New Internationalist

World leaders failed at Rio Earth Summit


As the Rio +20 summit on sustainable development concludes in Brazil this Friday, early reactions are trickling in from green and anti-poverty groups.

It was already clear that 2012 will see no historic agreements such as the conventions on diversity and climate that marked this summit’s first meeting back in 1992.  Instead, it seems to be on track to be remembered as the conference that sold-out and betrayed future generations. Yet campaigners assure us that the fight is not over. We’ve compiled a short digest of their responses below:

Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) said: ‘World leaders failed at their Summit in Rio, mainly because of the undue influence that multinational corporations have on them and the UN.’

The World Development Movement (WDM) was similarly unimpressed. It slammed the lack of commitment from rich industrialized countries in the Rio+20 agreement ‘The Future We Want’, the draft of which was ritually ripped up by protestors.

WDM campaigner Kirsty Wright had these scathing words to say about the text: ‘Rio+20 has produced a pathetically unambitious document devoid of solid commitments and packed with diplomatic fudges and ambiguous language. This will do nothing to solve the multiple crises we face.’

David Nussbaum, head of WWF UK, expressed a similar sentiment on the Guardian liveblog this afternoon: ‘It would have been naïve to pin too many hopes on a single conference,’ he wrote. ‘But undeniably we expected more from the outcome document ‘The Future We Want’ [...] it’s more a case of The Future We’ll Get If We Rely On Politicians’.

‘Full of weak phrases, and reconfirmations of previous aspirations which they haven’t realised, the text fails to commit governments to actions, targets, timeframes and finance to which we can hold them accountable.

But Nussbaum concluded on a positive note. After all, did anyone really expect a summit of world leaders to come up with solutions?

‘My experience here is that Rio+20 has shown that ambition exists, action is being taken, change is happening; but rather than in the plenary halls of the conference, it is happening in the communities, the cities, and the companies who are committed to creating a sustainable world and are willing to act on that commitment now.’

Bassey also saw hope beyond the conference walls. ‘The parallel People’s Summit demonstrated that real solutions to the current crises do exist and that people are successfully mobilizing around them,’ he said.

‘By exposing the negative influence of multinational corporations we have gained considerable momentum in our efforts to reclaim the UN as a people’s space. And this campaign is just starting.’

You can learn more about the key players in the battle for environmental protection waged at the Rio Earth Summit in the June issue of New Internationalist....

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