Published on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 by Common Dreams

Rio+20 Kicks Off

by Tina Gerhardt

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – This morning, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) kicked off in Brazil.

From June 20-22, 2012, the conference brings together around 50,000 persons: heads of states and delegates, business leaders and the private sector, NGOs, journalists, environmentalists, activists, indigenous groups and civil society, as they seek to eradicate poverty, world hunger, social inequity and climate change.

The original 1992 Earth Summit (also held in Rio, hence Rio+20) sought to put the issue of sustainable development at the forefront of the United Nations’ work.

The 20-year anniversary of the original 1992 Earth Summit takes place amidst two of the greatest challenges facing the international community: the greatest economic downturn in modern history and an environmental tipping point, climate change.

A new study published recently in the journal Nature warns that we are fast approaching irreversible climate change.

 

will350 The Rio Earth Summit could end in disaster unless we all speak up together. 350.org/dilma #rioplus20 #EndFossilFuelSubsidies 19 seconds ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

SuzanneD RT @UN_Rioplus20: Happening now: Opening Plenary marking the formal opening of #Rioplus20 conference and #Futurewewant twitpic.com/9ykd37 35 seconds ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

mapiscol RT @UNDP_IPC: South-South Cooperation: New ideas for agricultural development in Africa.Check our magazine launched #RioPlus20 bit.ly/MiFpRI @UNDPS 42 seconds ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

tancopsey We’re at a bit of a low point for international cooperation eh? And yet, the need is more obvious than ever #rioplus20 #nutstoparochialism 44 seconds ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

JensenMaritime RT @safeseas: Climate change is one of the sternest tests that democracy and global economy have ever faced. Are they up to it? #rioplus20 49 seconds ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

LizFordGuardian Nawaal Domingo from South Africa,a researcher, was pushing for rights of young to have say in future #RioPlus20 #globaldev 58 seconds ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

Marleen_Brouwer Want to stop climate change? Stop funding it. Pls RT to join the 24-hour TwitterStorm! endfossilfuelsubsidies.org/twitterstorm #EndFossilFuelSubsidies about 1 minute ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

j0e_m Nice use of Prezi (what are the chances!) from @commonwealthsec for #rioplus20 prezi.com/tl2ksjrq5xft/r… about 1 minute ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

mwt2008 RT @guardianeco: UK failing to tackle new pollutants – study gu.com/p/38eav/tf about 1 minute ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

DeenaMsh Rio 20 welcomes heads of state, but change driven at local level – CSMonitor.com: bit.ly/Mh5Lk3 #RioPlus20 about 1 minute ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

ministres francediplo: RT @UN_Rioplus20: Happening now: Opening Plenary marking the formal opening of #Rioplus20 conference… j.mp/MiV9UA 2 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

FutureJustice0 Not sure what this Ombudsperson for Future Generations that Youth asked for @ #rioplus20 is then watch this 1min vid: bit.ly/Ke9h33 2 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

UNDP_IPC Going beyond GDP, @UNDP proposed today a human development measure of sustainability. Learn more: on.undp.org/MLZdIU #RioPlus20 @UNDPS 2 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

CDProject We need to rethink the path towards sustainable development with finance and clean technology – CDP CEO speaks at #WGS at #Rioplus20 2 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

iConversations RT @ClintonGlobal: At #RioPlus20 – fulfilling their 2011 CGI commitment – @Nature_Org & CEF announced initiatives by 24 companies: bit.ly/NN9lI6 2 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

globalkids RT @UN4Youth: Ban Ki-moon says #Rioplus20 is not an end, but a beginning. More on the #FutureWeWant here: bit.ly/yRc8Ga v @UN 2 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

LizFordGuardian Regine Marton, activist from Brazil, with feminist group Brazilian Women Articulation, advocating justice for women #RioPlus20 #globaldev 3 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

arpatoscana RT @UNEP: MT @aidex2012: Video message on #RioPlus20 from @UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: The #futureiwant bit.ly/Mq9bBo @UNDP 3 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

BillMcKinnon875 RT @DESERTEC: Fund climate solutions, not fossil fuels and climate change goo.gl/9ypWh Pls RT! #EndFossilFuelSubsidies #DESERTEC 3 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

fairsnape From Rio we hear ‘Green Economy’ ‘Natural Capital’ + #EndFossilFuelSubsidies as possible outcomes … #Gvischat 3 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

kaupapa RT @thomwoodroofe: PM of Tuvalu up next at #RioPlus20. Eight speakers in, first non-war criminal or dictator. 4 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

marksinghTO RT @paualvarado Is the Cities Approach to Tackling Climate Change a Viable Alternative to the Global Process bit.ly/Mx4rb9 #RioPlus20 4 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

Fonneve RT @HelenClarkUNDP: My speech @ #UNDP event #rioplus20 “Beyond GDP – Measuring the Future We Want”: alternatives 2 GDP 2 measure progress. on.undp.org/MgOqI7 4 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

WEDO_worldwide RT @GGCA_gender: Cate Owren @WEDO_worldwide addresses Network of Women Ministers and Leaders of the Env #Rioplus20 #WomenRio pic.twitter.com/VcEG7kUf 5 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

HungerProject What’s all this talk about #Rioplus20? Find out why you should care & what you could be doing. Pass it on! go.thp.org/KObnlN 5 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

RockefellerFdn RT @tcktcktck: Amazing young women leaders remind us why we’re in Rio: ow.ly/bIlmo @BrttnyTrlfrd #Rioplus20 #DateWithHistory 5 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

UNrightswire #RightsRio: Watch & share video w/ the UN human rights chief’s assessment of #Rioplus20 outcome: bit.ly/N9Lk8g 5 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

alexjamesfarrow Taken a break on live tweeting #RioPlus20. It’s all a bit boring really. Text unlikely to be reopened & looking like we’re done here. 5 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

cubismwonder RT @Egitto3000: #humanrights Govts at #Rioplus20 re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic while 1.4bn ppl struggle… dlvr.it/1lF5fv #Egitto3000 5 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

LizFordGuardian Father Benedict Ayodi from Nairobi was on march to call on leaders to respect God’s creation from destruction #globaldev #RioPlus20 5 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

rorybergin RIO text as of 5:00pm 19th June wp.me/pstGP-hk: not much grit. It reads like a policy document, no action #Rioplus20 5 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

KingIscka RT @UNDP: #Rioplus20 has officially started! Check out our videos around the Earth Summit: on.undp.org/MLQab1 5 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

thewillofWill Ahmadinejad: No one has the right to ruin the env, it belongs to all, attacking it is an attack on the whole community #rioplus20 #UNCSD 5 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

tcktcktck RT @cindybax: Woke in NZ & googled @BrttnyTrlfrd: 2584 news stories-so proud of this Kiwi at #RioPlus20 #futurewewant ow.ly/bIn7i 6 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

mediaconsulta More ambition required here -> RT @guardianeco: Rio+20: Ban Ki-moon urges world leaders to act on sustainability gu.com/p/38eqm/tf #CSR 6 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

florisvc RT @guardianeco: BREAKING: Here’s the draft text that has got everyone so annoyed at #rioplus20: gu.com/p/38e3x/tw (so-called ‘Future we Want’ agreement) 6 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

WEDO_worldwide RT @popact: The Future We Want: Why #Reproductive Health Matters at #RioPlus20 via @HuffingtonPost: huff.to/KTKAEx 6 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

Ioana_S RT @wecanada: Check our blog to see why #Rioplus20 is more than just a document: earthsummit.ca/more-than-just… 6 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

Free_Press RT @TaraEscudero: @Free_Press help a girl out with a RT, we need to #EndFossilFuelSubsidies and we’re already trending #2 in the US! endfossilfuelsubsidies.org 7 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

miniannette Very powerful speech RT @tcktcktck: @BrttnyTrlfrd‘s incredible #DateWithHistory speech to #Rioplus20 world leaders ow.ly/bHRnG w 7 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

MomentumIonE ‏RT @PlanktonMath Rio+20 interactive: is the world getting better or worse? bit.ly/Lf993u (via @MarcGunther) #rioplus20 8 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

Uzu_BRADY_3000 RT @CARE: Save yourself a trip to Brazil & watch @CARE‘s “Where the Rain Falls” video, that’s screening at #Rioplus20, online! bit.ly/MiSpXv 8 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

Oxfam Govts at #Rioplus20 re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic while 1.4bn ppl struggle daily 4 food, water, energy bit.ly/LBGB0B 8 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

nature_org RT @nature_press: Great @dotearth #rioplus20 dispatch from @nature_org youth ambassador Josh Carrera: nyti.ms/LBSwv9 Thanks, @revkin! 8 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

wecanada At least let them play in the same game! RT @scaldron: make renewables on a level playing field @wecanada #rioplus20 #endfossilfuelsubsidies 8 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

fximeno President of South Korea: We decides low carbon and green economy develop strategy. It is running #RioPlus20. Why not all others! #RioPlus20 8 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

QFIntl Read youth ambassador Hamad’s blog about “Our Responsibilities to the Environment” | QFI blog #RioPlus20 qfiblog.org/2012/06/20/our… #RoadtoDoha 9 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

NGOBuzz . bit.ly/Kzr0Rm Practitioner Network Releases Recommendations to Achieve Universal Energy Access at #Rioplus20 #se4all 9 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

 

clovisml RT @GlobalFundWomen: Our sisters @apwldrio20 & the “clothesline of women’s rights” at the #RioPlus20 Global Day of Action at #FlamengoPark bit.ly/MgQiQW 9 minutes ago · reply · retweet · favorite

Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Program, stated before the conference that “If current patterns of production and consumption of natural resources prevail, then governments will preside over unprecedented levels of damage and degradation.”

This year, over 100 heads of states will attend, including host Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and China’s Premier Wen Jiabao. US President Barack Obama, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.K.’s Prime Minister Cameron will not be in attendance.

What are the Rio+20’s Goals?

Rio+20 seeks to establish an institutional framework for sustainable development and to establish a green economy. While not legally binding, the document that emerges from Rio+20 will serve as a roadmap for sustainable development.

Delegates approved a draft of the document entitled “The Future We Want” (pdf), late Tuesday evening, which will be presented to heads of state to be revised and ratified by the summit’s end on Friday.

Measuring Sustainable Development

Yet how does one measure sustainable development? What marks development? Is it best gauged by economic growth? Or by other factors? And what makes it sustainable?

In Rio, a demand has been put forward to analyze economies not solely on the basis of gross domestic product (GDP).

Earlier this year, in its report Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s High-Level Global Sustainability Panel concluded that “the international community should measure development beyond GDP and develop a new sustainable development index or set of indicators.”

The Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission – based on the work of Nobel Prize laureates in Economics Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, as well as of French economist Jean-Paul Fitoussi – has also called for a broad range of social indicators to complement GDP figures.

At a press conference today, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) responded with a proposal for a “Sustainable Human Development Index.”

NGOs lambasted the draft text for its failure to mention nuclear energy, particularly in light of the Fukushima disaster; and to demand an end to fossil fuel subsidies. “Just to be clear,” they concluded, “NGOs at Rio do not endorse this document.”

It draws on the Human Development Index (HDI), created by the Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq and continued by Sen, which measures life expectancy, health, literacy, education and standard of living.

Others, ranging from James Gustave Speth in “Rio+20: Charter for a New Economy” to James Korten in “Rio+20: A Defining Choice” – argue for new economic models.

Thus, while the writing is on the wall with regard to the urgency of climate change, the need for an alternative economic model, one that takes into account the health of both planet and people, is also becoming increasingly clear.

NGOs Respond to the Draft Text

During the opening plenary, NGOs were given the opportunity to respond to the draft text. They criticized that it failed to mention tipping points, planetary boundaries or carrying capacity. (See more information about planetary boundaries here.)

Additionally, NGOs lambasted the draft text for its failure to mention nuclear energy, particularly in light of the Fukushima disaster; and to demand an end to fossil fuel subsidies. “Just to be clear,” they concluded, “NGOs at Rio do not endorse this document.”

People’s Summit

Prior to the Rio+20, a People’s Summit kicked off in Rio on June 15, 2012. This alternative conference brought together people from movements worldwide, seeking to address environmental degradation and social inequity, to reject green speculation and fossil fuel subsidies.

Representatives from over 500 indigenous communities worldwide gathered on Tuesday evening and signed a declaration presented to the opening plenary this morning. Addressing the Rio+20, a representative from the group demanded a focus on sustainable development and on a recognition of their legal rights, and argued against extractivist industries.

Global organizations Avaaz and 350.org protested fossil fuel subsidies by unfurling a trillion dollar bill on the iconic Copacabana beach Sunday afternoon, calling on world leaders at the Rio+20 Summit to end the nearly $1 trillion dollars they hand out in fossil fuel subsidies each year.

Not all are convinced that the Rio+20 negotiations will prove successful. Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, criticized the negotiations, stating “Rio+20 has turned into an epic failure. It has failed on equity, failed on ecology and failed on economy.”

Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist and academic who covers international climate negotiations, domestic energy policy and related direct actions.

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