Rio text 'a polluters' charter that will cook the planet', says Greenpeace

Wed, Jun 20, 2012, 01:00

DELEGATES FROM more than 170 countries yesterday adopted a compromise text on The Future We Want. This “draft outcome” of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development will now go forward for ratification by world leaders.

It was immediately condemned by Greenpeace executive director Kumi Naidoo, who said: “The future we want has gotten a little further away today. Rio+20 has turned into an epic failure [with] a ‘common vision’ of a polluters’ charter that will cook the planet.”

The draft was cobbled together under the leadership of Brazil and thrashed out during late-night talks that went on until nearly 3am. Brazilian foreign minister Antonio Patriota thanked delegates for an “extraordinary display of flexibility and political will”.

But as world leaders began to fly in to Rio for the three-day “high-level segment”, starting today, Care International’s climate change policy advocate Kit Vaughan complained that the Rio+20 conference “is creating a black hole of low ambition and little substance”.

Urging the expected 114 leaders to devise a “roadmap for a sustainable future”, he said: “What we are seeing in Rio are incredibly weak negotiations which do not produce the results required to lift people out of poverty and stop environmental degradation.”

Former Irish president Mary Robinson said progress was far too slow on implementing pledges made at the Earth Summit in 1992. “Rio+20 is a once in a generation opportunity to implement a rights-based, human-centred approach to sustainable development. We can’t afford to miss it.”

Raymond Benjamin, of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, flew in from Montreal yesterday via Mexico City and São Paulo on what was claimed to be “the first-ever series of connecting flights powered by sustainable alternative fuels”.

He was carrying a message from associations representing airlines, airports and aircraft manufacturers underlining the air transport sector’s “commitment to environmental responsibility while ensuring that it can continue to bring enormous benefits to communities and economies”.

But Annie Petsonk of the Washington-based Environmental Defense Fund cautioned that even with the development of biofuel-powered aircraft, there was still a need for effective “market-based measures to cap and cut global warming pollution from this important industry”.

Peter Bakker, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, called for policies to “accelerate the development and implementation of sustainable solutions, and, at the very least, not undermine them through inaction and rewarding the status quo”.

Meanwhile, a coalition of campaigners ranging from Christian Aid and Oxfam to Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth has claimed that UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative “is in danger of being hijacked by multinational power companies”.

Although welcoming the initiative aimed at bringing clean energy to people living in poverty throughout the world, they said multinational corporations “have been given the biggest role, while the very voices of those it exists to help have been excluded at the highest levels”. Warning that the initiative “will not achieve the level of change required”, they called for a “meaningful, accountable and people-driven process at global and national level that involves the energy-poor, affected communities and marginalised and vulnerable groups”.

“Sustainable Energy for All”, launched by the UN chief last September, aims to bring together governments, businesses and civil society groups in an “unprecedented effort to transform the world’s energy systems by 2030”, said a UN spokesman. The initiative seeks to ensure universal access to modern energy services for the estimated 1.3 billion people without access to electricity; to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and to double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

“This initiative is one of the great opportunities of our time,” said Charles Holliday, chairman of Bank of America and co-chair of the UN’s high-level group. Commitments to support the initiative “demonstrate that we can make tremendous progress when all key stakeholders – developed and developing countries, private companies and civil society groups – work together in common cause”.

Read text of draft agreement on