Friday, June 22, 2012

Rio+20 Finally Phones It In

Here's the first sentence of the "final" press release I received this morning from the United Nations Environment Programe:
Rio de Janeiro, 22 June 2012—The Rio+ 20 Summit ended today with a range of outcomes which, if embraced over the coming months and years, offer the opportunity to catalyze pathways towards a more sustainable 21st century.
In other words: they did a lot of things, and if they keep doing them maybe something can get done. Now there's a bold declaration for you.

Did anyone consider a release that simply stated the truth: "Rio de Janeiro, 22 June 2012 -- Nothing got done here, because the big players on the world stage oppose all actions to mitigate climate change and protect the environment. And we think that's a big problem."

The actual UNEP press release continues:
Heads of State and more than 190 nations gave the green light to a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Nations agreed that such a transition could be ‘an important tool’ when supported by policies that encourage decent employment, social welfare and inclusion and the maintenance of the Earth’s ecosystems from forests to freshwaters.

The decision supports nations wishing to forge ahead with a green economy transition while providing developing economies with the opportunity for access to international support in terms of finance and capacity building.
There's a great phrase: "nations wishing to forge ahead...." Actually moving ahead, though, seems completely optional.

Further down is a sentence braided with so much beautiful bureaucratese that it was clearly intended to be the exact opposite of a simple worded statement of what the conference actually did:
“Several other important agreements were also forged that can assist in enabling that transition ranging from assessing the potential of a new indicator of wealth and human progress beyond the narrowness of GDP to increasing the level of accountability and transparency of companies in respect to reporting their environmental, social and governance footprints.”

-- Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director
At least Steiner added this:
“The outcome of Rio+20 will disappoint and frustrate many given the science, the day to day reality of often simply surviving as individuals and as families, the analysis of where development is currently heading for seven billion people and the inordinate opportunity for a different trajectory. However if nations, companies, cities and communities can move forward on the positive elements of the Summit’s outcome it may assist in one day realizing the Future We Want."
Someday students of international law and diplomacy will study this conference as a lesson in sterility. Textbooks are probably being updated right now.

1 comment:

John Fleck said...

I just received, in the mail, the World Bank's glossy 52-page Rio+20 sustainability magazine. It was addressed to a reporter who has not worked at the newspaper in 20 years. So yes, "phoning it in" seems about right.