This week we looks at the outcome of RIO+20 and will follow some positive actions taken by participating countries as stated in Rio to Rio, a special book published to coincide with the recently concluded Earth Summit. It is insightful and showcases how the United Nations (UN) has attempted to learn from the past and move forward to protect the environment.
This is the first weekend after the United Nations Rio+20 Earth summit. The Summit has not yielded the expected results politically, but it has become a forum for the community to get together and discuss the “Future We Want” at international level.
Twenty years after the original Earth Summit, the signatories to Rio+20, last week, did not make very strong commitments. However, this can still be a blueprint document on how to continue with development on a more sustainable path. It was taken as a positive outcome by optimistic analysts. Zoolander this week publishes some extracts from Rio to Rio in the interest of our readers.
The final written outcome of the Rio summit is in fact the hard work put in by negotiators from different countries. There were several views which prevented it from becoming a fully fledged document with strong recommendations but getting it signed has been considered a win for conservation by optimists.
Under the title ‘The Future we Want’ there is a section which deals with ‘Our Common Future.’ The signatories, as world leaders have a personal obligation to the pledge, that reads as: “We, the Heads of State and Government and high-level representatives, having met at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 20-22, 2012, with the full participation of civil society, renew our commitment to sustainable development and to ensuring the promotion of an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet, and for recent and future generations.”
The leaders had recognized that poverty eradication, changing unsustainable and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production, and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development are the overarching objectives of and essential requirements for sustainable development. As Zoolander pointed out last week unsustainable development has been the core of most of the environmental problems and we hope that the leaders who signed this document will not forget this fact. They also pledged to introduce sustainable goals for development, similar to the Millennium Development Goals that were set up and which have to be met by 2015. The initial plan of the RIO+20 included coming to an agreement on the Sustainable Goals at the 2012 summit, which however did not materialize.
However, many NGOs are against the current document, claiming that the Rio+20 Summit is a failure. They wanted a very strong document and calls this only a blueprint that will not make governments work toward getting their acts together. On the other hand, most of them are also against the Green Economic concept that was being promoted. This has also been a common ground shared by the developing countries as pointed out earlier in this column. The indigenous people too have joined the protest against this outcome saying that nature cannot be valued.
Many of those who protested said that, “World leaders have delivered something that fails to move the world forward from the first Rio summit, showing up with empty promises at Rio+20,” and pointing that the, “The RIO+20 text is a polluters’ plan, and unless people start listening to the people, history will remember it as a failure for the people and the planet.” Some kids too have joined this protest. They had even gone to the extent of tearing off the papers with the Rio+20 text.
So this has painted the outcome of the Rio summit as one that cannot be celebrated. But this was not the case in Rio 20 years ago.
Twenty years ago, in 1992, the feeling soon after the first Earth Summit would have been different. The Earth Summit ended by introducing three new International Conventions which have been signed and were adopted later on. These three conventions – namely, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) continued to work on their areas to protect the environment. The world’s governments of developed nations too had agreed to put aside a portion of their income for Environmental Protection and this money has been put into a fund called the Global Environment Fund (GEF).
The UNFCCC sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. The UNCCD aims to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought in countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa, through effective actions at all levels, supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements, in the framework of an integrated approach which is consistent with Agenda 21, with a view to contributing to the achievements of sustainable development in affected areas.
The objectives of the CBD are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from commercial and other utilization of genetic resources. The agreement covers all ecosystems, species and genetic resources, and CBD will also hold its next meeting – the 11th Conference of Parties (COP11) be held in neighbouring India.
From the Amazon to the Himalayas…
Rio to Rio: A 20-Year Journey to Green the World’s Economies ranges widely, from the Amazon region to the Danube River Basin to the Himalayas to tell the stories of projects and programmes backed by the 182 member nations that make up the GEF. GEF CEO and chairperson, Monique Barbut, hosted the book launch and panel discussion at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), better known as Rio+20 that took place in Rio de Janeiro on the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit in Rio.
Chapters of this book include the story of the revival of the Danube River Basin in one of the GEF’s first projects conducted in the Balkans region during a time of civil conflict. There is the story of the largest rainforest protected area programme – the Amazon Region Protected Areas programme in Brazil which has resulted in dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across a network of rainforest areas, larger in total than the Ukraine. The GEF’s role as the manager of the Least Developed Countries Fund is illustrated by an extraordinary project underway in the Himalayas of Bhutan where glacial melt attributed to global warming threatens to burst the banks of high mountain lakes, endangering communities downstream. Stone by stone, villagers working for good wages under the programme hike to the highest elevation work site in the world where they hand carry stones to make channels for the lake overflow and helping to avert the threat of so-called glacial lake outburst floods, or GLOFs.
The CEO of GEF has also said that the Fund has plans to conduct more programmes to protect the ocean’s biodiversity through the latest programme they are funding on the high seas. This will mainly aim at protecting commercially viable fish like Tuna that are dwindling due to overfishing.