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Food for Thought UNFCCC 2009, Rio+20

by Felix Dodds Executive Director Stakeholder Forum
December 10th 2009 in Outreach

This week the United Nations General Assembly agreed to the G77 and China resolution calling for a new ‘Earth Summit’ in 2012. While preparations for Copenhagen have been  taking most people’s attention, energy and it seems at times lifeblood something else has been taking place.

In September 2007 President Lula of Brazil in his speech to the UN General Assembly called for a new Earth Summit in 2012 to address the critical issues that have developed since 2002 and that Brazil would be prepared to host such a Summit.

In September 2008 the G77 and China endorsed Brazils call and on the 4th of November tabled a resolution in the UN GA calling for a Summit. A week later stakeholders and governments and intergovernmental bodies discussed the idea in San Sebastian in Spain and put forward some suggestions for the Summit.

Developed countries were not ready in 2008 to commit to a new Earth Summit but during 2009 they did come onboard helped by the suggested focus of the Summit put forward by Brazil. This was putting the green economy issue as the major focus perhaps reflecting the recognition that the present financial crisis is likely to be the first of many if the economies of the world are not refocused in a green direction.  The second area they suggested was to review what had been achieved and to look at what the roadblocks had been. The third was a focus on sustainable development governance so not just reform of UNEP but possible also a review of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development and other bodies dealing with sustainable development. Finally they suggested water.

What has been unique about the discussion round Rio+20 has been the leadership role that developing countries led by Brazil have taken. All the other Summits in this area: Stockholm, Rio and Johannesburg were initiated by the developed countries. This is the first initiated by the developing countries. Not only that but they have put the transformation of the economy to a green one as the centre discourse.

The General Assembly resolution adopted this week looks very much like those early suggestions from Brazil, the four areas adopted for the Summit are: the Green Economy, a review, sustainable development governance and emerging issues.

Having the green economy at the centre of the discussion does enable for the first time an opportunity to bring back together the chapters of agenda 21 and the JPoI into a more coherent and impacting discussion. What it also does is enable the climate change discourse to be seen as only part of what we need to address, albeit an important part. Changing the economy into a green one will not be easy, particularly as it is an undefined term but it will be much more fruitful than carrying on working in silos which is where we have mostly ended up 40 years from Stockholm, Twenty years from Rio and ten years from Johannesburg. It also allows a positive space for innovation and creativity...more the ‘Spirit of Rio’.

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