RIO+20:Renewing Commitment ?!?

Despite stating (in my previous post) that I wouldn’t spend too much/ or any time on Rio+20 I cant seem to prevent myself from having a little “vent”. For once, this doesn’t happen that often, I really wish that I was wrong. I had secretly hoped that I was wrong about my view that “Rio+20 is a waste of time and the money spent on Rio+20 would have probably had a better development impact if all efforts had been directed towards delivering tangible development outcomes!”

“Some 40,000 environmentalists and 10,000 government officials gathered with politicians from 190 nations for a meeting which the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said was “too important to fail”. (S Nair in the Tribune India)

I had hoped that at the close of the summit I would hear the awesome news that despite all the divergent views etc the summit was a success and then a plan of action with appropriate funds and an implementation team had been agreed upon and that the world would finally be able to see some effective development actions being implemented. Instead I find waiting in my inbox a copy of “The Future We Want“. The outcome of the Rio+20 Summit. The text starts with the following;

” We, the heads of State and Government and high level representatives, having met at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 20-22 June 2012, with full participation of civil society, renew our commitment to sustainable development, and to ensure the promotion of economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet and for present and future generations.” (The Future We Want, 2012)

My first though was (and still is) “is that it!”…  I do understand that the begining does not comprise the message of the entire document but unfortunately the opening statement pretty much sums up the entire document. Thousands of powerful people, government representatives, the development set, the green bling brigade etc all met up in Rio to renew committment! We have been committed to sustainable development, poverty eradication, access to energy and safe drinking water for all etc etc etc…. for at least 20 years or so?

Could we not have had the same outcome if the key people had met up on skype, or via a conference call etc to renew “our” committment!, recognise what needs to be done, reaffirm other commitments and acknowledge that we have a problem? 

 But, as I said it’s just a thought, and there is no point in crying over spilt milk or wasted funds or a (rather large) carbon and ecological footprint.

Click here to link to the full the full text of the “The Future We Want“.

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RIO + 20: Worth The Effort ?

Rio+20 is upon us and I haven’t posted or put any real thought or effort into the Rio+20 excitement, despite the Rio + 20 summit being hailed as  a “wonderful, green and strategic” decision making moment for the world! Does this make me a bad “greenie” or put me in the box with people who don’t care about the planet or nature or the green economy or pandas….?

I can assure you that I am very concerned about the development path/ economic trajectory that we are on. This despite the assurances and re-assurance from multinationals, corporates and governments that;

  • sustainability and equity issues are being mainstreamed
  • business and government are working towards solutions for the pressing issues of sustainable and equitable development
  • We are in fact slowly transitioning to a greener economy

“Rome was not built-in a day” but how many more summits, conferences, COPs, protocols, accords agreements,laws etc do we need before we are able to see any real and tangible sustainable development?  The fact that these conferences and summits etc attract some of the worlds greatest development minds, authorities and governments that meet (over and over again) to try to sort out the various development challenges that we face should indicate that the processes that we use to address these development challenges may not be working? maybe it is time for something else?

This week, up to 100,000 people are streaming into Rio de Janeiro for the year’s biggest international event – the UN Conference on Sustainable Development to be held on 13-22 June. (M Khor)

With this in mind lets look at the a few issues that should be but will in all likelihood not be fully or adequately addressed or resolved at Rio+20;

  • Fossil fuel subsidies: do we really need to subsidise one the key things that is responsible for a great many of our environmental problems?
  • Emissions targets: who gets which piece of the pie?
  • Tipping points and pollution and the degradation of natural resources and landscapes: It is a well-known fact that we have to stop and redress  the pollution and degradation.
  • Equity and access to natural resources: Define fair, access and resource?
  • Green Economy: what is the definition? is this the silver bullet/ solution? or do we need something else
  • Food and resource security and scarcity: overconsumption, in efficient production methods etc
  • Full informed participation of affected stakeholders: better community participation: is it only government and business that know what is good for the rest of us?

What I am basically saying is that assurances of governments, the champagne environmentalists, the green-bling-brigade, the development set etc I am still not convinced that we are achieving much development impact by hosting  summits, sitting around and arguing the format of draft agreements and accords.

While I will keep my fingers (and toes) crossed for some exciting decsions and actions resulting from RIO+20, I will not hold my breath or drop what I am doing to follow the developments of the summit. We need to see action and change, not more meetings about meetings etc ….

Some additional reading should you be interested in other views on Rio+20:

Can Rio Solve the Worlds problems?  

Human Impacts Institute Article on Rio+20

Rio+20 Text Out of touch with reality

World Bank: Rio+20

Before its news: Rio+20

Durban Platform: COP17 ≠ Urgent Action.

“Negotiators have sent a clear message to the world’s hungry: let them eat carbon,”Celine Charveriat: Oxfam.

 The outcome of 16 days of fun in the sun for the politicians and celebs is pretty much what was expected. In case you haven’t heard the news:

  • A commitment was made by all countries to accept binding emission cuts by 2020. Governments now get more time to negotiate emissions cuts ??
  • A new climate fund will be set up
  • Carbon markets will be expanded and countries will be able to earn money by protecting forests.

On the topic of the outcome of COP17 Mr. Ban Ki Moon has stated that the outcome is “essential for stimulating greater action and for raising the level of ambition and the mobilization of resources to respond to the challenges of climate change.” Essentially, we haven’t committed to anything other than committing to binding emissions cuts in 8 years time. In the interim the emission cuts will be debated and agreed upon by the countries by 2015 and then implemented in 2020. What does this mean? It means we do not have binding emissions targets at the moment but we will hopefully have some by 2020 (keep your fingers crossed).

So I guess in a way we should be happy…. maybe even celebrate by popping some organic champers!!

Apparently, COP17 is the commitment that big business needs (it seems that they haven’t noticed all the changes and impacts caused by in climate change, extreme events, resource degradation and scarcity etc) to ensure that they stop green-washing and earnestly start the move towards low (er)-carbon technology and a greener economy.

“Delaying real action till 2020 is a crime of global proportions.” Nnimmo Bassey: Friends of the Earth International

What we need is action not agreements or more discussions in 2015 or words that simply make investors happy. While we fine tune the wording of the agreements and the emissions targets etc we will continue merrily along the path towards higher emissions, warming and increased climate risk and vulnerability. Has any thought been given to the impact of delaying action until 2020?

  • What impact does this have on the vulnerable populations in Africa, the small island states and coastal areas?
  • What does waiting until 2020 mean for the increasing global temperature? As it is current pledges for emissions reductions are not consistent with the 2C target required and the science is not matching the action, thus we are not effectively transitioning towards the low carbon path that we should/ need to be on by 2020.
  • The financial and social cost of climate change impacts is already growing… by waiting until 2020 we are just compounding the costs and the impacts? Or are we making sure that we implement the correct actions just a little too late?
  • In addition to this, according to Damian Carrington we also have “investors that are too nervous to put money into the old economy, yet too uncertain of the low-carbon commitment of politicians to put their money into the new economy.” So why the dependence on carbon markets that are directly linked to the old economy?

“The chance of averting catastrophic climate change is slipping through our hands with every passing year that nations fail to agree on a rescue plan for the planet.” Kumi Naido: Greenpeace International director  

 “The current pledges from countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions were not enough to hold global temperatures to 2C above pre-industrial levels, beyond which scientists say climate change becomes catastrophic and irreversible. Bob Ward: Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics

In conclusion; COP17 and the lack of action and commitment from politicians, eco-celebs and green-washers merely highlights the need for individual and community commitment and action to reduce emissions, environmental degradation and climate change vulnerability and risks. We cannot wait for the politicians, investors and big business to debate argue and fine tune the details of what needs to be done while flying around and attending more and more talk sessions that result in no tangible action.

Additional reading FYI:

Durban climate deal struck after tense all-night session

COP17: Decision

Ban welcomes climate change deal reached at UN conference in Durban 

What I Want For COP17 (& Christmas)

As I pack my bags to attend Conference of the Parties (COP) 17 (yes, I am attending, no, I will not be quaffing overpriced organic champagne with the amazing eco-celebs, financiers and politicians, as I am more of a worker bee type and will be working during COP17). I started thinking about what I would like to the outcome of COP17 to be.

Recently all one hears about in the media and COP related meetings are:

  • which politicians and celebs will be attending
  • what are the best side events to attend (heaven forbid i don’t get seen at the right event)
  • what events have you been invited to …(best make sure I get onto the rights lists! )
  • who to network with
  • do you have enough business cards…(hopefully printed on recycled paper)
  • the astronomical cost of flights and accomodation
  • who will be using public transport…. (will some people actually do this? )
  • where will you be staying
  • what will the weather be like
  • … blahblahblah.

One doesn’t really hear about the reality of climate change, the impacts that global temperature rise has as on vulnerable rural and coastal communities, what the impacts of having annual COPs have been or what the ideal outcome of this COP should be. Maybe its time someone did an evaluation of COP to determine if it is really helping with climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Reuters

I am getting ahead of myself… anyway….

I thought that maybe a some information the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the desired outcome of COP17 would be a good idea to refresh my memory and also provide a background to the negations that will be starting in Durban on 28 November 2011.

  • The UNFCCC entered into force in 1995. SInce 1995 the  Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC have been meeting annually to assess progress in dealing with climate change. The COP adopts successive decisions and resolutions  the aim of which is make up a detailed set of rules for practical and effective implementation of the Convention.
  • The COP serves as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which adopts decisions and resolutions on the implementation of its provisions.
  • The COP adopts decisions and resolutions, published in reports of the COP with the aim of making up a detailed set of rules for practical and effective implementation of the Convention.
  • Parties to the Convention that are not Parties to the Protocol are able to participate in the CMP as observers, but without the right to take decisions.
  • South Africa (SA) will be hosting the 17th COP in Durban.
  • as the host SA holds the responsibility of being the incoming COP leadership, “this is a strategic and important task as SA will be required to coordinate and steer the COP17 process towards the reaching of an agreement.” (KZN: Department of Environmental Affairs, 2011) 
I hope at COP 17 that we do not experience a repeat of events of previous COPs with lots of talk and very few concrete actions taken that will reduce and mitigate climate change risks and vulnerabilities. Currently the politics around climate change is not aligned with the scientific evidence. this is primarily due to a lack of political will and, in my opinion, due to much emphasis being placed on “low hanging fruit” and greenwashing. despite the signs of climate change and environmental degradation we still have countries (Japan, Russia, Canada and the US) that are not willing to commit to a 2nd commitment period.
Given the history of the UNFCC COPs a good outcome would be something along the following lines:
  • An agreement that is inclusive, fair, effective and legally binding and that  operationalizes the agreements reached at Cancun while also enabling a 2nd commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol.
  • A 2nd commitment period that takes forward the issues of climate change, climate resilience, climate adaptation and also enables equitable growth and development.
  • Indications/ actions relating to the implementation of a 3rd commitment period(2018) that is also a legally binding agreement for all parties.
  • A Green Climate Fund. One that actually contains funds as opposed to one that will one day have funds.
  • An adaptation committee aimed at assisting Africa, the less developed countries and the small island states.
  • The determination of a Global Peak Year of 2015 and a 2050 greenhouse gas reduction target of 80%.
  • The protection of biodiversity and forest ecosystems.
I guess I should just get used to not getting what I want!
Do you think COP17 will help us move towards a safer and more sustainable world… or do you think it is an opportunity for politicians and eco-celebs to have their egos stroked while they pretend to be working for the greater good? take poll and give us your thoughts! 

Some COP17 links:

COP 17 – Going nowhere slowly

Durban COP17 

Greenpeace and COP