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UN environment summit opens, but prospects grim

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Twenty years after the first Earth Summit, a renewed bid to rally the world behind a common environmental blueprint opened Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro against a backdrop of discord and economic gloom.

Kicking off the so-called Rio+20 summit, Dilma Rousseff, president of host nation Brazil, called on “all countries of the world to commit” to reaching an accord that addresses the most pressing environmental and social woes.

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The UN conference, which marks the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit — a landmark 1992 gathering that opened the debate on the future of the planet and its resources — is the largest ever organized, with 50,000 delegates.

Around 115 leaders are expected to attend the main event itself on June 20-22 but a series of conferences grouping businesses, environmental groups and non-governmental organizations are being held in advance.

This frenzy of contacts and deal-making could well be more fruitful than the UN Conference on Sustainable Development itself, analysts say, mindful of the failures of the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen.

Behind the scenes, there is incipient panic over the draft summit communique after three rounds of preliminary informal negotiations left more than 75 percent of the paragraphs still to be agreed.

The charter is supposed to sum up the challenges and spell out pledges to nurture the oceans, roll back climate change, promote clean growth and provide decent water, sanitation and electricity for all.

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The biggest divergences lie in four areas, according to sources close to the negotiations.

They include action on climate change, protecting the oceans and achieving food security, and whether “Sustainable Development Goals” should replace the Millennium Development Goals when these objectives expire in 2015.

The UN has not ruled out the possibility of intense negotiations continuing right up to the leaders’ summit that will be attended by French President Francois Hollande and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, among others.

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Nations all agree that the summit comes at a turning point, and its outcome is crucial.

But privately delegates expressed doubt that a consensus on how to tackle these problems will be reached while many governments remain focused on the economic crisis.

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The European Union will fight to the last for credible commitments in Rio but it will be “very, very difficult”, the bloc’s environment commissioner Janez Potocnik said in Brussels on Wednesday.

“After tough pre-negotiations in New York, unfortunately not enough progress has been made so we have some intense days ahead of us in Rio,” the commissioner said.

Privately, EU negotiators were more forthright. “It will be very, very difficult to draw up concrete measures and fix dates,” one told AFP.

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“No promises were made during lead-up negotiations,” said another. “There was nothing concrete, just a lot of blah-blah-blah and statements of intention.”

French dreams of creating a World Environment Organisation, for instance, are not expected to see the light of day. “At best there’ll be a bigger role for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),” said a senior European official.

A report released ahead of the gathering described an urgent need to tackle population growth and voracious consumption that are placing Earth’s resources under intolerable strain.

According to UN figures, global food demand will double by 2030 and energy consumption will soar by as much as 45 percent, putting mounting pressure on finite resources amid growing social inequality, water shortages and global warming.

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Notably absent from the summit will be US President Barack Obama, who is facing a tough re-election race at home, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The United States will be represented in Rio by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


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2020 Election

Outrage against Dianne Feinstein as potential Judiciary chair comes out against Senate reform

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) received harsh criticism on Monday after coming out against Senate reform of the filibuster.

“I don't believe in doing that. I think the filibuster serves a purpose," Feinstein argued.

"It is not often used, it's often less used now than when I first came, and I think it's part of the Senate that differentiates itself," Feinstein falsely claimed.

https://twitter.com/sahilkapur/status/1308169580658012160

Feinstein is in line to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee if Democrats regain the Senate, despite never attending law school or having ever tried a case.

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2020 Election

Lindsey Graham announces embattled Sen. Joni Ernst will vote for whomever Trump nominates to replace RBG

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The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday announced that GOP members of the body would be united in voting for whomever President Donald Trump nominates to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The nominee’s going to be supported by every Republican in the Judiciary Committee," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, as reported by The Washington Post's Aaron Blake.

https://twitter.com/AaronBlake/status/1308223330357518336

If Graham is correct, that would mean that Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) would be backing the nomination, despite trailing Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield.

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2020 Election

A Never-Trump Republican changed her mind — then crumbled when she tried to explain why

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In a recent op-ed for the Washington Post, Republican Danielle Pletka declared that despite the fact that she refused to vote for Donald Trump in 2016, she now feels compelled to support him in 2020. The piece quickly caught fire online, inspiring ridicule and sympathy from differing corners and triggering a surprising amount of discussion.

In one sense, it’s hard to see what the big deal was. The Post publishes opinion pieces in support of Trump frequently, and this one was not particularly special. Pletka herself is not a particularly notable figure. Like many op-eds, it was sloppy and unpersuasive, making huge leaps of reasoning and glossing over critical points in the argument. It didn’t take seriously any compelling counterarguments. It was, in other words, a mere display of partisan loyalty from a Republican who would prefer to be inside the tent than outside of it.

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