Wednesday, June 20, 2012
RIO+20 EARTH SUMMIT MOVES TO BOOST UN ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME
Brazilian draft deal sets out new sustainable development goals but EU delegates and others demand concrete timelines Jonathan Watts in Rio guardian.co.uk, Monday 18 June 2012 08.28 BST Rio+20 conference Brazilian foreign ministry spokesman Luiz Alberto Figueiredo (left) and the UN Rio+20 secretary general for sustainable development, Sha Zukang. Photograph: Ari Versiani/AFP/Getty Images ------------------------------------------------------------------ Negotiators at the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development have agreed to strengthen the powers of the UN environment programme (Unep), according to the host government. Brazil welcomed the beefing-up of Unep, along with emerging deals to manage the world's oceans and establish sustainable development goals, as signs of consensus grew after weeks of procedural wrangling and divisions between rich and developing nations. Disagreements remain over financing and technology transfers. Civil society groups have also warned that compromise is coming at the cost of a dilution of already weak ambitions for the Earth summit, which aims to rebalance economic development, social stability and environmental protection. But the host nation said it believed a worthwhile deal could be achieved before more than 100 national leaders, as well as the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, the British deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, and other representatives, fly in for the climax of the talks at the end of the week. "I'm optimistic that we will conclude discussions tomorrow evening," said Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, the Brazilian foreign ministry spokesman. "The way is paved for a good final agreement." The host nation took over the presidency of the conference on Saturday and has presented a new compromise text that will spell out the goals of the international community. Figueiredo spoke of a collective intention to strengthen the UN's environment watchdog. "We're sending a clear signal that Unep won't leave this conference in the same way it came in," he said. Currently, the Nairobi-based Unep lacks political clout and economic stability because only a quarter of the member states are on its governing council and it has to rely on voluntary donations. Under the latest draft text, it would have universal membership and be guaranteed a stable, regular budget. It will also have more scope to promote science programmes, to disseminate knowledge and to initiate UN-wide programmes. However, despite the commitment to "enhance Unep's voice", the reform appears to stop short of upgrading the programme to the same level as more powerful UN bodies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Health Organisation. If this is the case, the environment is likely to remain a lower priority than human development. The world's oceans should get better protection under the draft, which commits countries to reduce the pollution that is leading to sea acidification, and means the UN will put in place measures to conserve marine biodiversity outside national jurisdictions. Brazil said there was near-agreement on setting new sustainable development goals. These would be be drawn up in the next two or three years, and would then be considered key international benchmarks, it said. "The SDGs will mark the international co-operation in the coming decades. This is very significant," Figueiredo said, These details, along with other elements in the Brazilian draft, are still to be finalised. But despite the apparent step forward on Unep and the oceans, other elements of the text have failed to impress the EU delegation and several environmental and development NGOs. With the negotiations set to continue, Europe has told the Brazilian government it would like to see more concrete goals, timelines and measures to achieve a "green economy", and argued that the current draft is inadequate to counter the risks posed by degrading ecosystems and diminishing resources that could be approaching a tipping point. However, many NGOs also recognised that the political and economic climate was unfavourable for a strong global agreement. "Faced with the determined efforts by some developed countries – and in particular the USA – to rip up the Earth summit agreement of 1992, the text seems to have stopped us moving backwards. But it certainly doesn't get close to addressing the concerns of the people or our planet," said Asad Rehman, head of international climate at Friends of the Earth. The WWF also called for a bigger push in this final week. Lasse Gustavson, head of WWF's delegation, said: "While we think some of the new text is a good base for the future, such as the language on oceans, we see a lopsided victory of weak words over action words ,with the weak words winning out at 514 to 10."