Rio+20 Countdown: News Round-up June 2-June 10

This is Part 12 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.

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Sorry for the blog silence over the past week.  The problems of life rose and by necessity took up my time and energy.  Blogging activities should be back to normal this next week, so I’ll have everyone ready before the Rio Conference.

The last week has not had significant negotiations or high-level meetings to discuss the issue.  Instead, there have been various efforts to pressure action on the agenda at various levels.

  • Marina Silva, Brazilian environmental activist and Green candidate for President in the last election, declared that Rio+20 should be the Tahrir Square for the Green movement. The quote: “I hope that Rio+20 will become the Tahrir Square of the global environmental crisis and that international public opinion will be able to tell leaders that they cannot brush off the science…They cannot lower expectations in the face of a crisis worsening every day.”
  • About that crisis worsening every day, the fifth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-5) was released this week by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).   Only four of 90 environmental indicators are seeing improvement according to the report.  Achim Steiner, head of UNEP, said that “Time is running out.”
  • Nature did a report card on the first Rio summit (1992).  As you can see below, not exactly making the honor roll in climate change issues.  Ezra Klein at the Washington Post asks if the 1992 Earth Summit failed, will this one work?  [Self promotion- remember that this countdown is working under the argument that Rio+20 is a different type of entity entirely than the original Rio Conference]
  • Some reports that the Secretary General’s office is in full-blown crisis management mode with significant efforts at heading off potential gridlock at the Rio+20 Summit.  The Guardian reported that the current working zero draft for the Rio Declaration shows significant disagreement and little agreement.  [Note: The Guardian is doing the best reporting on Rio+20 right now.  Far and away it is insightful, connected, and captures not just the specifics but the context].  You will not see collapse at the conference, but you may see nothing substantial.
  • Former winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize (including Ricardo Navarro) came out this week to ask governments to join them in taking a risk for the environment.  They wrote in an open letter: “But let’s face it, environmental leadership has come from civil society, people like us who put our lives on the line to protect the environment. Now, urgently, we request that governments take the lead in protecting the planet we all share. For future generations, we urge you to attend the Earth Summit and make real commitments toward sustainable development. We urge you to take a risk, as we have done, to defend Earth.”  I like the start with the, ‘But let’s face it’.
  • Obama is (probably) not attending the Rio+20 summit.  If this breaks it will be somewhat valuable, but it looks increasingly unlikely.

That’s it.  Lots of pressure from NGOs, the UN, and scientists.  Few signs of progress from government negotiators.  But that is the way it looks lots of times and breakthroughs do happen.

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