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How to advance climate change & clean energy action at Rio+20 Earth Summit

Jake Schmidt

Posted March 8, 2011 in Solving Global Warming

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The world’s leaders will be meeting June 4-6, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the Rio+20 Earth Summit.  This Summit is an important opportunity to advance concrete action on global warming.  Countries, companies, state and local governments, and civil society groups should be expected to come to Rio prepared to strengthen the implementation of their existing commitments and undertake new actions to reduce emissions.  One of roads to Rio should lead through clean energy and deforestation actions that help to address global warming pollution. 

I’m in NY for preparatory meetings for Rio+20 so here are some initial thoughts as I outlined during a side-event hosted by NRDC and the Global Campaign for Climate Action

The Rio+20 Earth Summit is the 20th Anniversary of the first Rio Summit, which helped craft the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  Twenty years into global efforts to address global warming key countries accounting for over 80% of the world’s pollution have committed to implement concrete action to reduce their emissions.  And a number of developed countries are stepping forward with resources to help developing countries reduce their emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.  The Rio+20 Earth Summit can further these actions by asking countries to prepare detailed commitments that answer some key questions:

  • What steps have you taken towards your commitment?
  • What concrete new actions are you committing to take in Rio towards your commitment?
  • How are you strengthening your commitment?

So what tangible outcomes from Rio+20 could help in global efforts to reduce carbon pollution?  We should expect that before and during Rio “coalitions of the willing” (key countries, companies, etc) commit to implement new actions on important energy/climate opportunities.  Some initial thoughts are that this coalition should commit to action on:

Each of these actions should contain three key elements:

  1. Specific commitments by key countries, communities, companies, etc.;
  2. Commitments to jointly work together, including technical assistance and coordinated actions where appropriate;
  3. Provisions for tracking and accountability so that there is a follow-up system to ensure that the commitments are delivered on the ground.

Roads to Rio – the climate and energy path.  The roads to Rio can help make important progress on efforts to address carbon pollution in key countries around the world.  We need to wait until after the climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa to see if there are new agreements or issues which should be brought to the Rio 2012 Summit.  So there may be additional follow through from Durban which will require world leaders to carry forward.     

But no matter what happens in Durban, when world leaders arrive in Rio they’ll need to accomplish more than just a new agreement on how the “green economy” should progress.  These leaders should be expected to commit to new actions to reduce their emissions and frameworks to be held accountable to those commitments.

Nothing less than that is good enough.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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