Rio+20 Earth Summit: One Month Away

After too many failures at the World Climate Change Summits, most recently at Durban and Cancun, few are holding onto big hopes for Rio+20 Earth Summit, which takes place June 20-22 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

But here we go again. More than 150 presidents, prime ministers and energy ministers will be there, but President Obama hasn’t decided if he will attend. About 50,000 people are expected.

You can see which leaders are attending at Earth Summit Watch.

This year’s theme is Making it Happen.

The objective of the Conference is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps.

There are two themes: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development.

This is the 20th anniversary since the last United Nations summit in Rio, which focused on sustainable development to address poverty and preserve the earth’s biodiversity. It laid the groundwork for the Kyoto Protocol, created the Convention on Biodiversity and Agenda 21, which recognizes the "urgency of a deep change in consumption and production patterns" and that sustainable development is "delimited by the integration of the economic, social and environmental pillars." The spirit of the conference was captured by the expression "Harmony with Nature."

Since then human population has continued to balloon and there’s even more pressure on the Earth’s natural systems from developing countries catching up with advanced nations.

How much has been accomplished on the ground in terms of Agenda 21 – which we rarely even hear about other than from Tea Party rants and obstruction – is questionable. The US never signed onto the Kyoto Protocol, which expires this year. Canada has turned into a greenhouse gas producing monster with its tar sands oil. The EU is the only major part of the world that’s met its commitments.

The International Energy Agency warns governments are falling badly behind on low-carbon energy, putting carbon reduction targets out of reach and pushing the world to the brink of catastrophic climate change.

"We don’t need more ineffective treaties and abstract plans of action," says the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "We want our leaders to come ready to take action to speed the transition to a low-carbon green economy.

Intense negotiations in March have been followed by hundreds of pages of proposals including 26 critical areas for action: water, energy, food, jobs, cities, oceans, disaster preparedness, poverty eradication, tourism, transport, climate change, sustainable consumption and production, lands, chemicals and forests, among others.

Here are NRDC’s objectives as an example of what the environmental community will be pushing for:

  • Web-based Global Registry: commitments to specific actions will be posted so that citizens around the world can ensure promises are kept;
  • Phase-out fossil fuel subsidies and climate forcers; ramp up renewable energy and efficiency;
  • Stop destroying the oceans through over-fishing, plastic pollution and acidificaton;
  • Integrate environmental costs into national and corporate accounts; Increase support for environmentally sustainable jobs training and education programs.

At the G20 meeting, which just concluded, they endorsed and signed onto Hillary Clinton’s coalition that’s addressing short-term climate forcers.

Here’s the Rio+20 website:

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