Monday, 18 June 2012

The Future we (Definitely Don’t) Want

The Rio+20 negotiations so far have not been particularly promising. After a week which saw negotiators from developing countries walk out of a key working group, the Brazilian delegation to the Rio+20 Conference, now leading the negotiation process, released an overhauled negotiating text last night that will be the basis for negotiations over the coming days.

The Brazilians certainly seem to have come into their role with a practical mindset, saying that there will be no ‘bracketing’ of text and that the focus will shift from miniscule details to the bigger picture. What is much less clear is whether that is likely to be possible in light of the intense negotiations that have taken place so far, with every little detail being subject to scrutiny.

As 120+ world leaders prepare to arrive (with those of the US, UK and Germany notably absent), many have lamented the emergence of disparate blocs and divides that exist, with the traditional north-south divide being only one piece in a very disparate puzzle.

While the Brazilian’s are keen to show leadership, the draft text itself presents a significantly weaker document than the previous draft. The Brazilian Government said that the text would make all members a little bit happy and a little bit unhappy too”. Anybody concerned with creating a more sustainable future should be very unhappy, and the current text is far below the expectations of civil society groups, youth delegates, and many delegations that see Rio+20 as a historic opportunity to map out a better future.

The key issues with the new text are:
  • The concept of creating an Ombudsperson, High Commissioner or High Level Representative for future generations has been completely deleted, in spite of the fact that this had not yet been debated and no strong opposition had yet emerged;
  • UNEP has been stripped of its proposed role in coordinating Multilateral Environment Agreements;
  • Participation of Civil society has been weakened;
  • There is no mention of planetary boundaries, but ‘efficiency’ and economic growth’ feature 14 and 20 times respectively;
  • The text is full to the brim with words like ‘encourage’ and ‘promote’, but lacking in strong language like ‘will’ and ‘commit’.
Daniel Mittler, Greenpeace International’s Political Director is reported as saying, “if broadly adopted, the latest text from the Brazilian government would condemn the world to a future of pollution, plunder and destruction. There is no action here, no commitment, no future we want”. In fact, the weak and ineffectual document currently on the table is likely to perpetuate business-as-usual, the future that we definitely don’t want.

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