The State Of Play In Rio: Draft Agreement Sparks ‘Alarm And Concern’

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"The State Of Play In Rio: Draft Agreement Sparks ‘Alarm And Concern’"

What will history say about Brazil's job hosting the Rio+20 summit? Photo: Stephen Lacey

World leaders are set to convene at the Rio+20 Earth Summit tomorrow to begin high-level negotiations on a global sustainability framework. But if the reaction from civil society groups to the draft text is any indication, the negotiations will be all style and very little substance.

After working through the night on Monday, international negotiators agreed on a framework for “sustainable development goals” that could help guide a wide-range of policies on issues like poverty eradication, clean energy deployment, sustainable cities, and fisheries management. But with very few specifics on how to actually implement these sustainability goals, the text has angered almost every single civil society group observing the negotiations.

“The overall response from the NGO community to the negotiations is one of alarm and concern,” said Jeffrey Huffines, a representative for Non-Governmental Organizations to the United Nations. “Our concern is that the means of implementation are not clearly articulated.”

In other words, there’s very little in the text that would get us from here to there.

Civil society groups are expressing concern about almost every issue in the draft agreement. Leaders representing labor, agriculture, women’s rights, science & technology, local governments, and indigenous peoples all raised serious concerns today about the watered down text.

“There are a some things that are strengthened like the role of social protection and the mention of green jobs. But the document is not really ambitious in terms of implementation,” said Annabel Rosemberg, the Environment Coordinator with the International Trade Union Confederation.”

“We are deeply disappointed,” said Gita Sen, a founding member of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era. Sen lamented that much of the language on women’s rights had been stripped from the text, calling it a “war on the human rights of women.”

“There’s a lack of detail,” said Andre Leu, President of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. “But for us, the document is a starting point for what happens afterward.”

The text might be a start for some. But with almost every portion of the document watered down to be politically acceptable, most civil society groups fear that it does very little to establish any concrete end goals.

Even the UN’s hallmark program for addressing energy poverty, Sustainable Energy For All, has taken a hit. The initiative, which would require roughly $50 billion in public and private-sector commitments per year, was designed to eradicate energy poverty by 2030. However, the new text gives countries plenty of room to wiggle out of any commitments:

We note the launching of the initiative by the Secretary General on “Sustainable Energy for All”, which focus on access to energy, energy efficiency and renewable energies. We are all determined to act to make sustainable energy for all a reality, and through this, help eradicate poverty and lead to sustainable development and global prosperity. We recognize that countries’ activities in broader energy-related issues are of great importance and are prioritized according to their specific challenges, capacities and circumstances, including energy mix.

Compare that to the old working text from June 2nd, which created a road map for a multilateral process to actually realize the program’s goals:

Energy 5. We [note / support –RoK / welcome -EU] [with appreciation –EU delete] the Secretary General’s “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative and its aspirational goals of ensuring universal access to modern energy services by 2030; doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030; and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030. We recognize [the importance of the mobilization and timely delivery of domestic and international financial resources / that resources will be necessary – US] to achieve these results [, particularly through enabling environments that unlock private sector investments -US]. We encourage voluntary follow-up efforts to coordinate and to catalyse public-private partnerships and to track progress towards its three goals and, in this regard, we encourage States and relevant stakeholders, including the private sector, to conduct, as appropriate, collaborative international research and capacity development [based on a roadmap to be developed through a multilateral process, involving all stakeholders – Kazakhstan]. [G77 delete entire paragraph; Norway retain]

Ironically, today was deemed “Energy Day” at Rio+20 in support of the UN’s program to expand energy access to the 1.5 billion people without modern electricity services. And 2012 was declared the “year of sustainable energy for all.”

There are at least two “winners” in the text, however. The first is the UN Environment Program, which is explicitly strengthened as the international authority on environmental matters. The second are agreements related to fisheries management, coastal erosion, and marine ecosystems protection — all of which were addressed in more concrete language.

Given the lack of substance in the final document, there aren’t many happy people at Rio at the moment. When world leaders come to the summit tomorrow, they descend upon a crowd of stakeholders upset that the negotiations have resulted in everything they feared — more hollow promises and very little commitment to action.

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23 Responses to The State Of Play In Rio: Draft Agreement Sparks ‘Alarm And Concern’

  1. M Tucker says:

    “sustainable development goals” that could help guide a wide-range of policies on issues like poverty eradication, clean energy deployment, sustainable cities, and fisheries management. But with very few specifics on how to actually implement these sustainability goals”

    Exactly! A lack of specifics on implementation is why nothing meaningful has been done. To actually do something to solve the sustainability crisis we must take action. All the ‘negotiators’ could have stayed home, emailed in their ideas, and saved all that GHG pollution for the joy ride to Rio.

    Let’s have sustainable cities but, but since sustainable agriculture is too hard to negotiate, forget about food.

    Let’s have sustainable fisheries but, since ending GHG emissions seems to be impossible, ignore ocean acidification.

    Another ‘brave’ call to end poverty without a strategy for implementation…just look at the long history of the UN calling for an end to poverty…been going on as long as the call for peace in the Middle-East. So far both seem to be impossible for humans to accomplish.

    Clean, sustainable energy for all! Does that mean solar panels for Mozambique farmers?

    Another complete waste of time.

    Oh, wait, I forgot about the winners:
    “There are at least two “winners” in the text, however. The first is the UN Environment Program, which is explicitly strengthened as the international authority on environmental matters. The second are agreements related to fisheries management, coastal erosion, and marine ecosystems protection — all of which were addressed in more concrete language.”

    Well, of course a UN program would come out a winner. Too bad the Environment Program has absolutely no influence on what man does to the environment…just a name on a door.

    Happy to hear about the management agreement to protect fisheries, coastal erosion and marine ecosystems. Is it sustainable if we continue to allow CO2 concentrations to grow without bound? I wish they would just drop sustainable from their title…they are doing nothing to ensure sustainability.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      The reason the UN has been ineffective is US intransigence. The US runs a global empire of Full Spectrum Dominance that the US ruling class intend to make perpetual. Nothing good will come of the UN until the veto is abolished and its headquarters are moved to Switzerland or Bhutan.

  2. Derek says:

    Surprise, surprise.

  3. wili says:

    I cited this on another thread, but it is more relevant here:

    http://sei-international.org/-news-archive/2404

    “Not enough time to conquer poverty
    This is why access to adequate financial and technological resources is crucial, Kartha said: because many countries are going to have to start reducing emissions well before they have lifted their people out of poverty or built necessary infrastructure – much less reached developed-country living standards.

    For example, Kartha said, by the 2015 – 2025 time period when their emissions must peak, India and Indonesia are projected to have incomes level of about $5,000 per person (in purchasing power parity terms), the same as the USA in the 1890s.

    In that period, Kartha noted, the USA was rapidly modernising and increasing its CO2 emissions by 6 to 7 per cent per year. “At this same level of income, India, Indonesia and other developing countries will need to be doing exactly the opposite, decarbonising rapidly, and forgoing fossil-fuel driven development as the route out of poverty.”

    That is the fundamental challenge of equity, Kartha said.”

    We have now waited too long to be able to fully address both AGW and world poverty.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Of course we could address poverty and ecological destruction. All that is needed is massive wealth redistribution, within and between nations, from the kleptocrats to the poor. However, as the global thief class treasure their loot very much more than the lives of billions of ‘useless eaters’, in their parlance, we are going to get increasing poverty, suffering and ecological destruction, until the masses rise in revolt, and then it will get messy.

      • If we leave the current “one dollar equals one vote” economic system in place then no matter how equitably resources are distributed or re distributed, the “gravitational force” will quickly move to a sharply unequal ‘pyramid’ distribution of wealth and power.

        We need to change the economic system too, for that reason alone.

        Other reasons that we all know well include that the current system is based on and insists on perpetual exponential growth forever..and then we’re suprised that leaders who are bound to this system in so many ways, can’t put much (if any) binding teeth on cuts to consumption upon which this exponential growth to a large extent depends?

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          One of the central abominations of the omnicidal economic system under which we languish is the cult, the pseudo-religion in fact, of ‘The Market’. According to this cult, The Market can do no wrong and is, in fact, Infallible. The crude relation of this deranged belief to religious superstition hardly needs stating. After The Market religion imploded nastily, as long predicted by numerous Marxian and even Keynesian economists and economic historians(the ‘no-one saw it coming’ bulldust is deeply cretinous and mendacious)we heard the hitherto anathematised expression ‘market failure’ uttered from time to time, but that apostasy is now being purged, as trillions of tax-pater dollars revive the blood-suckers’ ‘animal spirits’.
          By ‘The Market’ the neo-liberal dullards, agit-prop peddlers and general intellectual dregs mean the Money Power of the rich. The laws of supply and demand and the ‘Invisible Hand’ of bumpkin Adam Smith worship are perverted by the weight of wealth as surely as space-time is distorted by a black-hole or neutron star. Radically unequal societies are not just unjust, unfair and morally and spiritually pernicious, they are radically inefficient, despite plutocrat propaganda to the opposite effect. The central cause of the current economic stasis in the USA is the loss of purchasing power by an immiserated populace mired in debt, with median household wealth 40% down in five years and median wages less than forty years ago. And all that the bloodsucking ruling pathocrats can offer is union-busting, lower wages and wealth transfer to the elite, because they cannot help themselves. Their greed and their hatred and contempt for other human beings and the natural world are infinite and any society where they rule must destroy itself. Now that’s an Iron Law if ever I’ve seen one.

  4. D. R. Tucker says:

    Senator John Kerry Speaks the Scary, Ugly Truth on Climate Change

    http://desmogblog.com/senator-john-kerry-speaks-scary-ugly-truth-climate-change

  5. David Goldstein says:

    let’s really face it- the powers that be are simply not going to agree on substantive rollbacks to fossil fuel emissions or fossil fuel production- NO HOW, NO WAY – until the pain of massive crop failures, massive heat deaths, massive flooding AGAIN AND AGAIN make it unavoidably clear to the ‘nth’ exponential degree that the very existence of our economic and social institutions are in peril. We shall see then if it is too late to do anything about it. Agreed? (p.s.- I am not saying to capitulate and stop fighting ‘the good fight’- just saying that this is the writing on the wall)

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.

      • Joe Romm says:

        The moving (mumbling?) finger writes, and having writ, moves on!

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          ‘..nor all Thy Piety nor Wit, Shall lure it back to cancel half a line, Nor all Thy tears wash out a Word of it’.

      • John McCormick says:

        For the benefit of those us who did not know the interpretation:

        “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” and explained it to mean that God had “numbered” the kingdom of Belshazzar and brought it to an end; that the king had been weighed and found wanting; and that his kingdom was divided and given to the Medes and Persians (Dan. v. 1-28).

    • “the powers that be are simply not going to agree on substantive rollbacks to fossil fuel emission…until the pain of massive..that the very existence of our economic and social institutions are in peril.”

      You correctly ask “will be it be too late by then” but there’s another equally important question: even if it’s not “too late” for this or that ecological issue, it STILL isn’t enough that they act, because if we leave the system in place, they will act in ways which (at best) might aleviate one aspect, but do so in ways that harm other parts of the environment, or people, or (most likely) both.

      If we leave the current “one dollar equals one vote” economic system in place, other horrors await, in any case…the current system is
      based on and insists on perpetual exponential growth forever..and then
      we’re suprised that leaders who are bound to this system in so many ways, can’t put much (if any) binding teeth on cuts to consumption
      upon which this exponential growth to a large extent depends.

      It takes decades to change an economic system, so we’d better start “yesterday” or second best, today…otherwise 100 other things besides climate will be massively assaulted.

      Thought experiement: if under the current economic system someone invents a magic technology that costs 1 cent per person and that device gives you (in harmony with environment) all the food and water and shelter you need..then the current economic system will (A) allow for an end to hunger and homelessness and wars and poverty (B) “He-ll no, gotta keep consumers spending, spending, spenting, and got to have an army of desperate workers”

  6. Spike says:

    Meanwhile the Earth continues to change as we do nothing. Bad new from the Arctic again today

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-06/uog-ilo061812.php

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      So, what is the answer. Are the global ruling pathocrats ignorant, and their scientific advisers not doing their job, which must by now include resigning in protes? Are they stupid, and just incapable, intellectually, of understanding the catastrophe? Are they morally insane, and simply do not care what happens after they are dead, even to their own children? Or are they simply cowards, without the guts to stand up for humanity against the genocidal thugs of the Right?

  7. M Tucker says:

    The answer is we must change everything. Revolutionize electrical production in all the industrialized nations, ensure that the newly industrialized nations follow suit and the third world nations adopt the new technology. None of that will be cheap and the industrialized nations will need to economically support the poorer nations in this effort. Swap out hundreds of millions of fossil fuel guzzling personal vehicles all over the world for electric. Change over commercial transportation (land, sea and air) for some kind of carbon neutral fuel or some new technology. And it really has to be carbon neutral not like corn ethanol. Find a way to eliminate GHG production from agriculture…probably impossible that is why no one is even discussing it. Find a way to increase agricultural production 50% over the next 40 years while, at the same time, converting a sizable portion of existing farm land back to rainforest or savanna, again probably impossible since most only want to increase farm land. Find a way to eliminate all release of fossil fuel emissions from the massive production of ethylene that the world depends on. Find a substitute fuel or technology for all mining operations. Find a substitute fuel or technology to allow the mighty militaries of the world to become carbon neutral. All substitutes must be cheap and all these transitions must happen in the next 30 to 40 years.

    As long as we continue to pump GHG into the atmosphere we will not solve the problem. We cannot reduce CO2 concentrations as long as civilization continues to pump out CO2. Reducing emissions only slow the increase. It is a much more daunting problem than putting a man on the moon and the scale of the effort dwarfs the effort expended to wage WWII by both sides. The many and varied stakeholders involved have very strong reasons not to change or to delay change for as long as they can, so no one is in a hurry to tackle this enormous task. No plan exists. No timeline exists. Just arm waving, dire warnings, flippant dismissal of facts, and protracted inaction.

    I agree with David Goldstein, nothing will happen until the pain of inaction becomes intolerable. The sad thing is mankind is capable of living with intolerable conditions for a long time before any meaningful action to remedy the situation begins.

    • Even when something *is* done about it, that’s not the end of the story.

      The same economic system that allows (indeed, almost ‘forces’) leaders to let these catastrophes happen, will mean that even if/when they’re *forced* to act, the actions may be as harmful as they are helpful.

      They’ll give us “solutions” of geo-engineering, that help in one area and hurt or have huge risks in other areas, and “solutions” that ask the poor to pay far more than their fair share and the rich expected to pay far less..and that’s even if we’re lucky enough to have solutions that actually might possibly make things better, never mind if we’re unlucky and the solutions that make it worse in most aspects of the environment.

      It’s the economic system, stubborn! (not stupid, just too stubborn to admit it, most of us are..)

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        Exactly! If we leave it to ‘The Market’ (All Praise to The Market!!)we will fail. The capitalists cannot change their spots. Whatever ‘solutions’ they and their hired stooges in politics come up with will be about their advantage and securing it and deepening it. They will not act unless they profit from it, preferably at others’ expense. The real secret of human destructiveness, the real root of the capitalist death-cult that ceaselessly strives to turn all that is living and diverse into the dead stuff of money, lies in human pathopsychology, and the rise of the psychopaths and their religion, capitalism. We know from numerous psychological studies that business leaders are overwhelmingly psychopathic, displaying all the traits, the arrogance, egotism, unscrupulousness, assertion, deviousness, manipulativeness of the class predatory type, and have little or no compassion, human empathy and concern for the fate of others. As long as this type rules the planet we have absolutely no chance of avoiding disaster.

    • colinc says:

      You mean we need to shift our paradigm, modus operandi, way-of-thinking-about-the-world, cultural perspective, stop wanting more… Admirable sentiments about highly improbable changes?!

  8. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    When the rabble, bearing torches and pitchforks gather outside the gates of the city demanding that something be done about the monster…