Health Warning Attached To Rio+20 Text: If You Care For The Future Of This Planet, This Document Will Make You Sick

Here in Canada, it’s hard to tell that there is even an Earth Summit happening in Rio De Janeiro at all. A quick scan of the major papers, from one coast to the other, and there is hardly a mention that most world leaders, minus our own prime minister and some other heavy hitters, are meeting in a historic conference.I guess Canadians, led by our current federal government, have decided to give a sustainable planet a miss this time round. Maybe in another twenty years, when global climate destabilization has made our lives (and our children’s lives) a whole lot more uncomfortable, and clean water and clean air are a rare commodity, we’ll pay more attention.

In the meantime, the text from Rio+20 has been released. And it ain’t pretty. Here’s some coverage of it from other parts of the world:

George Monbiot, in The Guardian, writes that “Rio+20 draft text is 283 paragraphs of fluff”:

The declaration is remarkable for its absence of figures, dates and targets. It is as stuffed with meaningless platitudes as an advertisement for payday loans, but without the necessary menace. There is nothing to work with here, no programme, no sense of urgency or call for concrete action beyond the inadequate measures already agreed in previous flaccid declarations. Its tone and contents would be better suited to a retirement homily than a response to a complex of escalating global crises.The draft and probably final declaration is 283 paragraphs of fluff. It suggests that the 190 governments due to approve it have, in effect, given up on multilateralism, given up on the world and given up on us. So what do we do now? That is the topic I intend to address in my column next week.

The Rio+20 conference is remarkably listless; the energy of 1992 has bled into a formulaic bureaucracy-fest. The text negotiators have agreed to punts on virtually every major issue (one analysis showed that governments agreed to “encourage” and “support” actions 148 times, but only on three issues summoned the courage to say “we will” actually do something).

But it came spontaneously alive for a few hours this afternoon, when a youth-led demonstration turned into an Occupy-style sit-down that in turn agreed to a mass walkout. We’ve just marched out the front doors of this sprawling complex, 130 strong, surrounded by as many cameras and tape recorders.

The youth-led demonstration violated all the U.N. rules — security squads surrounded us at the first sound of controversy, announcing that our gathering was “unsanctioned” and if we didn’t stop immediately we’d lose our accreditation. People discussed the threat through the human mic for a few minutes, and then decided it wasn’t a threat at all — in fact, we were eager to surrender our badges, because then we wouldn’t be part of what had turned into a sham.

Adam Vaughn is blogging for The Guardian from Rio, and does a good summary of reactions to the text: check out his Rio+20 Final Day Live Blog

0 thoughts on “Health Warning Attached To Rio+20 Text: If You Care For The Future Of This Planet, This Document Will Make You Sick”

  1. I’m confused. Avaaz say that the US, EU and G20 were all willing to #EndFossilFuelSubsidies and yet it did not happen…

    I think it must have been a typing error by Avaaz, because the US seems as intent on subsidising fossil fuels as ever…

    However, if you were to believe what has been posted on the ThinkProgress website, the USA negotiating team were actually trying to do the right thing…

    I just don’t know who to believe, but my profile picture is going to stay changed.

    • Because fuel is what moves the vehicles that run the world economy.
      (“Vehicles” meaning most anything that moves.)

      • Just because fuel power everything that moves does not justify a subsidy. Subsidies are meant to help a product or a technology (that the governments deems important) become economically competitive. They are meant to be temporary.

        The oil industry is the most profitable industry in the history of man. It does not need subsidies on that reason alone. It maintains those subsidies because of the political influence it has thanks to its wealth. We also should not subsidize it when we know that changes in our climate, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, could become so severe as to cause the collapse of our modern society.

  2. I’ve checked and they don’t have an update in response to the conclusion of Rio+ either, so that makes me think there wasn’t significant movement. And the G8 leaders already committed to eliminating ff subsidies at the Sept 2009 mtg, and there’s been little movement despite that. So I don’t know if it would have been worth the paper it was written, even if an agreement had been made on subsidies in Rio.

  3. And how does Canada’s environment minister feel about the results our of Rio? He believes that the lack of timelines and amounts is excellent. “”It does not have unrealistic, inappropriate binding commitments,” He goes on to say: “It does point us, in my view, in a forward direction, but it doesn’t have instant confections” that would duplicate existing processes, or commit countries inadvertently to harmful policies.

    “Canada’s satisfaction with this document is as much as with what’s not in it,” Kent said, adding he was “very happy, very satisfied” with the outcome.

    Is he insane? Just with climate change, we have almost certainly blown any chance of limiting warming to +2 degrees Celsius. And that is generally accepted as a “catastrophic” level of warming. Instead, we are on pace to reach 6 degrees of warming!!! And we don’t need any timelines? That’s what happens when an environment minister’s background is banking.


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