This piece from Ecolo looks at what the conference produces, and asks what is next for the Green movement. This analysis of the Rio+20 conference was written by Jean-Marc Nollet, Evelyne Huytebroeck and Arnaud Pinxteren, who are elected representatives for the Belgian French-speaking Green Party Ecolo.
The Rio+20 summit had only just begun when the international community (perhaps too?) quickly agreed on a draft declaration, thus avoiding a potentially sterile spectacle between heads of state during the final hours of the summit, such as we have become accustomed to over the last few years – particularly during climate negotiations.
The acceleration of the negotiation process surprised both negotiators and observers, who had been working on the text since the beginning of January during the summit’s preparatory conferences. The decisive nudge was given by the Brazilian presidency which, in its capacity as the host country, took the risk of pushing for an agreement based on a timid ‘take it or leave it’ text.
In order to speed things up, the more binding sections – on which there was still no consensus – were taken out. Therefore, the smallest common denominator between the positions of the groups of countries present such as the G77, the European Union and the United-States will have been kept. There was a high number of Rio+20 ambitions expected but this has now been revised downwards. The fear of failure and the will to create a joint declaration, even the most minimalist, have thus deprived our societies of a few formal, but yet so urgently needed, steps forward.
The proposal to make the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) a specialised agency of the United Nations (following the example of the WTO for trade) has not been taken up. However, parties did agree on the implementation of a high-level political forum tasked with ensuring that the decisions of the Rio+20 summit are implemented and on universal participation and stable and foreseeable funding in order to make environmental agreements consistent and efficient.
The text also recognises the importance of effectively managing natural resources if we wish to have a truly green economy; something which is being considered for the first time as a tool for achieving sustainable development with a view to eliminating poverty. Nevertheless, it is regrettable that this notion of a green economy has not been accurately defined and allows each country to manage its own national resources.
Conversely, we can be happy about the States’ decision to commit to a path of transition whilst triggering the start of an intergovernmental process of drafting sustainable development objectives, firstly on a scientific basis, encouraged by the United Nations Secretary General; and the adoption of further policy, within the General Assembly, in order to ensure appropriation by the States at all levels. We should also note the recognition of the importance of making cities sustainable, which is unprecedented in UN texts.
Such a transition should also be fair. The agreement underlines the need for inclusive and sustainable growth. Decent work and social protection should be available to ensure this.
Beyond the guidelines given by the adopted declaration, the States should also capitalise on the fruitful interactions that a summit such as Rio+20 provides: influence on bilateral relations, sharing of ideas and the creation of partnerships between States, regions or other public authorities and civil society, for example. Encouragement is often given by societal actors such as trade unions or associations who are paving the way. As such, the International Trade Union Confederation, outside of the summit proper, has been able to adopt a very avant-garde declaration on fair transition.
The challenge of the future that we would like to see for our planet and our societies (‘the future we want’) is still present. We cannot allow for another 20 years to go by without rising to this challenge. Europe, Belgium, our cities and regions should show leadership and demonstrate that sustainable development must be considered as an opportunity to develop and not as an obstacle.
Efforts now need to be made towards taking urgent decisive action to preserve our well-being and that of the people who mean the most to us: our children. The frustrations aroused by a declaration that, in one word, could have been better must not overshadow what will push us into the right direction: action and commitment of each partner in this daily fight.