Race to Rio: 2012 Earth Summit News -- June 24, 2011
In his address to the Vienna Energy Forum 2011, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on countries to agree at next year’s Earth Summit to raise the share of renewables to 30% of the energy mix by 2030, citing work on the Millennium Development Goals that has “demonstrated the immense value of having specific targets to aim for and by which to measure progress.” Together with two other energy targets announced in January – universal access to modern energy sources and a 40% increase in energy efficiency by 2030 – these form what UNIDO Director-General Kandeh Yumkella has said are Ban’s “30/30/30” energy goals.
On June 20th, the European Commission announced its determination “to help make Ri0+20 a success”. The Commission released its preliminary position statement on the Summit, with a ‘what, who and how’ framework for transitioning to a green economy. The What is investing in sustainable management of key resources and natural capital, specifically water, energy, forests, oceans, agricultural land, ecosystems and biodiversity, and waste. The How is establishing the right market and regulatory conditions. Tools include taxes, tradable permits, environmental subsidies, and removing harmful economic regulations. This will require mobilizing large scale financial resources, investing in green jobs training, and developing new indicators to assess progress. The Who is improving governance and partnerships with the private sector. The Commission focuses on strengthening governance within the UN, citing the creation of a global environmental organization or an upgrade of UNEP as “the most promising way forward”.
On June 17th in Brasilia, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the 2012 Earth Summit “the most important, top priority for the United Nations”. He commended Brazil for its “unique position to make a consensus between the developed and developing nations”. A few days later at UN headquarters in New York, Rio+20 Secretary General Sha Zukang noted at a screening of the film Rio: “That  Summit changed the world. It launched the world on the journey towards sustainable development. Rio+20 will generate political will and momentum to ensure that we stay on track in our shared pursuit of sustainable development”.
UNEP Director Achim Steiner urged the major economies to come to Rio committed to phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels, farming and fisheries. Speaking on June 15th at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, Steiner said the Group of 20 is “not yet” doing enough, despite past commitments to reduce these subsidies. UNEP estimates that between $650 billion and $1.3 trillion is spent on harmful subsidies each year, and recommends reallocating these funds to green infrastructure.
Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), commented that Rio+20 is an opportunity for the international community to commit to stopping net deforestation by 2030. “That means we will do more to prevent land degradation, we will do more to reclaim land,” he said on June 14th at the Bonn Climate Change Conference. He noted that we lose nearly 30 million acres of “drylands” every year – and the potential to produce 20 million tons of grain.
On June 8th, World Oceans Day, the Global Ocean Forum launched "Rio+20 Friends of the Ocean" to assess the progress made on commitments at the 1992 Earth Summit, and prioritize actions to be taken next year in Rio. Forum President Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain called for coherent, ecosystem-based governance at the national, regional and UN-level, including incorporating the oceans into the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). She concludes: “The need to create and act upon a new vision of a low-carbon economy and a new “blue society”, where people act as stewards of our oceans and coasts, is a compelling imperative. The time to act is now, not tomorrow”.
There is a “critical shortcoming” in the governance of waters beyond national jurisdiction that must be addressed at the 2012 Earth Summit, argued UNEP’s Achim Steiner and Pew Environment Group’s Joshua S. Reichert in a June 16th op-ed. Previous UN summits yielded plenty of commitments towards oceans management, but little in the way of implementation. Subsidies lead to twice as much fishing as the oceans can sustain. “The bottom line,” write Steiner and Reichert, “is that the present value of benefits from ‘greening’ the fishing sector is estimated to be 3-5 times the investment – an excellent return for both people and the ocean environment.”
Leaders from the world’s major rainforest regions have agreed to develop an action plan for sustainable forest management by the time they meet again at the 2012 Earth Summit. At the Summit of the Three Rainforest Basins in Brazzaville, Congo, more than 35 heads of state and government issued a Joint Declaration (here in draft) on June 3rd, reaffirming their commitment to sustainable forestry and directing their ministers to meet and draw up an action plan in time for Rio.
“Rio presents us with a unique opportunity, based on new and shared experiences, to seek meaningful commitment and partnerships for production and consumption, technology transfer, finance, capacity building and climate change” said Robert Persaud, Agriculture Minister for Guyana. He spoke on June 19th at the Caribbean Rio+20 Preparatory Meeting in Georgetown, Guyana, and cited Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy as a model approach. With Caribbean nations particularly prone to changing global weather conditions and rising sea levels, the meeting focused on developing a green economy that was also “blue”.
(Compiled with Katherine Manchester)
Please note that the linked articles and excerpts in this post are provided for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Post updated on June 24th at 18:10
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