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The Guardian: Rio+20: the Earth Summit diaries, Thursday 21 June
From Rio de Janeiro, Jo Confino provides behind the scenes insight of all that's going on from a business perspective at the Earth Summit
The Rio+20 we don't want
Thursday June 21 15.45
A group of civil society organisations has written a letter to the UN and Rio +20 delegates outlining their opposition to the outline agreement. Here is what it says:
The Future We Want is not to be found in the document that bears this name.
The Future We Want is not what resulted from the Rio +20 negotiation process.
Rio+20: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff during the Opening Ceremony of the Brazilian Pavilion. Photograph: Buda Mendes/Getty Images
The future that we want has commitment and action, not just promises. It has the urgency needed to reverse the social, environmental and economic crisis, not postpone it. It has cooperation and is in tune with civil society and its aspirations, and not just the comfortable position of governments.
None of these can be found in the 283 paragraphs of the official document that will be the legacy of this Conference. The document entitled The Future We Want is mediocre and falls far short of the spirit and the advances made over the years since Rio-92. It even falls far short of the importance and urgency of the issues addressed. Fragile and generic agendas for future negotiations do not guarantee results.
Rio +20 will go into History as the UN conference that offered global society an outcome marked by serious omissions. It endangers the preservation and social and environmental resilience of the planet, as well as any guarantee of acquired human rights for present and future generations.
For all these reasons, we, as many civil society groups and individuals, register our profound disappointment with the heads of State, under whose guidance and orders the negotiators worked, and we state that we do not condone or endorse this document.
Five point sustainable development action plan from Friends of the Earth
Thursday June 21 15.00
Rather than just complaining about the "woefully inadequate" Rio +20 final text, Friends of the Earth has come up with a five point action plan for the UK government to follow if it is serious about addressing sustainable development.
I've also asked them to write a short piece on how corporate vested interests got the upper hand in the draft text negotiations. I will post that as soon as I receive it.
Anyway, here is the plan:
• Commit to a Bee Action Plan to protect dwindling bee numbers and safeguard an indispensable pollinator of UK food crops. Research commissioned by Friends of the Earth earlier this year revealed it would cost the UK £1.8 billion every year to hand-pollinate food crops without bees.
• Ensure the UK's electricity market is carbon-free by 2030 by investing in clean British energy from the sun, wind and water. Reducing our reliance on dirty and expensive fossil fuels and slashing energy waste will also help protect households from soaring fuel bills caused mainly by the rocketing price of gas.
• Agree to end fossil fuel subsidies. Governments across the world are handing over almost a hundred billion dollars of tax payers' money every year to the oil, coal and gas industries.
• Enable the Green Investment Bank to borrow and lend money from next year in order to kick start a clean economy and create tens of thousands of jobs.
• Limit the costs in the UK courts of fighting environmental cases to enable communities affected by environmental problems, such as air or water pollution, to bring legal action without significant financial risk.
Why the Green Economy Coalition does not believe Rio +20 is an abject failure
Thursday June 21 11.45
Oliver Greenfield, the convenor of the Green Economy Coalition, offers a contrary position to the view of the majority of NGOs that Rio +20 has been an abject failure. Here's what he has to say:
"Rio +20 is it a failure or a success? One thousand NGOs, institutions and individuals have signed a petition calling it "The Future We Don't Want" – citing failures on removing fossil fuel subsidies, failure to protect oceans, failures to address women's reproduction health.
Against this groundswell it is difficult for any civil society to say anything different. There are many failings, the ones above, the lack of dates, urgency. But the green economy idea has not died, and to quote the Venezuelan delegation during the final text release: "Green economy has changed from something that is being imposed, to something we own."
"We have a mandate, albeit weak, for many of the things we wanted. We have commitment to the sustainable development goals, to strengthening UNEP, to encourage corporate sustainability reporting, develop beyond GDP, adopt the 10 year programme on sustainable consumption and production, some signals on energy, and the bolstering of science in policy making. At first reading this is probably graded a C-, but it is definitely not a F.
"There three other important points to make. To deliver multilateralism we need a strong UN, and events that world leaders feel compelled to attend. Always seeing the glass half empty (or completely empty) does damage to future chances of success. Secondly, we have seen a geopolitical shift, not in economic power, but in leadership. The stars of the show have been Brazil and Colombia. The absence of leadership with power is perhaps why we got less than we need but more than we expected.
"So Rio + 20 has been a stepping stone, not a turning point. We are closer to coherence but the bigger battles lay ahead. The vision of a new economy has been born here. We will work to ensure that it grows up fast."
Puma chairman Jochen Zeitz says Arctic exploitation the Mount Everest of unsustainable development
Thursday June 21 10.40
I have just managed to track down Jochen Zeitz, the chairman of Puma and chief sustainability officer at luxury products group PPR, to ask him why he signed up to the campaign Greenpeace launched today to prevent exploitation of the Arctic.
It needs no commentary so here it is: "As a private individual and businessman, this campaign is fundamental. I abhor that businesses want to use and destroy the environment and use the effects of such as an opportunity for more business and thus more destruction.
"To me it looks like the Mount Everest of unsustainable development. Instead of coming up with good, clean and green new technologies to help protect and restore our planet. And hence our basis for long-term survival for future generations. There has got to be a limit."
If other business leaders are looking to have a lesson in leadership, you've just had it!
Even progressive businesses are living in La-La land
Thursday June 21 09.00
I wanted to highlight comments from Manish Bapna, interim president of the highly respected World Resources Institute, a US based environmental think tank, who had some harsh words to say about how business is living in La-La land.
Remember when you read what he has to say, that he is referring to the 1,000 plus most progressive companies in the world; in other words the ones who actually came to Rio +20.
"At several events this week, businesses at Rio were unable to grasp the fundamental recognition that the planet is on an unsustainable course and the window for action is closing. We were disappointed to find that most of the talk seemed to restate the basics, but failed to produce transformational ideas about how we can shift course in time. One notable exception was the Natural Capital Leadership Compact signed by 15 global companies, which urged action to properly value and maintain the Earth's natural capital."
He also launches a thinly disguised attack on the oil companies for putting their own selfish interests ahead of the survival of civilisation.
"Strong interests are holding back progress on many key issues," he says. "These include some governments, businesses, and others with vested interests that prefer to hang on to the status quo rather than advance change in the world. This was most clear earlier this week when world leaders failed to respond to the groundswell of voices that pushed to cut global fossil fuel subsidies."
It's not just business that gets it in the neck. On the final negotiated text, he says: "Almost across the board, the document is much too soft and vague to solve today's sustainability challenges. Much of the text is merely a reaffirmation of previous agreements or worse, a regression from those agreements.
"That said, we've believed all along that the more groundbreaking action at Rio+20 would be outside of the formal process. Certainly, after attending many side events and informal meetings this week, I've come across numerous examples of civil society organizations, entrepreneurs, companies, and others who are moving forward with innovative approaches to address sustainability. Perhaps more importantly, outside of Rio, many national and local governments are genuinely pushing ahead on sustainability in exciting ways."
Why Puma chairman Jochen Zeitz is unlikely to be invited to the Shell Christmas party
Thursday June 21 08.00
Question: What do Sir Paul McCartney, Penelope Cruz, One Direction, Jarvis Cocker and Puma chairman Jochen Zeitz all have in common?
Answer: They have all signed up to Greenpeace's campaign to save the Arctic.
We are used to seeing film stars and musicians put their names to public NGO campaigns before but is is very unusual for a traditional business leader to do so.
The only other businessman out of the dozens of famous people to call for a global sanctuary in the Arctic is Richard Branson, but he he is more superstar than corporate executive so for that reason he does not count.
Zeitz and others have joined forces with Greenpeace to demand that oil drilling and unsustainable fishing are banned in Arctic waters.
What this actually means is that a senior business leader has decided to speak out against his counterparts in the oil and gas sector. So that's him struck off Shell's Christmas party invite. We need more people like Zeitz to take a public stand.
They are among the first one hundred names to be written on an Arctic Scroll, which is launched by Greenpeace today at the Rio Earth Summit. When a million others add their own names Greenpeace will embark on an expedition to plant it on the seabed at the North Pole, four kilometres beneath the ice. The spot will be marked by a Flag for the Future designed by the youth of the world.
Anybody in the world can add their name to the Arctic Scroll and have their name planted beneath the pole by visiting www.SaveTheArctic.org.
When I met up the other day with Kumi Naidoo, who heads up Greenpeace International, he talked about the utter wrecklessness of the oil comapnies' Artic plans.
"This gives a sense of the madness of what is happening because it is so typical of the problem we are in," he told me. "Rather than seeing the melting of the Arctic sea ice in the summer months as a warning sign that this is real and we need to address it, we allow a handful of corporations to go in now and see what they can extract."
Posted By David Robeck at 10:23am on June 21, 2012
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