Rio+20 Countdown: The Return of the North-South Divide

This is Part 9 of a series of blog posts leading up to the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on June 20-22.  The full series is available here.


The resumption of informal negotiations between states in the lead-up to Rio+20 started yesterday (May 29, 2012).  The stage is set for progress as Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Gro Harlem Brundtland, and others have put pressure on states to put small differences aside and work toward larger goals.  But a number of people familiar with negotiations have begun finding that many of the persistent negotiating blocks have reemerged (after positive early signs of subsiding or becoming more complex).

The most notable is the dreaded North-South divide.  The typical claims say that: The North (developed countries, members of OECD, etc) pushes for a range of environmental standards and requirements that they have the means to use technological replacement and other means of dealing with the requirements.  The South (the developing or emerging economies–most formally the G77/China) sees no way to meet these requirements without sacrificing development and so expects some money from the North to pay for the goods.  This divide has been blamed for a host of failures in international environmental negotiations: the failure to develop a forests convention at Rio+0, the common but differentiated responsibility that doomed Kyoto Protocol in the U.S. Senate, the weakness of a dozen agreements, etc.

Day 1 of Informal Negotiations were covered by Earth Negotiations Bulletin (the best resource there is).  Note: At the time of writing they have distributed an email copy of the report, but not posted it on their website yet.  But it should be up soon.  It provides an excellent record and we can see where the direct, clear oppositions are forming.  Although not all of the important blocks of contention, it at least provides some of the dynamics.

All of the Day 1 Proposals that were Openly Opposed by another member state are collected here:

State proposing Text ——————- State Opposing Text
United States OPPOSED BY Holy See
Japan OPPOSED BY New Zealand
EU OPPOSED BY Canada, U.S., New Zealand, G77/China
G77/China OPPOSED BY Canada, Japan
G77/China OPPOSED BY U.S., Switzerland
Kazakhstan OPPOSED BY U.S.
Turkey OPPOSED BY Iceland
G77/China OPPOSED BY U.S., EU, Republic of Korea
Holy See OPPOSED BY U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Iceland
EU, Iceland OPPOSED BY G77/China, U.S.
Holy See OPPOSED BY U.S., New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, Israel, Grenada.
G77/China OPPOSED BY U.S., Republic of Korea
Switzerland OPPOSED BY G77/China

OECD-OECD Disputes: 2 of 17

OECD-Developing/Emerging Economies Disputes: 10 of 17

Mixed-OECD Disputes: 2 of 17

Holy See-OECD Disputes: 3 of 17

The point is quite clear: The North-South Divide appears to be quite alive with the G77/China block and EU, U.S., Australia, Japan, New Zealand opposing each other over a range of issues.

Let’s take one issue: Technology transfer.  Everyone acknowledges that a world where high quality, green economy technology is designed, manufactured, and sold at prices for the developed world will not help much of the world.  Even if we were to develop very clean, efficient energy sources, why would coal rich China trade their domestic production for a system dominated by other countries.  The U.S. is insisting on the terms “Voluntary” and “On Mutually Agreed upon Terms” and G77/China is opposing these additions.  The result will probably be a very weak technology transfer nod in the final negotiations.

I don’t know if this is the same North-South divide as earlier, but it does appear to largely be colored by the same dynamics and the impact on the Rio+20 outcome if it has fully roared back will be problematic.

One final note: U.S. opposed 10 proposals.  E.U. opposed 2 proposals.  G77/China opposed 4 proposals.  New Zealand opposed 4 proposals.


3 thoughts on “Rio+20 Countdown: The Return of the North-South Divide

  1. Pingback: Rio+20 Countdown: What are Sustainable Development Goals? Why Are they Important? « Lullaby of the Commons

  2. Pingback: Rio+20 Countdown: Obama will not attend the Rio+20 Conference « Lullaby of the Commons

  3. Pingback: Rio+20 Countdown: Who is to blame for the weak text at Rio+20? « Lullaby of the Commons

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