Rio+20: Agreement reached, say diplomats

Activists lie on Rio Branco in Rio de Janeiro Environmental groups have already lamented the draft text's lack of commitments

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Negotiators have agreed a text to be approved by world leaders meeting this week in Rio in a summit intended to put society on a more sustainable path.

Environment groups and charities working on poverty issues believe the agreement is far too weak.

The Rio+20 gathering comes 20 years after the Earth Summit, also held in the Brazilian city.

The text has yet to be signed off by heads of government and ministers, but it seems that no changes will be made.

"We have reached the best possible equilibrium at this point; I think we have a very good outcome," said Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota.

"We consider that the spirit of Rio has been kept alive after 20 years."

However, the European Union was unhappy with the level of ambition in the text, in particular Denmark, which holds the EU presidency.

But Danish Environment Minister Ida Auken told BBC News that she believed it would be signed off.

"The EU would have liked to see a much more concrete and ambitious outcome, so in that respect I'm not happy with it," she said.

"However we managed to get the green economy on the agenda, and so I think we have a strong foundation for this vision that can drive civil society and the private sector to work in the same direction, to understand that environment and the social side must be integrated into the heart of the economy."

For the US, lead negotiator Todd Stern described the deal as "a good step forward", adding that he did not expect heads of state and government to re-open discussions.

"I believe this document is done," he said pointing out that Brazil has "no plan or intention to let the document open up."


Environment and development groups are dismayed by many aspects of the agreement.

Rio+20 building More than 100 leaders are expected to attend the summit from Wednesday

In large part, it merely "reaffirms" commitments nations have made previously.

Activists mounted a huge Twitter campaign on Monday in an attempt to persuade governments to commit to ending fossil fuel subsidies.

However the final text reaffirms previous commitments to phase them out if they are "harmful and inefficient", without setting a date.

The text calls for "urgent action" on unsustainable production and consumption, but it gives no detail or a timetable on how this can be achieved, and no clear direction as to how the world economy can be put on a greener path.

Developing countries might have agreed to go further it developed countries had offered tangible financial support, but it did not do so.

Several processes will be established leading from the summit. One will eventually establish sustainable development goals (SDGs), but there is nothing in the agreement on what they might promise.

Start Quote

This damp squib of a draft negotiating text makes it clear the Rio talks lack the firepower needed to solve the global emergency we're facing”

End Quote Craig Bennett Director of policy and campaigns, Friends of the Earth

The UK's environment minister, Caroline Spelman, praised the deal on SDGs as a "good outcome".

"We have backed SDGs from the outset and helped drive them from a good idea to a new agreement that will elevate sustainability to the top of the agenda."

The UN Environment Programme will be strengthened, but not fundamentally reshaped, as some governments, in particular the French and Kenyans, wanted.

Another process will eventually lead to new protection for the open oceans, including the establishment of marine protected areas in international waters, and stronger action to prevent illegal fishing.

Corporations will not be obliged to measure their environmental and social performance. They are merely invited to do so.

Missed opportunity?

Overall, observers here, as well as some government delegates, felt the world community has missed an opportunity to change the world's development track.

"This damp squib of a draft negotiating text makes it clear the Rio talks lack the firepower needed to solve the global emergency we're facing," said Friends of the Earth's director of policy and campaigns, Craig Bennett, in Rio.

"Developed countries have repeatedly failed to live safely within our planet's limits. Now they must wake up to the fact that until we fix our broken economic system we're just papering over the ever-widening cracks."

More than 100 world leaders are expected in Rio from Wednesday to attend the summit.

They include presidents and prime ministers from the large emerging economies, including China, India, Indonesia and South Africa.

But US President Barack Obama will not be there, and neither will UK Prime Minister David Cameron or German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who are all sending ministers in their places.

  • What is the Rio summit about?
Population chatrt
  • The Rio summit will focus on efforts to reduce poverty, while protecting the environment. This task is made harder as the world's population is expected to rise steeply in the years ahead.
  • The planet's population could be 15 billion people by 2100. Wealth is also expected to rise but its effect on the environment is unclear.
  • In the past, more people, with more wealth has meant increased consumption.
  • Since the last Rio summit in 1992, the
    number of people on Earth has gone up by
  • 22%
  • Seafood consumption has gone up by
  • Meat by
  • The average person eats 43 kg of meat a year. In 1992 it was 34 kg.
  • Source: UNEP, 2011. Figures relate to 2007
  • While food consumption is rising, there are still large numbers of people who are undernourished.
  • It is one of the UN's many development goals to halve the number of people who suffer from hunger by 2015.
  • How able is the planet to meet increasing demand?
  • In 1960, a little over half the planet's land, forests and
    fisheries were needed to meet human consumption.
  • By the late 1970s, consumption was equal to one planet.
  • By the first years of this century, one-and-a-half planets
    were needed to meet consumption.

    This deficit can only be met by the depletion of renewable
    resources and increased pollution.
Global resource consumption
  • Consumption isn't equal. North Americans and Europeans consume far more resources than are available solely within their borders.
Living planet index
  • As human populations increase, the number and diversity of birds
    and animals is falling.
  • Decreasing biodiversity undermines the planet's ability to sustain humanity. Its reductions typically affect the poorest the most. These issues are right at the heart of the Rio talks.
Chart showing stress on each system
  • Some argue that the planet has limits to the stress its different systems can undergo, beyond which a stable future cannot be guaranteed.
  • This graphic from the scientist and sustainability expert Johan Rockström suggests those limits have already been broken for climate change, biodiversity and the nitrogen cycle.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Sounds like another load of waffle from lobster eating, aviation fuel burning mindless individuals.

    Add a few more carriages to the gravy train.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    #168 Gort2012 "The solutions to CO2 are good even without CC all it takes is long-term thinking."
    Agreed. However, the political system(s) in place are not up to this challenge. We need politicians who actually have expertise & a desire to help the rest of us.

    We need a competent democracy & it's time we began.

    For good background:

    A Competent Democracy NOW!

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    @ThankYouand GoodBye
    #166 (...cont)

    The 5 questions I pose are the whole sci debate,
    1. In this case there can be no conclusion other than the planet has been getting hotter since the industrial revolution.

    4. The causes is where most criticism is placed but not relevent until answering 2 & 3.

    2. GW will continue for near future if disagree this is because they get 4 wrong

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    @165 BlueBerry
    This the problem is the affects of climate change are similar to ageing.-
    the changes are not apparent in such a short time frame as a bruise or cut (such as km sized meteor strike in this analogy) but much more devastating.

    Already, seeing drought declarations at a time of floods in the UK.

    The solutions to CO2 are good even without CC all it takes is long-term thinking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    So they set some targets.The UK has just had 3 years' of politicians' meaningless targets.
    The text was agreed BEFORE the meeting even began.The politicians might just as well stayed at home,agreed remotely and avoided the energy use and emissions involved in their voyages.I thought that's what it's about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    CC is not about reputations but arguments & ideas.

    You are misconstruing the position of several of the names on your list. I see your including some from lobby groups Marshall group and IPA both of which have no credibility.

    1. Have temparatures been rising?
    2. Will temp rise further?
    3. What will be the result?
    4. What is the cause of temp?
    5. What are solutions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Rio talks lacked firepower needed to solve global emergency. Developed countries have repeatedly failed to live safely within planet's limits. My guess is that it will take a severe wake-up call, like an entire significant island swallowed by ocean, or cities destroyed by earthquake or tsunami - until then papering over will ultimately get us to the disaster needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    "We've finished our calculations, Global Warming is going to strike two days before the day after tomorrow!"

    "Oh my God, that's today!"


  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    #93. LeftieAgitator
    I did attempt a serious answer your question.
    But my reply was moderated (#107).

    BBC your decision not to publish serious suggestions to the solution most important problem in history is objected to by those 75% of species predicted to become extinct before 2100AD.

    However wheat, rice, potato and similar species voted for the moderator’s decision, so it’s OK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    @153. VesselAnaw and other electric car fans. They are not electric, they are COAL POWERED.
    Comparison of Carbon Dioxide emitted by different vehicle fuels used to produce an equal amount of energy Figures published by D E F R A KILOGRAMS OF CO2 per KILOWATT HOUR
    Natural gas 0.206 kg, LPG 0.225 kg, Petrol 0.252 kg,
    Diesel 0.263 kg
    Grid electricity today 0.537 kg (rolling average).

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    157. Steve the chauffeur
    Obama, Cameron and Merkel all know it`s all drivel and nonsense. Methane is big in the US already. 5yrs time for the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    The issue at one time was to irradicate famine, disease and poverty etc. Most of the world still suffers from such plagues. Why save the world if only a few can live a low level of quality. Green issues don't always deliver quality for all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    It would be credible if they walked there.

    Jet planes cause ice crystals to form clouds which trigger the sort of rain we are up to the tops of our wellies in.

    Here we sit, downwind of the busiest air lanes in the world. Getting a wetter summer every year.

    If anyone in the UK doubts this just cast your minds back to the clear blue skies we had at the time of the ash cloud.

    Bring on HS2

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Pity Dave could not be bothered to go even after they changed the date for him.

    This is supposed to be important.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    @155. Little_Old_Me
    And who can vote? What`s that you say? Nobody needs to vote. Oh,.. oh I see.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    150.VesselAnaw - "the meetings are the precursor to the unified one world government...."

    Currently we have global rules on freedom of movement for capital & policies of shifting pollution to the 3rd world etc - the only was to clean the world up, both economically & environmentally, is to have global rules to balance/restrain the worst excesses of capitalism.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    @127. Gort2012
    ",,,not many CC deniers do."...(have good credentials, and nobody`s a "CC" denier, it`s CAGW).
    Not many I`ll grant you, but enough:
    Judith Curry, Freeman Dyson, Richard Lindzen, John Christy, James Lovelock, Robert Carter, Ian Plimer, William Happer, Phillip Stott, 50 NASA physicists, I could go on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    I know how the "world economy can be put on a "greener"path"

    Governments could force car manufacturers to shift into electric car production and away from petroleum based cars.

    Of course the oil companies won't allow this and so are blocking the development of clean energy, obviously

    And the world governments want to blame the people instead and ban light bulbs and promote abortion

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    They really don't make demonstrators like they used to, falling asleep on the job, pfff!


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