a good post from David Nussbaum, head of WWF UK, on how we ended up with the text agreed yesterday:
What they did [the Brazilian government in the past few days] was take all the ‘bracketed’ issues out of the text altogether. Text gets bracketed when it’s controversial – and here in Rio, it’s proved to be controversial when it’s been ambitious and looking to change the status quo.
And so the controversies have been addressed through compromise and capitulation in varying measures. The result is a weak text, lacking in much ambition in terms of clear actions and dates, and it doesn’t measure up to the vision we have of a safe world for both people and nature.
Brazil did not accept any more new text unless it mustered consensus from all countries (which is as likely to happen as a sloth winning the 100 metres in the Olympics).
The G77 of 132 developing countries including China were “pretty happy with the text” since “they don’t want environmental protection to mean any impact on their prospects for economic growth.” The result, he says is that:
it’s left to the EU, joined by countries like Switzerland, Norway and Japan to push for more stringent targets and the stronger environmental regulation that requires. But the G77 have pushed back, and the EU backed down. The US doesn’t want anything that suggests they will have to commit more financing, especially for the UN.
And so the negotiations became polarised. The result is a race to the bottom, where weaker levels of ambition are political wins, and the loser is the lack of progress towards a safe and equitable world, to say nothing of the natural resource and systems that we all depend on.
a showy appearance at the Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009, was conspicuously absent from a side-event C40 meeting of mayors from 58 megacities around the world.On the subject of no-shows, where is Boris Johnson when you need him? The London mayor, who made
Here’s New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who spoke to the BBC from the event in Rio de Janeiro:
New York City has reduced its carbon emissions in the past two years by 13%… it is cities that are making differences. Cities and mayors don’t have the luxury of just talking about it… In cities mayors are held accountable for cleaning the air, cleaning the water.
The Mayor’s office told me they suspect decisions had been taken regarding Johnson’s diary in the run-up to the Olympics. But it “doesn’t follow that the Mayor not being there detracts from our commitment to climate change”, a spokeswoman said. It’s a similar line to what Spelman told MPs when defending Cameron not going: “there is no suggestion with the prime minister not going that the UK is not taking Rio seriously”
new ComRes poll of UK MPs shows that almost 60% think that Prime Minister David Cameron should have attended the Rio+20 summit:This is interesting, on the subject of leader no-shows. Damian Carrington, the Guardian’s head of environment, notes that a
Despite the summit being moved to avoid the Queen’s Jubilee, Cameron decided not to go, sending Nick Clegg instead. The poll, conducted for the Planet Earth Institute, surveyed 110 MPs and the results were weighted to be representative of the whole house. As for the government’s pledge to be the “greenest ever”, even the coalition’s MPs are unconvinced, with only 52% of Conservatives and 61% of Liberal Democrat MPs believing the government is fulfilling this pledge.
As Watts pointed out to me, Clegg and Hilary Clinton don’t have the arm-twisting power of Cameron and Obama at these sort of meetings.
Jonathan Watts, who is about to head out to the Riocentro Convention Centre where the summit is being held, tells me the negotiating stage of Rio+20 is effectively over:
They [the Brazilian hosts] seem to have been trying to avoid what happened at Copenhagen [where UN climate talks ran past the final day into the early hours]. The text is agreed. Now the world leaders who are arriving will play a largely ceremonial role. Europe has indicated it’s not likely to push for the negotiations on the text to be reopened, and I’d say it was 90% likely they won’t be reopened. It’s a very Chinese way of doing things [like the annual Lianghui, or 'two meetings'] where most of what’s under discussion is prearranged, and leaders only make small tweaks. The idea is for it to all be very harmonious.
Today, we’re likely to get speeches from countries on how the agreement will be implemented. But the negotiating stage seems to be over – it looks like we’ve moved into the photo opportunity stage.
happened in 2006. So I’ve removed the reference and tweet to it here.Bit of a mixup. The Greenpeace banner hanging off Christ the Redeemer
interesting insight on the Telegraph’s site into how the negotiations between officials have panned out over the last few days:Geoffrey Lean, one of the UK’s longest-serving environment journalists, has some
Any hope that today’s summit would do much about any of this [the world's environmental problems] died long ago. Indeed, it did not even set out to produce any new binding agreements: its ambition only extending to producing an exhortatory, aspirational document. But preparing even this proved impossible, as negotiators spent weeks haggling over even the most anodyne wording.
Finally, on Saturday, the Brazilian chairmen of the preparatory meeting lost patience, produced their own version of the document and have since been ramming it through, line by line, in order to have something for the leaders when they arrive. They have refused to accept any suggestions, unless unanimously agreed, and even told one Swiss delegate who begged for time off at the weekend “to see your beautiful city” that his only opportunity would be to go jogging before breakfast. The price, however, was to produce a text even weaker than what was already on the table.
The verbs tell the story. The word “encourage” appears 50 times, the phrase “we will” only five; “support” is used 99 times, “must” just three.
And this too, on the hosts:
…the Brazilians have shown little interest in the summit. President Dilma Rousseff has been distinctly unenthusiastic and her respected environment minister, Izabella Teixeria, has been sidelined as her government has played up divisions between developed and developing countries to cover its lack of seriousness.
President Dilma Rousseff is now thought unlikely to reopen debate, which means the event is likely to end not with a bang, but a whimper of photo-opportunities, handshakes and speeches.
But while it seems that the negotiations may have finished before most of the heads of state even arrived, it is technically possible that discussions on the document will be reopened, if the Brazilian hosts allow it.
As Gro Harlem Bruntland, who effectively defined the concept of ‘sustainable development’ in the run-up to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, told the Guardian:
Maybe because there is so much pessimism at the moment, the outcome may be better than people fear. There are more than 100 leaders coming after all. They are not going to leave with nothing.
And while most of the other reaction to the text has been gloomy, there are more exceptions.
Selwyn Hart, diplomat for Barbados, told Reuters:
The document represents a positive step forward. While it is not the major breakthrough we had 20 years ago it puts us on the pathway to sustainable development. The formal negotiations might be over but (leaders here tomorrow) need to focus on the implementation of some of the central issues dealt with in the document.
Clegg also told the Today Programme that, while the UN process may not be perfect, the multilateral approach it embodies was vital:
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) June 20, 2012
Spelman, who was leading the UK’s delegation at the talks yesterday, is upbeat about the text:
Whilst there is still a lot of work to do, this agreement means we have made progress towards achieving what the Rio Earth Summit set out to do – to get the world on the right path to achieve cleaner and greener growth that ends the damage we have done to the environment and helps end poverty. The agreement on Sustainable Development Goals is a good outcome.
Though she admits it’s not all rosy:
Clearly not everything we hoped for has been agreed and there is more to do to turn the words into actions. But the future we want was never going to be achieved in one week. We have to go one step at a time, and this has been a big step forward.
Hello, and welcome to our rolling coverage of Rio+20, where world leaders have flown in overnight to attempt an agreement to make the global economy more sustainable for people and the environment.
Formally called the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, it is the largest UN summit ever organised, and comes 20 twenty years after the original Rio Earth summit and 40 years after a similar meeting in Stockholm. On the table are three main themes: better governance, plans to grow the ‘green economy’ of industries such as renewable energy, and progress on agreeing ‘sustainable development goals’. Read our Latin American correspondent Jonathan Watts’ excellent Q&A for more on the background.
François Hollande (France), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Mariano Rajoy (Spain), Julia Gillard (Australia) and Manmohan Singh (India) are among the big name leaders attending. Barack Obama is not, though there are rumours in the Brazilian press that he will make a last-minute appearance.
Other no-shows include Angela Merkel of Germany, and David Cameron, who is reportedly not going because he will be at the G20 meeting in Mexico just before Rio+20 and “could not be out of the country” for that long. The UK is represented by environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, who’s written in the Guardian today on Rio and announced mandatory carbon reporting for FTSE100 firms.
The leaders that are there will be playing a game of expectation management. Clegg is already at it in his article:
I don’t expect this week’s meeting will be as show-stopping as that in 1992, but it matters just as much.
The official ‘high level segment’, which starts today and ends Friday, comes against the backdrop of widespread anger and disappointment from politicians and campaigners at the draft agreement text adopted yesterday. Here’s some of the initial reaction on Twitter, from EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s environment minister Ida Auken (Denmark currently holds the EU presidency), Jim Leape, the head of WWF International, and Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International’s executive director:
— Connie Hedegaard (@CHedegaardEU) June 19, 2012
Not the best agreement in the world, but an agreement for a better world #RioPlus20
— Ida Auken (@IdaAuken) June 19, 2012
— Jim Leape (@jimleape) June 19, 2012
— Kumi Naidoo (@kuminaidoo) June 19, 2012