EU backs disappointing Rio result, says Potocnik


THE EU will support the outcome of last month’s Rio summit, even though it is “less ambitious than what the EU planned”, the European environment commissioner, Janez Potocnik, said yesterday.

Speaking during a European Parliament debate on the Rio+20 summit in Strasbourg, Mr Potocnik said that the lack of concrete timetables for specific commitments was one of the EU’s key concerns. However, the final outcome “still remains close to a range of initial objectives of the EU, and more importantly, it provides a basis for further work in the right direction”. He highlighted the issue of corporate sustainability reporting and the importance of the green economy, as two of the main outcomes.

It was better “to have this agreement than no agreement at all”, he told MEPs in Strasbourg.

The European Parliament surprised the international community last month when it announced its decision not to send a delegation to Rio+20, citing high hotel costs. A number of MEPs travelled to the summit independently.

Speaking during the debate in the parliament yesterday, Dutch MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy described the Rio summit as “a huge disappointment and huge missed opportunity”, adding that the EU “was totally isolated”.

A number of MEPs suggested that the EU was becoming increasingly sidelined in debates about sustainability. “The balance of powers in recent years has shifted. Not to our advantage, but to the advantage of countries like India and China,” said Gilles Pargneaux of the Socialists and Democrats group.

Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins said that, despite criticisms, Rio had been “a step forward”. Mr Potocnik said that while he shared the frustration of many MEPs, Europe also needed to take some responsibility for the lack of progress.He said that while the EU had not obtained all the timelines it had sought, it did achieve the integration of most of its proposed targets into the main text as express commitments. “This has reinforced the text to make it more action-oriented,” he said.

While the absence of certain leaders was a feature, there were also “quite a lot present”, Mr Potocnik said. He said the presence of political leaders does not guarantee a better outcome, noting many had been at Copenhagen, but not at Durban, where a lot had been achieved.