Twenty years after the Rio Earth Summit in Brazil which highlighted the connection between environmental protection and sustainable development, the international community will once again go to Rio to consider what has been achieved and to work out the way forward.
Twenty years after the Rio Earth Summit in Brazil which highlighted the connection between environmental protection and sustainable development, the international community will once again go to Rio to consider what has been achieved and to work out the way forward.
This new United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development called “Rio+20,” to be held from 20 to 22 June 2012, will allow the issue of a “green economy” in the context of sustainable development and the fight against poverty to be revisited. The conference will focus on the fight against poverty, especially through the creation of green employment and the promotion of social inclusiveness. But it will also look at the promotion of food security and sustainable, rational water management, access to energy, including from renewable sources, sustainable human settlements, ocean management and, lastly, the improvement of disaster preparedness.
The Africans who are the greatest risk, despite not being the chief polluters, and the Francophone group which has a majority of African members alongside richer countries like France, Belgium and Canada, have decided to mobilise. Several meetings have taken place in this context, including the Lyon Forum held from 5 to 7 February 2012 in Lyon.
The President of Congo Denis Sassou N’Guesso, the spokesperson for Africa at Rio+20, summarised the issues. In Rio, in June 1992, leaders from every continent for the first time took the trouble to engage in a joint reflection on the consequences of our behaviour and the resultant threats to the environment. They needed courage to do so, because it meant challenging absolutely everything and denouncing the fact that we had embarked on a vessel that looked set to become a ghost ship. During this first Earth Summit, one hundred and seventy-three Heads of State and Government adopted what is known as Agenda 21. This is how a promise of hope was born, the promise of a new world.
“The issue was to eradicate poverty, strengthen the role of the workers and the farmers. It was a question of a new vision of trade and industry, of ecologically rational techniques and technology transfer, of cooperation and creation of new capacities. It was a question of responsible management of the world’s resources, In short, of laudable undertakings that release hope,” he said.
He went on to ask: “How many times since 1987 have we heard reiterated the expression first uttered in connection with sustainable development by Ms. Gro Harlem Bruntland, former Prime Minister of Norway, to whom I pay tribute: “Our methods of production and consumption must respect the environment!”
The Congolese Head of State wondered what had happened since Rio in 1992 and Johannesburg ten years later, deploring the fact that so little progress had been made in relation to the issues.He added: “At least we have realised that our planet is genuinely in danger and that we need to protect and preserve it.” However, in his opinion, we need to step away from the binary vision in which the economy and the environment are antagonists, given that “we all know that if we do not succeed in harnessing these two elements together, it is not merely a civilisation that will end but all trace of civilisation.”
He also welcomed Africa’s rise to awareness: good news comes to us from Africa! Africa is among those at the forefront of the new path, moving forward with conviction and determination. In twenty years, in the matter of sustainable development, Africa has achieved extraordinary progress, notably in regard to governance, economic and environmental viability and the creation of institutions. “In our subregion, Central Africa, awareness of the issues has led us to be resolutely committed to the protection of the forests of the Congo Basin which constitutes one of the world’s lungs. In this order of concerns, my country, the Republic of Congo, hosted in June 2011 the first summit of the three largest forest basins in the world: the Amazon Basin, the Borneo-Mekong Basin and the Congo Basin,” he said.
In common with a number of experts, he nevertheless pointed out that all the advances made by Africa in respect of sustainable development are subject to threats that could ruin all the efforts being made, including the harmful effects of climate change, the increasing scarcity of water, the exhaustion of biodiversity and the ecosystems, desertification, limited capacity to cope with natural disasters, rapid and unplanned urbanisation, poverty, and indeed outright destitution.
“Africa is determined to continue the process of development to which it is committed. This justifies all our impatience and the many expectations that we have for the next Rio Conference. The African Union regards Rio+20 as an additional opportunity to enable humanity to place sustainable development at the heart of its priorities in a genuine, concrete and definitive way,” he said, adding that Africa is going to this World Forum filled with conviction and hope. It will present a united front, speaking with a single voice, which he has been asked to express on the basis of a common single position.
Africa’s Joint Declaration on Rio+20 also highlights the delays and failures of the international community in fulfilling commitments to achieve sustainable development in Africa:
1) the commitment of the developed countries to allocate 0.7% of their GDP to the developing countries in the context of public development aid;
2) the adoption of a fair and sustainable solution to the issue of the developing countries’ debt with a view to its total cancellation and increased flows of concessionary funding;
3) the need to implement the Bali and Johannesburg Plans on technological support, capacity building and technology transfer;
4) the implementation of the Copenhagen and Cancun Agreements on supplementary accelerated financing, especially the creation of a Green Fund to which developing countries would have direct access;
5) the pressing need for the voice of Africa to be taken into account in all the international institutions and in international governance.
All this depends on the African countries accepting responsibility to seek ways and means to ensure their own development.
African countries, like some of the developed countries including France, want to see the establishment of a specialised United Nations agency for the environment with a clear operating mandate. They are therefore proposing that the United Nations Environment Programme becomes a specialised Agency of the United Nations, with its headquarters in Nairobi in Kenya.
Several reports on the impact of climate change in Africa and on the continent’s vulnerability and adaptation in relation to these changes reveal an alarming picture if nothing is done. Based on data issued by a number of organisations, they show that the continent’s vulnerability in the face of climate change is much greater than previously thought. For example, they estimate that 30% of Africa’s coastal infrastructures, including human settlements along the Gulf of Guinea and the coast of Senegal, Gambia and Egypt, are at risk of submersion. The number of persons threatened by coastal floods would then rise from 1 million in 1990 to 70 million by 2080.
Looking at fauna and flora, between 25% to over 40% of the habitats of African species could disappear by 2085. Cereal crop yields will drop by 5% or more by 2080 and basic crop outputs like sorghum in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Zambia, maize in Ghana, millet in Sudan and groundnuts in Gambia will also deteriorate as a result of climate change.
Officials of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) point out that serious consequences are being observed at high altitude, in locations like Mount Kilimanjaro whose glaciers, ice cap and run-off water are crucial to the supply of water. Overall, it is estimated that Africa needs 200 automatic weather stations, accompanied by a major effort to recover historical data and improve training and capacity building on climate and weather reporting; in addition, Africa has the world’s worst climate observation system which is continuing to deteriorate. In general, experts predict that extreme weather conditions like drought and flood will become increasingly frequent throughout the continent.
President Denis Sassou N’Guesso states that Africa is determined that its voice shall be heard at Rio+20 and has high hopes that this Summit will provide the opportunity to ensure the place of sustainable development once and for all as a core priority. Africa will present a united front, equipped with a consensus built on the need to promote a new model of development supported by the green economy and with a view to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
The African countries as a whole have begun to compile a list of the possibilities for a harmonious transition to the green economy. Africa’s joint declaration on Rio+20 also emphasises the failure to respect commitments by the countries of the North, such as the allocation of 0.7% of their GDP to development aid, the adoption of an equitable and sustainable solution to cancel African debt, the implementation of the Bali and Johannesburg plans on technological support and capacity transfer, the establishment of a green fund to which developing countries would have direct access in compliance with the Copenhagen and Cancun agreements, and Africa’s voice being taken into account in all international arenas and negotiations.
Conscious of their own responsibility to seek out solutions, the African countries are sharing the need to create in Nairobi a specialised organisation to replace the current programme and are counting on the support of the Francophone group for this project. The Francophone group has in fact mobilised. Consequently, the Declaration of the 13th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the OIF in Montreux in Switzerland in October 2010 reaffirmed the need to strengthen Francophone solidarity to meet the great challenges of sustainable development, notably food security, desertification, climate change and biological diversity. On that occasion, the Heads of State and Government undertook to work towards concerted positions for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio in 2012; to ensure the success of this conference, the Organisation has made every effort to mobilise its member States and governments, its scientific community, its local authorities and its civil society.
In 1989, the Heads of State and Government had adopted the concept of sustainable development and called for the integration of the environment with economic development. In Tunis in 1991, at the first conference for ministers of the environment to prepare for the Francophone participation in the Rio Summit (1992), the Francophone group worked out an action plan which structured its contributions to the implementation of Agenda 21.
The Francophone group also took an active and concerted part in the preparation for the Johannesburg Summit and contributed to its proceedings and outcomes. In Johannesburg, the Francophone group made a policy statement in which it emphasised, firstly, its commitment to controlled globalisation, the fight against poverty, good governance and cultural diversity and, secondly, the promotion of education and training, especially with respect to the environment and sustainable development, and to equitable access for all peoples to natural resources. Johannesburg therefore represented an important diplomatic step for the Francophone group because it enabled culture to be defined as the fourth pillar of sustainable development (with the economy, social equity and the environment) of which the Francophone countries as a group in solidarity were the chief proponents and defenders.
In Tunis in 2002, the group subsequently adopted an action framework that laid the emphasis on the priorities of multilateral Francophone cooperation, in support of the implementation of the Summit Action Plan for economic growth and for social and cultural promotion, as well as rational management of the environment.
The Francophone Heads of State and Government wanted the Ouagadougou Summit of 2004 to represent an important stage in the implementation of the Johannesburg Action Plan, especially concerning the strategies to create and implement sustainable development, which is defined as being based on “the controlled and healthy management of natural resources, inclusive and continuous economic progress, equitable social development calling for tolerance and based on education and training, guarantees of democracy and rule of law for all citizens and broad openness to cultural and linguistic diversity.”
Through the various international meetings that have taken place since Rio in 1992, the Francophone group has tried to strengthen its multilateral cooperation by developing appropriate ways and means to play a role of consultation and mobilisation of Francophone expertise in the service of the community and a capacity building role focused on education, training and research. Providing information and raising awareness among all stakeholders is also one of its priorities, together with acting as both catalyst and support for North- South, South-South, public-private, government-civil society partnerships and between local communities, as well as with other regional and international organisations.
Political action and cooperation in the Francophone group has ensured the active presence of the community and of the Francophone countries in the global debate on sustainable development; there has been scientific and technical output on these issues, in French, with the consolidation of diplomacy of the networks and communities of practice, and with the provision of targeted training using the wealth and diversity of Francophone expertise.
As the space of solidarity, the Francophone group confirms its commitment to universally beneficial controlled globalisation and emphasises the defence of culture.
Consequently, the consensus achieved in Johannesburg through the contribution of the Francophone group has led sustainable development to be regarded as a global project: an economically effective, socially equitable, ecologically sustainable development that takes specific cultural characteristics into account.
Anxious to strengthen governance at every level, the Francophone group also reaffirms the importance of supporting efforts at the international level to promote improved consistency of the multilateral agreements on the environment, to increase synergy of the international conventions, particularly those resulting from Rio in 1992, and improved monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of these conventions. At the national level, it supports the strengthening of the institutional and regulatory frameworks for the promotion of sustainable development.
According to the Francophone experts, “Democracy is inseparable from sustainable development. It creates the conditions for mobilisation freely accepted by the population and for the fair division of national resources for equal access to education, training, health and employment.” In this context, they believe that the Francophone world is committed to the exercise of citizenship, the regulatory role of the rule of law and good governance for the consolidation of progress in the sphere of democracy, making the population both stakeholders and beneficiaries of development as a matter of social justice.
The Francophone group’s approach posits respect for cultural and linguistic diversity as an essential condition of sustainable development. In the view of the OIF, cultural pluralism creates development models rooted in local cultures and consequently promotes ownership of the models by the populations concerned and effectiveness in implementation. Its fundamental role in ensuring sustainable development also contributes to the promotion of peace and the democratisation of international relations.
This approach takes into account the needs and role of women and young people in sustainable development.
In pursuit of more specific objectives, the Francophone group urges the international community to intensify efforts to improve conditions for increased mobilisation of public and private resources, notably access to the markets for products from the South, the promotion of regional trade, technology transfer and the development of innovative financing mechanisms, especially with respect to the world’s public assets. It is also seeking to make access to information and the democratisation of information and communication technologies that constitute a crosscutting element of sustainable development, a tool in the acquisition of knowledge, social and economic development and the promotion of culture.
Highlighting the close connection between sustainable management of natural resources and the fight against poverty, it supports the creation of national sectoral policies guaranteeing food security, sustainable land management, the prevention and management of natural disasters and facilitating access to drinking water and sustainable energy.
In view of the particular importance of the fight against desertification and climate change and the protection of biodiversity, by calling on the international community to meet these global challenges, the Francophone group has committed itself to increasing its efforts to create and support the implementation of national policies in this context. It is making the reforms of modes of consumption and systems of production a pre-requisite to enabling equitable access by all peoples to natural resources, as well as maintaining biological diversity. It has taken action to promote urban development policies that take into account the strategic nature of the city as a space and tool for sustainable development, as well as the establishment of local Agenda 21s and the reinforcement of urban networks around good practices. It is in this political framework and in the context of its commitment that the Francophone group invited all the parties concerned to engage in dialogue in Lyon and formulate proposals capable of creating a convergent political position to lead to and secure renewed international and national political commitments for sustainable development; a balance sheet can also be drawn up, not only of the progress made since the adoption of the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21 in 1992 and of the Johannesburg Action Plan in 2002, but also of the shortcomings and problems encountered in implementing these undertakings.
In April 2011, France, which is co-chair with Brazil of the committee to “safeguard the tropical forest basins,” launched together with Kenya an initiative on climate for access to clean energy in Africa and in the countries most vulnerable to climate change. In particular, this enables high-level dialogue to be initiated on issues of governance, capacity building, project management and financing of clean energy projects in developing countries. Improvement of access to energy is, in fact, according to the experts, a pre-requisite for the achievement of the MDGs. Over 1.4 billion people in the world, mainly in rural areas, do not have access to electricity, including 550 million in sub-Saharan Africa, and 400 million in India. In the absence of specific policies, this number should continue to hover around the 1.2 billion mark by 2030. Some 2.7 billion people still make use of the traditional biomass for cooking purposes. That could reach 2.8 billion by 2030. The poorest populations have to pay for the most expensive, least effective and least sustainable energy. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that 36 billion dollars are needed every year to ensure universal access to electricity by 2030.
The Rio Conference will be preceded by a final session of the Preparatory Committee from 28 to 30 May. A series of similar events will be held in Rio in the meantime to draw attention to the issues of the Conference and the emerging issues. In this context, it should be recalled that the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development, known as the Earth Summit or the Rio Summit, was held in June 1992. It was attended by 110 Heads of State and Government and 178 countries. Maurice Strong was the Secretary General. About 2,400 representatives of non- governmental organisations (NGOs) were present as well as over 17,000 people who attended the NGO Forum which was held alongside the Summit.
This conference, as an extension of the International Conference on the Human Environment, was marked by the adoption of a founding text of 27 principles, entitled the “Rio Declaration on Environment and Development” which defines the concept of sustainable development as follows: “Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.” (Principle 1) and “In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it” (Principle 4).
In particular, the Conference provided the opportunity to adopt an action programme for the 21st century called Agenda 21 which lists some 2,500 recommendations concerning the practical implementation of the principles of the declaration. It takes into account problems related to health, housing, air pollution, marine management, forests and mountain management, desertification, the management of health and sanitation resources and the management of agriculture and waste management. Even today, the Agenda 21 programme is still the benchmark for the implementation of sustainable development at territorial level.
One of the sections of the Rio Conference Report emphasises the role of the various stakeholders in implementing sustainable development: women, youth and children, indigenous populations, NGOs, local communities, trade unions, businesses, academics and farmers. The Rio Conference also adopted the Climate Convention which declared the necessity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and which led to the signing in 1997 of the Kyoto Protocol. The Declaration on Forests and the Convention on Biodiversity, which makes the use of the world genetic heritage subject to a series of conditions and presents an attempt to standardise on this issue, were also approved during the Summit.
The international community, sharply divided, met at the end of November 2011 in Durban in South Africa to find a difficult compromise to save the planet and its biodiversity through the follow- up to the Kyoto Protocol intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Durban Conference was preceded by preparatory conferences, notably in Bangkok, Bonn and Panama.
The Kyoto Protocol, ratified in 1997, the only legally binding instrument imposing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (GGE) on 37 developed countries, will expire on 31 December 2012. The question is now what follow-up there will be from the member countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Rich countries and emerging countries that have become polluters through industrialisation are not happy to pay the price. In the developed countries, opinion is also divided on what should follow the Kyoto Protocol. In the meantime, the poorest countries which are responsible for the least pollution, but have taken the full brunt of the impact of climate degradation, are demanding compensation.
The fact that the main greenhouse gas emitting countries like China and the United States have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol and that several countries (Canada, Russia and Japan) have refused to commit to a second period, clearly demonstrates the difficulty of the task. Only the European Union (EU) has reached a decision on the follow-up to Kyoto which remains conditional. After heated negotiations, the ministers of the environment of the 27 member countries of the EU meeting in Luxembourg on 10 October 2011 declared that they were “open” to a second period of commitment to the Kyoto Protocol in the “context of seeking a global framework for commitment” and on condition that the other countries — industrialised and developing — make the same effort. The European Commission, Germany and Great Britain refused to adopt a more voluntarist position. Similarly, States like Poland or Romania are opposed to all changes concerning the exchange or sale of additional carbon credits. The EU is advocating a solution that allows the use and transfer of carbon credits on condition that they guarantee the overall environmental integrity of the mechanism and preserve incentives to go further. France, in particular, which had organised a huge meeting, an “Environment Round Table,” supports the creation of a world environmental organisation that incorporates actors from civil society.
At the end of 2010 in Cancun, Mexico, the participants undertook to maintain the average increase of world temperatures below 2°C in relation to the pre-industrial level, which is far from actually happening; and to finance a compensation fund, a “Green Fund” for the most impoverished, at the rate of 100 billion dollars per annum by 2020. In addition, UNFCCC was to receive 30 billion dollars promised by the industrialised countries for the period 2010-2012. Lastly, the modalities of operating and participating in the mechanism to adapt and transfer technology were to be set up.
Nevertheless, there has been some perceptible progress. Australia and Norway proposed the adoption by 2015, to come into force by 2018, of a binding global agreement that would include the main economies. Its objectives are to decide on undertakings to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to establish a joint verification mechanism. This proposal would put an end to the Kyoto Protocol which would be replaced by a single framework for commitments and monitoring (Measuring, Reporting and Verification, MRV) of the actions undertaken. Australia plans to establish a carbon tax in 2012 and to impose an emissions ceiling on the most polluting industries with effect from 2015.
China, hard on the heels of the United States as the world’s top polluter, is also taking measures. With effect from 2013, it is scheduled to test pilot markets in six regions with a view to establishing a national system by 2015. In the United States, California has opted to set up a regional carbon market by 2013, to come into widespread use by 2015. Steps are being taken that resemble the European system of exchange of emission quotas, the world’s biggest carbon“market,” established by the European Union to reduce the overall emission of CO2 and to reach its objectives in the context of the Kyoto Protocol.
The South African President Jacob Zuma, the host of the Durban conference, was anxious to stress that his country would facilitate the negotiations. “We urge all the parties to find grounds for agreement,” he said, proposing three objectives for Africa: support for the multilateral processes, priority for an outcome that ensures that the global climate regime protects the environment for future generations and the importance for African countries of adapting to a future climate regime based on an effective emissions reduction regime. He pointed out that Africa’s state of socio-economic development and its dependence on natural resources for subsistence make the continent particularly vulnerable to natural disasters such as drought and flood. However, he welcomed the position adopted by the African nations.
China is regarded as the main beneficiary of the “clean development mechanism,” a system of the Kyoto Protocol enabling the industrialised countries to achieve their objectives in reducing their carbon dioxide emissions by “certified emissions reductions,” i.e. by investing in low carbon level projects initiated by the developing nations. But the European Union, the chief purchaser of these credits, has declared that it would no longer accept credits generated by Chinese projects once the current phase of its emissions contract expires in 2012. The indebtedness of the industrialised countries and the eurozone crisis are, however, at risk of causing the failure of the ambitious projects in favour of the environment.
Following hard-fought negotiations, it was possible to speak of “semi-failure” or “semi-success” in Durban. The representatives of the 190 countries attending the climate conference adopted a roadmap for an agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gases in 2015. Until then the Kyoto Protocol will continue to apply.
The goal is that the agreement, whose details have still to be clarified, should come into force by 2020.
The objective of the Earth Summit had been to stabilise the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases by taking into account the differentiated responsibility of the industrialised countries and those of the developing countries. It concluded with the signature of the Rio Declaration. This declaration, which determines the lines of action to ensure better management of the planet, promotes the progress of the concept of the rights and responsibilities of countries in the sphere of the environment. However, it is not legally binding. On the contrary, it recognises the sovereignty of States to “use their own resources in accordance with their environment and development policy.”
Almost every country in the world speaks of its concern to protect the environment. But they take different approaches to the objectives on the reduction of greenhouse gases. Some would like to see precise quotas for the reduction of the GHGs. Others would be satisfied with a political undertaking which can be quantified at a later date. Lastly, some countries in both the North and the South, are demanding equitable sharing of the burden of pollution and sometimes assistance in helping them to adapt to its consequences.
For their part, the oil producing countries like Algeria, although involved in the fight to protect the environment, are concerned by the threat that an agreement on climate could pose to their economies. The International Energy Agency has estimated at about 4 billion dollars potential lost earnings for the producers between now and 2030 through the adoption of “green” policies.
The Secretary General of the Francophonie Organisation (OIF), Abdou Diouf, drew a comparison between, on the one hand, the rise to awareness of the active human capacity to destroy the world, following the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which resulted in the construction of a multilateral system to deal with conflict and, on the other hand, the major turning point represented by the first Rio Summit where awareness was raised as to the passive capacity of humans to destroy the world by an environmentally unsustainable mode of consumption and development; this is particularly true, as the countries that have not yet reached the level of development of the most advanced countries aspire to experience an equivalent level of well-being and the same capacities for personal fulfilment and development. The international community has therefore attempted, with the three big conventions on climate change, and with the particular support of the Francophone world, on desertification, to create a framework to deal with this new threat and to find new balances in the context of sustainable development.
We are obliged to acknowledge, however, that some twenty years after the first summit, despite this widely shared awareness, support for objectives of common interest and the road already travelled, many problems have not been resolved because of multiple inconsistencies, the confusion of interests, the broad scope of needs, the desire to preserve assets, to which is now being added a major economic and financial crisis which favours the rise of selfishness and survival reflexes, increasing the vulnerability of many communities and creating deep inequalities. The theme of the green economy and green jobs hopes to provide a response to this set of issues and to the acknowledgement of a number of failures, which means that new approaches and new tools are needed to meet the challenges and to deal with the depth of the changes.
Today the world has 7 billion inhabitants rising to 9 billion by 2050. One out of five people — 1.4 billion — survives on a maximum of $1.25 a day. 1.5 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity and 2.5 billion people have no toilets and almost 1 billion people suffer from hunger every day. Greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to increase and over one third of all known species could disappear forever if the trend is not reversed.
The Rio Earth Summit of 1992 enabled foundations to be laid for joint action. According to Abdou Diouf, “Rio+20” is a new opportunity for global consideration on acting at the local level and ensuring our joint future.
The draft agreement that will be adopted in Rio during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — the Rio+20 Summit — was worked out during several rounds of negotiation. The altermondialist and ecological activists, for their part, gathered in Porto Alegre (Brazil), to prepare their participation in the summit and to discuss, among other things, what option to choose among the following: to contribute to the negotiating process, to have “one foot in and foot out,” or to attempt to block the negotiations.
The draft agreement entitled “The future we want” was made public by the United Nations Secretariat. This text, which should evolve only marginally before June, is designed to promote the green economy as an alternative to the impasse resulting from uncontrolled capitalism that destroys ecosystems. To some extent, it is a question of understanding what the preceding Rio summit in 1992 had unleashed with “sustainable development.” This was intended to be a compromise between development, regarded as inseparable from growth and productivity, and the vital protection of the ecosystems. In its action plan (Agenda 21) it takes account of several thousand recommendations and three conventions (on climate change, biodiversity and desertification). But the UN experts say that biodiversity is constantly declining, forests are being destroyed and deserts are encroaching further. The three conventions that emerged from the Earth Summit have consequently broadly failed to fulfil their objectives.
However, the United Nations process continues to enjoy an excellent reputation with civil society organisations which are ready to play the game of official negotiations. The issue is so important because it concerns the future of the planet that it would be irresponsible to oppose an open process of negotiations, according to the experts. Officially, the official Rio+20 summit is entirely devoted to the preparation for the conversion of the “brown” economy into a “green” economy. Therefore, in principle, the plan is attractive and should rally all the activists, even the most radical.
But the haggling and trading are never very far away. Certain powers of the South, like Brazil, are reluctant to be deprived of resources for their industrialisation.
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