Rio+20: Countries united against poverty

The fight against poverty, which affects people throughout the world, such as Agartala, the capital of Tripura state, in India (above) is “indispensable for achieving global sustainable development,” according to the final document produced at Rio+20 and signed on June 22 by 193 countries. (Jayanta Dey/Reuters)

The fight against poverty, which affects people throughout the world, such as Agartala, the capital of Tripura state, in India (above) is “indispensable for achieving global sustainable development,” according to the final document produced at Rio+20 and signed on June 22 by 193 countries. (Jayanta Dey/Reuters)

By Flávia Ribeiro for Infosurhoy.com – 25/06/2012

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Ten days of negotiations ended with the signing of the document “The Future We Want” by the 193 nations participating in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20.

“Eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. In this regard we are committed to free humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency,” the text states.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the global community to help reach the goal.

“I invite all of you to join me in working for a future without hunger,” he said.

Ban added the end of world hunger would boost economic growth, reduce poverty and protect the environment.

“It will feed peace and stability,” he said.

The document, however, was heavily criticized, particularly by members of the People’s Summit, an event organized by civic groups that took place alongside Rio+20.

More than 1,000 environmentalists and representatives of NGOs produced a document titled “The Rio+20 We Don’t Want,” criticizing the lack of concrete results from the meeting of the heads of state.

“The document titled ‘The Future We Want’ is weak and falls short of the progress made over the last 20 years, since Rio-92. It falls short of the importance and urgency of the issues being discussed. Simply releasing a fragile and generic timeline for future negotiations does not guarantee results,” the letter states.

The text, which was drafted by environmentalists and members of civil society, highlights two key issues that were postponed. The first – a definition of the Objectives for Sustainable Development – will be discussed in 2013, with implementation expected to begin in 2015. The second – the means of financing these objectives – will begin to be discussed in 2014.

Poor countries had proposed the creation of a US$30 billion annual fund to be financed by wealthy member nations. The global economic crisis was one of the major reasons the fund was not approved.

“What I saw were poor and developing countries making commitments related to sustainability and many rich countries not contributing funds to this process,” Brazilian Minister of the Environment Izabella Teixeira said on June 22, the last day of the Rio+20 Conference.

Ban classified the draft document as “unambitious” in statements made on June 20.

The next day, however, he stated a different opinion.

At a press conference, he called the document “ambitious, comprehensive and practical.”

Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), said the final document produced at Rio+20 is “a reflection of the global situation at a moment in which there is a global crisis and we have to act collectively. [But] the document itself is very rich in terms of actions, initiatives and programs.”

One highlight is the Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI), also known as the Green Gross Domestic Product, which was presented by the International Human Dimensions Program on Global Climate Change and the UNEP during Rio+20.

The IWI is a new method for measuring the wealth of nations, rather than using the gross domestic product (GDP). The formula accounts for a nation’s “inclusive wealth,” including its social well-being and natural capital, such as forests, air quality, water resources, fossil fuels and soil.

Cities commit to reducing emissions

During a meeting of the Climate Leadership Group, which was held alongside Rio+20, representatives of the 59 cities composing the group, known as C-40, committed to reducing carbon emissions.

The group, which includes Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Curitiba, is made up of the world’s major cities that account for 21% of the world’s GDP and emit 12% of the gases that play a role in global warming.

The group promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a million tons by 2030.

“C-40 cities have a lot of potential for reducing carbon emissions,” said New York Mayor and C-40 President Michael Bloomberg. “By 2030, this reduction could be equal to the annual emissions by Mexico and Canada combined.”

While it is rather audacious, the goal is considered the most important accomplishment of all of the events that occurred in Rio from June 13-22.

Common but differentiated responsibilities

One victory contained in the document “The Future We Want” was the maintenance of the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities – one of the most controversial points.

It is expected that rich countries, which have done more damage to the environment over a longer period of time, should make greater investments in sustainable development.

Regarding oceans, the document establishes new international regulatory instruments for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which deals with the sustainable use of biodiversity and ocean conservation.

Another result of Rio+20 was the creation, by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), of the World Center for Sustainable Development at the Rio+20 Center in Rio de Janeiro.

With an initial investment of US$3 million to US$5 million by the UNDP, the center will bring together representatives from international and Brazilian organizations to discuss environmental issues.

“This is a concrete legacy and a tribute to the city of Rio de Janeiro,” Teixeira said.

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