzerland.
The developing world was mostly wary of the motives behind the
endorsement of the concept by many developed countries.
Eminent African scientist Youba Sokona, the co-chair of Working Group
III (mitigation issues) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC), said the document and the conference lacked any "new
ideas and did not really set a vision on how to check unsustainable
consumption at an individual level".
Here is a sense of the good and the not-so-good in the final outcome
document, criticized by civil society and many scientists as lacking
ambition. "It depends on how you see it - half-full or half-empty,"
said Khor. "We ended up defending what we had gained in Rio in 1992,
but at least we managed to do that."
* The green economy: The document sets out the vision in the
context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and states
that it must not create new trade barriers; impose new conditionalities
on aid and finance; widen technology gaps, or exacerbate the
technological dependence of developing countries on developed
countries; restrict the policy space for countries to pursue their own
paths to sustainable development. In short, trying to address the
mistrust between the developing and developed world that has built up
over the years. Most developed countries supported the phasing out of
fossil fuel subsidies, the use and production of renewable energies,
and the creation of "green" jobs.
* Technology transfer: To set out on an alternative energy path,
developing countries called for the transfer of technologies from the
developed world to them. This was a long and hard-fought battle, with
rich countries resisting the inclusion of the word "transfer", and any
reference to money for doing so. Both these aspects feature in the
* Common but differentiated responsibilities: The reference to
this term, which essentially acknowledges the divide between the
developed and the developing world, remains in the text.
* Right to food: Despite resistance from some developing
countries, this right made it into the final text. It implies an
obligation by countries to enforce the right to food by way of law. The
text also calls for the phasing-out of agricultural subsidies.
* Commission on Sustainable Development: The toothless commission
will be elevated to a high-level body charged with monitoring and
enforcing sustainable development goals (SDGs) and will report to the
UN General Assembly.
* SDGs: The contentious issue of when and how to initiate the
SDGs without disrupting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) process
was resolved. The document suggests the SDGs should complement and
strengthen MDGs in the development agenda for the post-2015 period,
with a view to establishing a set of goals in 2015 that are part of the
post-2015 UN Development Agenda.
It suggests the new SDGs should cover sustainable consumption
and production patterns, as well as priority areas such as oceans; food
security and sustainable agriculture; sustainable energy for all; water
access and efficiency; sustainable cities; green jobs, decent work and
social inclusion; and disaster risk reduction and resilience.
* Right to water and sanitation.
* Official Development Assistance: The draft urges developed
countries to make additional concrete efforts towards the target of
allocating 0.7 percent of their gross national product (GNP) to
development aid, which was part of the original Rio action plan in
1992. This inclusion was resisted by some developed countries.
* Sustainable Consumption and Production: The text calls for a
10-Year Framework of Programmes on sustainable consumption and
production (SCP) as part of a global pact on these aspects.
* Reproductive rights: The conservative lobby won and this
reference was removed, setting back progress made by women rights
activists in the past two decades. Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, Brazil's
foreign minister, said he was "extremely disappointed" by this
decision. As a compromise, a reference to the Cairo Declaration in
1994, which defined the reproductive rights of women, was included.
* Oceans: Instead of a definite call, the countries have agreed
"to initiate, as soon as possible, the negotiation of an implementing
agreement" to "address the conservation and sustainable use of marine
biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction". Lasse Gustavsson,
head of the World Wide Fund for Nature, remarked at Rio+20 that this
might as well mean nothing at all.
* Finance: There was no real commitment to funding as the
European Union's economic crisis cast a deep shadow over the
proceedings, said chief Brazilian negotiator Andre Correa Do Lago. The
developing countries had called for a commitment of finance to help
countries scale up sustainable development goal projects, and for the
transfer of technology.
* Green economy: With all the "ifs" and "buts", will green
technology ever take off? .
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[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United
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