Rio+20: Stumbling towards a future we don’t really want
As I write, things inside Rio Centro, where the Rio+20 talks are taking place look bleak. Last Friday, after three long days of ‘preparatory committee’ meetings countries were unable to agree little more than a third of the draft outcome text. The decision was made for the UN to hand responsibility for drafting of a new version of the text to Brazil, as the host country, in the hope of finding a common pathway forward.
On Saturday night, just before midnight, a new Brazilian text was circulated. In an attempt to break the stalemate in the negotiations, and close the gulf between developed countries and the G77 group of 130 developing countries, this text had been dramatically weakened.
Pledges on increasing access to water end energy were watered down, and across the text, any meaningful language had been removed. Words such as “commit” has been largely stripped away and replaced with terms like “voluntary” and “as appropriate” – essentially enabling the statement to sound positive whilst in reality, amounting to little obligation for countries to do anything in terms of real action.
On the positive side, this new text has the potential to prevent a massive backtrack on some of the more positive principals of Rio that were agreed twenty years ago. Yet, the flip side is that it still failed to provide a plan for how this could come about. Of particular concern to southern country governments was the failure of northern countries to recommit to either providing the finance or sharing the technology that could enable them to make these two decade old principals a reality.
Over the past couple of days, countries have been haggling over the finer details of this already weak agreement. As I write, negotiators are still waiting for a final plenary to start. It's currently expected to begin at about two o’clock in the morning. The Brazilian government desperately wants to get this text completed before tomorrow. This is supposedly so that negotiators have a day to rest before the negotiations resume, though there are now rumours emerging that this rush is in reality to enable Dilma, the Brazilian president who is currently at the G20 meeting in Mexico, to garner support for the statement from the heads of state currently gathered there, given that many of them will not be making the trip to Rio this time around.
At a time when the world faces increasing inequality and global financial and ecological crisis, the failure of countries to agree on even the weakest of political statements is a telling sign of the state of the world we currently live in. Meanwhile, corporations and institutions like the World Bank are using the summit to push forward their own agendas, such as the frightening natural capital declaration, an attempt to privatise nature, which will be discussed at a high level dialogue on Wednesday, co-organised between the World Bank and the UK government. These are the kinds of initiatives could be the really meaningful, and dangerous – outcomes of the Rio+20 summit.
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The great nature sale
Discussions about the green economy are being captured by rich country governments and corporate interests. Their proposals include allowing speculators to bet on the price of water, selling off land that indigenous people and small-scale farmers have used for generations and creating new financial instruments linked to the survival of endangered species.
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Our briefing, Rio+20 summit: Whose green economy?, explains what is being proposed at Rio, the corporate plan for the future of our planet, and the sustainable alternatives being proposed by social movements and civil society in the global south.