Rio+20: All Talk, No Action
In 1992, the Earth Summit held in the Brazilian city of Rio set ambitious goals to conserve our Earth's resources, address climate change and create a sustainable model of development that will support our world's growing population. Now, twenty years later, the Rio+20 summit held last week in the very same city has been dubbed the biggest failure.
Delegates and heads of state representing 190 nations descended on the city for what could have been an incredible opportunity for co-operation. Instead, politics and finger-pointing took center stage, and the three-day summit concluded with a vague document and the promise of more meetings.
The absence of world leaders from developed nations such as U.S, Canada, U.K, Germany and others did not bode well. Many of these countries are grappling with economic crisis, rising unemployment, and political uncertainities with heads of state facing tough re-election campaigns. Issues facing the environment appears to have taken a back-seat.
What is sustainable development?
Sustainable development refers to careful use of resources to meet human needs while preserving the environment, and ensuring these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for future generations. Lets look at some statistics over the last 20 years.
- There are 1.46 billion more of us on Earth since 1992.
- Our planet is half a degree warmer.
- Annual carbon emissions have risen by almost 50 per cent
- The amount of Arctic sea ice has decreased by 35 per cent.
Nearly one-fifth of the world's population (around 1.2bn people) live in areas with a scarcity of water. Climate change has led to failed crops and food crisis in many parts of the world.
According to the U.N, a way to ensure [global] food security is by creating decent jobs, paying better wages, and distributing income in a more equitable way (farmers in developing world are frequently exploited). Cities and local communities need to develop ways of becoming self-sufficient -- the costs of importing and exporting goods outweigh the value of the goods themselves.
A People's Summit
Recognizing that the time for action is now, and that nothing might be achieved by politicians, a parallel summit was held in Rio. Known as the People's Summit and funded by the Brazilian government, it brought together NGOs (non-governmental organizations) from around the world, ecologists, activists, and companies.
Campaigns to reduce plastics in the ocean and create a new sanctuary in the Arctic were discussed. With passionate speeches by indigenous tribes whose ways of life are threatened, to big companies jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, there was more action on this side summit. As Yunus, the founder of micro-finance and a Nobel-prize winner stated "If people start taking action and it becomes a movement, the politicians will have to follow."