RIO+20 was held from June 20-22, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Earth Summit 2012 marked the 20th anniversary of the first UN Conference on Environment and Development, where a plan of action for sustainable development was formulated in a document called Agenda 21. Representatives from countries all over the world gathered in Rio de Janeiro to evaluate new environmental concerns, assess the disparities in implementation, and negotiate renewal of commitment.
The two main issues on the Earth Summit 2012 agenda were green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development, and institutional framework for sustainable development. Sustainable development recognizes the integration and interdependence of economic, environmental and social needs. The rigid pursuit of one of these aspects while disregarding the importance of the other two is globally unsustainable. Given the traditional financial model where the sole focus has been only on economic gains, other aspects like ecological and social impact of business operations have been overlooked. By encouraging investment in green efficient technologies, supporting green business and by becoming conscious as consumers, the basis of a green economy can be established.
The summit did not succeed in producing any revolutionary concrete results in form of agreements of treaties, but served as a rather small step forward in propagating awareness about sustainable development. The main document of this conference aptly titled, “The Future We Want” is a vague description of what the basics of a green economy entail. The pursuit towards this goal, however, was not established at the meeting. The road to green economy is not yet paved and requires different and customized actions based on the development level of each country. The main drawback was the absence of prominent governmental representation at the conference; however certain results of the conference gave a hint of optimism for the future. There was a decision to replace the limited scope of Millennium Development Goals by the broadly encompassing Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, a commitment of $513 billion towards development projects was made by private businesses, agencies and certain governments. Under the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), countries such as Denmark, Mexico, Maldives and Nigeria independently and voluntarily signed the multi stakeholder based, Green Industry Platform, to collectively work towards the common goal of establishing green enterprises to aid in the transition towards resource and energy efficient economies. This independent initiative although signed at Rio+20, was not a result of the discussions held at the conference.
While some countries are more prone to experiencing the destructive impacts of climate change, attempt at mitigation must be collective in order to effectively avert the possibility. Therefore, public private partnerships, political commitments, education and awareness, technological transfer, capacity building and geopolitical relations are all vital in the move towards a green economy.
History of UN Environmental Conferences
Brundtland Commission 1987
UN Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro 1992
World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg 2002