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Rio+20: Stopping Short of the Summit

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Today is the final day of the Rio+20 summit. The conference officially opened Wednesday afternoon with an opening plenary featuring speeches from the more the 119 heads of state in attendance and major groups including an unequivocal speech by the director of the Climate Action Network International, Wael Hmaidan. Comments like Wael’s were later followed up on Thursday with protests within RioCentro and a massive march in central Rio.

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This is part of a series of posts straight from the Rio +20 Summit.

Given that the text was never reopened, the summit itself was little more than an opportunity for politicians to make speeches and congratulate themselves on a job poorly done. When not having their pictures taken, the politicians spent most of Thursday and Friday discussing how to implement the steps laid out on the document. I can’t help thinking that if the text included more on implementation, with real targets and benchmarks, they would have less to discuss now and yet more would actually get done.

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The central sign reads "Come share your vision of the future".

To be honest, my time in Brazil has left me exhausted and with a little bit of a cold, so I am finding it difficult muster the energy to write about three days of wasted opportunity, so I’m going to end here. I will be back next week with my own reflections on Rio. For now, I will let the words of Alden Meyer, who opened the week with his blog post, close the week as well:

“The political declaration issued by leaders in Rio has no hope of giving the peoples of the world ‘the future we want.’ Without much stronger action, we are clearly headed for a future we can’t live with – and quicker than most leaders realize.

“The message from scientists and other experts is crystal clear: humanity is placing stresses on the Earth’s carrying capacity that threaten the health and wellbeing of both current and future generations. The response to this threat from world leaders in Rio is totally inadequate, as many of them would readily admit. Today’s declaration is the result of several factors: the focus of most leaders on current short-term economic challenges, the untoward influence of corporate polluters over public policy, and sharp divisions among countries on key issues such as equity and finance.

“But Rio also saw numerous initiatives launched and commitments made by countries, companies and other actors. More than 400 companies which comprise the Consumer Goods Forum pledged to achieve zero net deforestation in their supply chains by 2020. While collectively these initiatives are significant and offer some hope, they simply aren’t adequate to the scale of the challenges we face.

“Fortunately, we have the solutions we need, and they are far more affordable than the impacts we will suffer if we don’t implement them.  For example, the cost of electricity from clean renewable sources has dropped significantly in recent years, and there are tremendous opportunities to use energy more efficiently in every sector of our economies. What’s in short supply is political will by leaders to rise above pressure from polluters and their own short-term thinking, and do the right thing for the future of all of us.

“Despite the disappointing outcome in Rio, we will continue to press for the actions to move us onto the sustainable path the people of the world deserve.”

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Posted in: Energy, Global Warming Tags:

About the author: Calen May-Tobin is a lead analyst with the Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative and conducts research on palm-related deforestation and how to reduce the land-use carbon footprint of the palm oil industry. He holds a Master’s degree in ecology from the University of California, Irvine. See Calen's full bio.

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  • Jenn

    *sigh* Calen, if I were closer . . . I’d bring you some soup, or a beer. Keep your chin up, Sir. I sleep better knowing you’re out there fighting the good fight. All fancy-pant’ed and whatnot. I found your blogs on the Summit frustrating, but I understand some of the system better now. Progress. So. Slow. Thank you for taking the time to write these.

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