Effort to avoid 2009 summit chaos behind Rio compromise declaration


THE DETERMINATION by Brazil to avoid a repeat of the 2009 climate summit shambles in Copenhagen lay behind its engineering of a compromise declaration on The Future We Want in advance of the arrival here of world leaders.

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development’s outcome – agreed on Tuesday with three full days left to go – is generally regarded as the minimum that might have been expected, given the preoccupation of many countries with the financial crisis.

Foreign minister Antonio Patriota hailed it as a “victory for the new multilateralism”, saying the negotiations were “not an easy puzzle to solve, [but] the general satisfaction among delegations gives me great confidence that we’ve reached a significant outcome.”

Environment minister Izabella Teixeira said a “considerable portion” of Brazil’s vision was in the document, including reaffirmation of the “Rio Principles” from 1992’s Earth Summit and a transparent process to establish new sustainable development goals.

Conference secretary general Sha Zukang was also upbeat. “We think the text contains a lot of action. And if this action is implemented, with follow-up measures taken, it will indeed make a tremendous difference in generating positive global change,” he said.

The EU has welcomed the deal “in broad terms” while conceding that several of its own ambitions were “not fully achieved”, including specific targets in a number of key areas, despite having “worked hard to secure a positive outcome on several fronts at Rio”.

But as a result of “persistent negotiation effort, the green economy is now understood as an important tool for achieving sustainable development”, it said, adding that the deal also recognised the urgent need to tackle unsustainable production and consumption.

Despite the participation of 114 world leaders, including dozens of heads of state or government, in Rio+20’s three-day “high-level segment”, it is understood that the draft outcome of the conference will not be reopened but rather adopted as it stands.

This includes a compromise text on reproductive health that has been welcomed by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children as a “notable pro-life success” for the Vatican, which was accused by former president Mary Robinson of “undermining women’s health”.

Peggy Clark, leader of the Aspen Institute for Reproductive Health, said: “By blocking any meaningful mention of sexual and reproductive health in the final negotiating text, we are left with an unacceptable reversal of 20 years of progress on women’s rights.” In their statement on Rio+20, the Irish Catholic bishops made no reference to this but rather emphasised the need for world leaders to “re-examine the current understanding of economic growth” in line with Pope Benedict’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate.

Justin Kilcullen, director of Trócaire, said the draft outcome “lacks the necessary ambition, urgency and concrete measures that we need to overcome the converging crises of food insecurity, rising economic inequality and the severe risks posed by climate change”. As delegates arrived at the Rio Centro convention centre yesterday morning, they were confronted by a “people’s red line” formed by groups led by younger people angry about the “progress” made here; they billed it as a response to Rio’s “looming failure”.

Just prior to the formal opening of the conference, Brittany Trilford, a 17-year-old blogger from New Zealand who won a video speech contest sponsored by the Tck Tck Tck campaign, achieved her “Date With History” by addressing the delegates.

In a speech that recalled “the girl who silenced the world for five minutes” – then 12-year-old Canadian Severn Suzuki – at the 1992 Earth Summit, Ms Trilford told them: “I am here to fight for my future ... Are you here to save face? Or are you here to save us?”

Later, astronauts and cosmonauts working at the International Space Station delivered a message to Rio+20 and then the podium was given to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Mr Sha to welcome the world leaders.

In an unprecedented move, the Climate Action Network’s “Fossil of the Day” award was given to all 191 of the countries represented at the conference for adopting a “shockingly weak outcome text [that] did not reflect the future we want”.

For more information on Rio+20, see uncsd2012.org