There have been mixed reactions to the conference across the world. While Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace, dubbed it ‘an epic failure’, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, ‘Let me be clear. Rio+20 was a success.’
The UN has publicised the various achievements, key amongst them the fact that more than US$ 500 billion was pledged towards sustainable development by governments, multilateral development banks and the private sector at the conference. The over 700 voluntary commitments range across the spectrum, from planting 100 million trees by 2017 to empowering thousands of women entrepreneurs in African green economy businesses. (Read the UN press release here.) Attending world leaders approved the outcome document, titled “The Future We Want”. The document focuses on a number of the most critical development issues: food security, poverty eradication, clean water, mining, etc.
However, critics claim that the outcome document is a “watered down” version that has failed to get governments to commit to actionables and to implement concrete programs. In a thoughtful analysis, Ong Suan Ee points out that ‘The language of the document is also weak and evasive. It repeatedly “reaffirms”, “recognises”, “emphasises”, and “strongly urges”, but “commits” to little. The document is further debilitated by the deletion of several major commitments, including specific targets for cutting carbon emissions and the proposed establishment of a US$30 billion fund for sustainable environmental activities in developing countries. Instead, there was a promise to enhance funding for this cause, but the specifics were left to future discussions.”
In fact, Rio+20 faced issues right from the beginning, including the non-attendance of key heads of state – US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not make it to the conference.
What do you think? Did the Rio+20 conference see the best possible outcome, given the immediate financial priorities of many developed Eurozone nations? Or has the failure to achieve tangible results set the environmental sustainability back by several years?
Tell us what you think, and watch this space for updates, including a Q&A with Baird’s CMC’s very own environmental expert