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:

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