Whenever I hear the words “make some noise”, I’m usually in a club, or at some music festival, or listening to the Beastie Boys. For students attending the 13th Annual Global Classrooms International High School Model UN Conference this month, the exhortation came from the big chief himself, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his remarks at their event. "When I say make some noise, I mean raise your voices. Demand real action [at Rio+20]", Ban said.
UN negotiations are always complex, but Rio+20 has an unusually complicated agenda. Sustainable development by its nature is broad, combining social, economic, and environmental dimensions. The negotiating text covers the concept of the Green Economy, which is by no means an accepted term, and has met with strong G77 criticism for its lack of focus on poverty eradication and related social issues.
Three years ago, the Group of 20 countries pledged to phase out environmentally-harmful and ineffective subsidies. The leaders of these twenty influential countries have since made many other promises to deal with climate change and the range of global sustainability challenges, including at the recently concluded Clean Energy Ministerial. As countries meet this week to set the agenda for 2012, they should commit to showing leadership where it counts. This June, we need to turn pledges into real actionsstarting at the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, and continuing through to the Rio+20 Earth Summit (read here and here for ideas).
Dear Presidents and Prime Ministers, Kings and Queens:
Once every generation or so, you're asked to step outside your national mindset and collectively figure out how to safeguard the planet and all its inhabitants. I grant you this: it's no easy task.
The media often describes geoengineering — large-scale deliberate interference in the climate system — as Plan B for the planet, a last resort should political negotiations to curb greenhouse gas emissions fail.
Almost by default this makes the UN’s Rio+20 summit in June Plan A for Planet Earth. So, is Plan A any good?
In order to reach the visionary ideal of a green economy, we'll need a Clean Revolution across the globe. At the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June this year, top-level politicians will be called upon to help catalyse the global transition to a green economy, alleviate poverty and create stable economic prosperity for all. Despite the huge advances made by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) since its inception at the original Rio Earth Summit in 1992, it is clear that this transition needs to be quicker, ambitions greater, and actions stronger.
Setting humanity on a sustainable course will require striking a balance between the use of natural resources and their conservation. A widespread but often overlooked doctrine called the Public Trust Doctrine (PTD) provides a legal foundation and implementation framework for achieving sustainable resource use. Two key topics at Rio+20 in particular could be clarified by applying the PTD: 1) protecting the rights of future generations to functioning ecosystems and 2) governing resources beyond national jurisdiction. We recommend that the notion of the ‘Public Trust’ be incorporated into the conversations regarding institutional frameworks for sustainable development at Rio+20.
The Zero Draft of the Outcome Document represents a strong starting point for effective and successful negotiations. The UN Secretariat has synthesised an honest and fair record of the conversations to date. But there remains much to play for. Currently the Zero Draft lacks the urgency, ambition, and detail required to use Rio as an opportunity to re-imagine our socio-economic systems and the way in which they work in harmony with nature, to deliver greater well-being for all, now and into the future.
The world needs a regular, comprehensive State of the Planet Assessment. Can Rio+20 deliver?