Dienstag, 8. März 2011

Rio+20 - while Rio dances, the UN talks ...

Many of you reading this are under 30. So the Earth Summit 1992 is simply history for you. If you were thinking about Rio today at all - you were probably thinking about carneval, not politics.

Pity Brazilian diplomats and bureaucrats, then, who are not dancing on the streets today. Instead, they are at the United Nations Headquarters in New York with me, Daniel, Greenpeace´s Political Director. We are attending a pretty humdrum meeting preparing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Earth Summit 1992 in Rio de Janeiro next year.

Rio 1992 was a decisive moment. The concept of "sustainable development" was adopted by governments for the first time, making it clear that development and environmental protection must - and can - go together. Key political processes, like the global climate negotiations, that you will have heard about, got launched at Rio. Just a few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, there was hope in the air. Some believed that governments will now move the billions that they spent on arms during the Cold War on solving the real problems of the world: poverty, disease, environmental destruction. That did not happen.

Today, we still spend around 1600 billions on arms every year - and emissions are rising. Will "Rio+20", to be held in June 2012, be more than a footnote in history? Will it deliver for people and the planet? At meetings like this, it is often difficult to believe that the change we need will happen. Sitting in a room without windows, I remember being here at the UN exactly ten years ago.

Then, governments were making the same speeches about how concerned they are about the state of the climate, forests or oceans. But the last Rio anniversary Summit (held in Johannesburg in 2002), was a failure. Rio+10 adopted a Plan, which civil society mocked as the "Johannesburg Plan of Inaction". 9 years on, that seems no longer a critical joke, but simply reality. Even the better part of the Rio+10 plan - such as a call by governments to hold corporations accountable globally for their actions - governments have failed to act upon ... You may wonder why I am still here ... The answer is simple and two fold:

1. I strongly believe that we would have made even less progress over the last 20 years if it hadn´t been for groups like Greenpeace putting pressure on government.

2. There are many positive changes that have happened over the last 20 years. 20 years ago, for example, renewable energies were not yet taken seriously.

I remember discussing wind and solar energies with friends at university. I was considered pretty mad for thinking that wind and solar will one day be a cornerstone of the globe´s energy system.

Today, even here at this meeting, there is hardly any government that does not agree that renewable energies are a key to the energy future. And we know that the energy revolution is already underway.

So Greenpeace will work that Rio+20 will deliver real steps forward. Why should Brazil not announce at the Summit, for example, a zero deforestation law that ends deforestation in the Amazon? Why should governments not finally commit to protecting our high seas and create the legal frameworks needed to do so?

In 15 months I want to no longer be stuck in a room with no windows. I want to dance in the streets of the Rio celebrating real successes for people and the planet ... Let´s together prevent that governments get lost in Rio. There is a real danger of that - as I was reminded as I stepped out of a restaurant in Brooklyn on Saturday:

G20 makes Korea proud but fails the world

In November I was in Seoul, Korea. It´s an impressive city. In the city centre you can see as many people in designer ware as in downtown Tokyo or New York.

But Korea is the first country that isn´t part of the "rich world club" (the G8) that is hosting a G20 meeting. And it is making Koreans visibly proud. At the airport, at tube stations, in restaurants: Everywhere people are celebrating Korea´s elevation to "big power status". Flags are a must and people in the street seem to have a spring in their step.

What you will hear in the press about this meeting is all about money and trade. Korea, to their credit, wanted the Summit to also focus on green issues. They have been pushing for what they call "green growth".

We at Greenpeace are sceptical that you can deliver unlimited growth on a finite planet. But we do know for sure that we can deliver what everyone needs while saving our climate. Our Energy [R]evolution, for example, explains how we can bring electricity to all and still prevent dangerous climate change. It can be done.

And here in Seoul, governments sounded like they are starting to get it. In their final communiqué they "commit to stimulate investment in clean energy technology". Sounds good, deosn´t it.

Sadly, everything else these governments did and said in Seoul makes me think that they are not serious. Just think: in the very same document they fail to make any commitments to fight climate change.

They could´t even agree to keep global temperature rise below a catastrohic threshold. They also shamefully dragged their feet on a promise they made last year to - at least - stop throwing taxpayers money at climate destroying oil and coal companies.

So, despite some fancy green rhetoric, the G20 has in fact failed the world. (Our full reaction to the final outcome is here.) But let me end on a less sombre note.

I happen to be German. And - true to stereotype - I happen to love beer (though do make it organic please). The bar pictured here amused me therefore.

A German "Bier Halle" (pub) right in the centre of Seoul. Globalization can be a funny thing sometimes.

I, however, stuck to local food and beer myself. As a vegetarian, I have to say I enjoyed the local "kimchi".

More than the (rather weak) local beer ...

Next year, the G20 will be meeting in France. I doubt I will find a "Bier Halle" there. Will global leaders do any better in addressing the urgent problems of our world?