Environmentalists fear watered-down deal from Rio summit
By Richard Ingham (AFP) – 1 hour ago
RIO DE JANEIRO — Activists voiced fears on Sunday that a master plan to cure the world’s sick environment and end entrenched poverty was being undermined by time pressures at the UN’s “Rio+20″ talks.
Brazil on Saturday took over efforts to forge a communique on the planet’s future which will be issued in Rio de Janeiro on Friday after a three-day summit.
But non-governmental organizations (NGOs) said the craving to avoid a bust-up over issues ranging from the green economy to funding could badly dilute the keystone document.
The draft deal put forward by the summit hosts “is a more streamlined text, more likely to be agreed, less likely to deliver sustainable development,” said Oxfam.
“It has been skillfully constructed to avoid controversy and promote consensus, but even if agreed it would not reorient growth towards putting people and planet first.”
Delegates said memories of the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit — which became a near fiasco when world leaders were presented with a deadlocked document — were seared into many minds.
Brazil says it is determined to wrap everything up by Tuesday, when an expected 116 heads of state or government are to start jetting in.
They will be joined by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has called sustainable development “my number one priority.”
The 50-page compromise text put forward by Brazil has no figures for funding sustainable development, though developing countries are calling for $30 billion a year.
It sketches the objective of “Sustainable Development Goals” to replace the UN’s Millennium Development Goals after they expire in 2015, but defining them will be left to a later conference.
The text is “pretty acceptable,” Ecuador’s minister for heritage, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, told AFP, adding that her country still had a number of concerns.
Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth said the world was faced with “a triple planetary crisis — from climate catastrophe, deepening global inequity and unsustainable consumption driven by a broken economic system.”
“The text is neither ambitious enough nor delivers the required political will needed to fix our broken planet,” he said.
WWF’s Lasse Gustavsson said Brazil’s draft was larded with fudge, especially its section on energy, “which could have been written by the oil and gas industry.”
“We see a lopsided victory of weak words over action words — with the weak words winning out at 514 to 10,” he said.
“‘Encourage’ is used approximately 50 times, while the word ‘must’ is used three times. Apparently, negotiators really like the word ‘support’ — they used it approximately 99 times — but can’t bear to use language like ‘we will,’ which appears only five times.”
The Rio Conference on Sustainable Development is the 20-year followup to the Earth Summit, where UN members launched offensives to roll back climate change, desertification and species loss and work to root out poverty.
But the outlook in 1992 was far different then.
The great meeting took place at a time of post-Cold War euphoria.
Prospects of cuts in defense spending encouraged governments to open up their wallets for the environment and the world’s poor.
Today, many western governments are mired in fiscal and budget crises, and key leaders — including US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — will be conspicuous in Rio for their absence.
pHOTO AFP, Vanderleialmeida