Rio+20: Leaders round on summit process as frustration grows (21 June)

By John Parnell
RioPlus Business in Rio

Leading figures including Jeffrey Sachs (picture right) have criticised the lack of progress

Leading figures including special advisor to Ban Ki-moon Professor Jeffrey Sachs, have criticized the lack of progress made by the UN-led processes on climate change, biodiversity and desertification.

The three UN conventions to tackle these issues celebrate their 20th birthday today at the Rio+20 summit under the shadow of a faltering negotiations process across a range of sustainable development issues.

“The three original Rio treaties on climate change, biodiversity and desertification have not turned the needle one bit on any of these issues,” said Sachs. “They have failed because of the implementation, the treaties themselves are good.”

Sachs also bemoaned the lack of US leadership.

“US politicians are afraid to write legislation on de-carbonising economy as it will become hostage to short-term political interests. We’ve wasted 20 years since the last Rio summit. Lets hope we have no shortcuts and no phony solutions at Rio+20.”

Neil Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer at the BT Group said that business could fill this leadership vacuum.

“I think Rio+20 highlights the failure of summits to provide an adequate platform to drive systemic change forward. For 40 years since Stockholm we’re looking back and only seeing Montreal and Kyoto as the two successes. If we keep going at that rate, you can pick any of the stats you like, it’s not going to be a pleasant future for any of us,” said Dunne.

“We can no longer depend on [summits] to deliver the answers. We need to develop coalitions of the willing to work in the in the intervening periods between these conferences. Business has to play a larger role, ultimately it’s the delivery vehicle. The talks have to stop being parallel with business over here, governments over there.”

Christiana Figueres, Executive secretary of the UNFCCC yesterday added her own voice to the swelling chorus of discontent with the process.

“I’m suffering from ADD, Action Deficit Disorder,” she told a panel in the Rio Conventions Pavilion.

This morning’s main plenary session began with Ban Ki-moon telling a briefing of the Major Groups – icluding NGOs, Youth and Business – that ministers may be asked to bolster what he called “a good but weak text”.


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