Victor Anderson - The importance of Rio 2012
A major United Nations conference about the future of the planet will be taking place in Rio de Janeiro, June 20th/21st/22nd. At the top of its agenda are 'green economy' and governance arrangements for sustainable development. Rio 2012 will be 20 years after the Rio 1992 Earth Summit - and 40 years since the original UN Environment Conference in Stockholm.
Many NGOs around the world see Rio 2012 as a new opportunity to put a spotlight on the state of the global environment and the question of how to meet human needs in the context of a finite planet. To some extent the issues involved have been played out through increasing dialogue and collaboration between environment and development groups.
There is also a changed political dynamic amongst the government negotiators, with countries such as China and Brazil playing a much bigger role than they did in equivalent past conferences.
However the conference is not likely to achieve as much as Rio 1992, which saw the signing of the climate change and biological diversity treaties, and gave a huge boost to the whole 'sustainable development' agenda. This is mainly because the financial and economic crisis has, in the minds of most politicians, moved 'the environment' down the political agenda - ignoring the fact that economic progress in future is going to be limited by climate change, ecosystem deterioration, and high commodity prices reflecting pressures on resources - unless these issues are dealt with effectively, and so 'the environment' has to be addressed if economies are going to have much of a future.
Rio 2012 is expected to see significant steps forward in many areas, even though there is unlikely to be any single 'wow' decision. Perhaps the biggest issue where Rio could make a difference is on pressing governments to raise standards for corporate reporting on firms' environmental impacts, and perhaps social impacts too. There may also be moves to ensure a more sustainable way of managing fish stocks on the "high seas" (away from national coastlines), and there is a plan to agree to adopt a set of 'Sustainable Development Goals' for the world community.
Rio will also be a magnet for NGOs, scientists, and others to present their ideas, and some governments and companies are planning to announce commitments they intend to go ahead with regardless of whether others agree to sign up.
For more information, see the UN website on Rio:
A key international, mainly civil society, alliance is the Green Economy Coalition:
The Planetary Boundaries Initiative is an interesting new organisation to be launched soon:
Victor Anderson convenes the Compass Sustainability Panel
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