Freitag, 22. Juni 2012

Beyond Rio+20 – let´s mobilize for a better world

Today a personal journey ends for me, not just the Rio Earth Summit. I have been involved in the Rio Earth Summit process for two years. I never had much hope for this summit, but as it is ending I am also not as depressed, as you might expect. Greenpeace exists to give the earth a voice - and we certainly spoke loud and clear on the abject failure of our governments here. We succeeded in preventing governments passing off a Polluter´s Charter as a success. I am reminded of how I felt 10 years ago, when I was leaving Rio+10 in Johannesburg. It´s the same sense of anger and renewed determination. It is not despair. At the end of Rio+20 itʼs plain for the world to see that the transformational change we need was not delivered. We saw an epic failure of responsibility at Rio. Rio+20 should have been be about zero deforestation, an energy revolution based on renewable energy and energy efficiency, about healthy oceans, liveable forests, and ecological food for all. Instead, it delivered no action, no targets and too many weasle words. The Oceans Rescue Plan for the High Seas, for example, was bulldozed by an unholy alliance of the US and Venezuela, together with Russia and Canada, at 2am on Tuesday morning. Rio+20 will go down in history as Greenwash+20. There is no good news in the official negotiation outcome. But there has been good news over the last two weeks. The campaign to introduce a zero deforestation law in Brazil grew from strength to strength at the People´s summit - with thousands signing up to join a coalition which has the support of indigenous peoples groups, faith leaders and environmental organisations, as well as those most Brazilian of national heroes – some of their most famous footballers. And today, unlike 20 years ago, more solutions are proven and exist at scale. The energy sector is already changing, for example. In Germany, 81% of all installed power capacity in the last decade was renewable. Last year, investments in renewable energies globally were higher than investments in old and dirty fossil fuel technologies. Action for the environment is popular. That is why citizen power is achieving real change around the world. A referendum in Italy stopped nuclear power last year. Old coal-fired power stations in the US are being decommissioned and new ones stopped by an unprecedented alliance of grassroots groups, federal regulators and investors who no longer believe the lie that “coal is cheap”. As the warnings of 20 years ago are turning into reality and the Arctic is melting at a shocking speed, opposition is also building. Here at Rio, Greenpeace launched a new mobilization to save the Arctic yesterday. It is our signal of hope against the despair of the official outcome. After Rio+20 the world needs people to mobilize and force change. The Arctic will be a first key battleground. It needs masses of people from around the world to stand up and demand action to protect it. A ban in the Arctic on oil drilling and industrial fishing would be a huge victory against the forces that won out at Rio+20 and would provide a future for the four million people who live there. Beyond Rio+20 lies a road worth taking: Through a groundswell of public mobilisation, social movement alliances, smart businesses investing in the future and enough governments daring to lead by regulating effectively and banning unsustainable practices, a liveable future is still in our grasp. Rio+20´s failure is above all a call to action. We still need a global deal to tackle the threats of climate change and ecological destruction, and the miseries of poverty, hunger, disease and inequality. But to make that happen, we will need to make it impossible for our leaders to do anything less. I will certainly not miss the endless meetings in windowless rooms that led to this summit. I can´t wait to spend more time with my daughters. But their future was gladly not decided over the last three days. Their future is decided by all of us, who must unite to build a movement of movements to force the future we want.

Donnerstag, 21. Juni 2012

Greenwash+20? The role of corporations in sustainable development

This is joint piece with Kaisa Kosonen for OUTREACH. Walking around the Riocentro, greenwash advertisements from corporate polluters are very visible. At the entrance, there is a huge banner declaring that Petrobas, Brazil´s state-owned oil company, is a sponsor of the Summit – the very company that wants to drill off the coast of New Zealand and make Brazil into a major oil producer. If Brazil goes ahead with its planned oil development, it will be among the five largest oil producers in the world by 2020. That is not the Future We Want nor the one we need. The corporate billboards represent the power and influence corporations hold over global politics today. Corporations can be bigger than entire nations – or many nations combined. Of the world’s 100 largest economic entities in 2009, 44 were corporations, when revenues are compared to GDPs. Way too often the very same companies who claim to be green and socially responsible are making big profits from exploiting and polluting the planet – and blocking others from moving forward. Twenty years ago, we released the Greenpeace Book on Greenwash at the 1992 Earth Summit. Our sequel to that book, the Greenwash+20 report, shows that corporations such as Duke Energy or Asia Pulp and Paper still stand in the way of progress – and that governments still continue to let corporate polluters run the show by shying away from proper regulation, pollution pricing, accountability and liability. Giving corporations a free (or cheap) ride isn’t cheap for us and our children. KPMG has estimated that the external environmental costs of 11 key industry sectors were as much as US$ 846 billion in 2010 – an increase of 50% (!) over the last decade. If companies had to pay for the full environmental costs of their business, on average they would lose 41 cents for every US$1 in earnings. Yet, making polluters pay is not an outcome on the table here at Rio+20. A textbook example of greenwash is Shell, who for more than 20 years has been touting its leadership on sustainability, yet is turning its back on renewable energy and strip mining forests in Canada to access extremely polluting tar sands oil. Worse, Shell is the first 'supermajor‘ oil company to actively pursue a policy of significant oil exploration in the offshore Arctic. But the green economy isn’t about ‘sustainable drilling‘ in the Arctic. It’s about protecting the Arctic from exploitation altogether and instead catalysing a green energy revolution. This is the kind of rule-setting we need from governments. Here at Rio+20, in contrast, governments are serving the interests of the polluters not the people. Even the text on mandatory corportate reporting of social and envirpnmental impacts – present in earlier versions of the outcome text – has been gutted. There will be no positive signal on corporate accountability coming from Rio. A pity, as corporations aren’t even reporting properly. Bloomberg discovered that only about 24% of the 19,641 companies they researched reported any environmental, social and governance (ESG) data at all and what data did exist was almost always of poor quality. Corporations can’t be volunteers. If solutions are to be delivered in time for our children to have a green and peaceful future, we need regulations to enforce and deliver them. Global corporations need global rules – and governments admitted as much at the Johannesburg Earth Summit in 2002. There are companies who are showing signs of walking the talk. For example, Google is investing big time in renewable energy, Nike and H&M are eliminating toxic chemicals from their supply chains, supermarket giant Sainsbury‘s is sourcing sustainable seafood and backing marine reserves, and a growing number of corporations including Unilever and Nestle are refusing to buy from APP as long as it continues to clear rainforests and destroy peatlands in Indonesia. Twenty years ago, the renewable energy industry, which has seen a tremendous breakthrough in the last decade, didn’t have a strong presence at UN meetings. Now they do. Twenty years ago, we didn’t have over 100 major corporations in the EU calling for a stronger, binding climate target for themselves, publicly challenging the official position of their main business federation, Business Europe. Now, we do. Twenty years ago, we didn’t have large investors challenging corporate self-regulation and s voluntary approach to sustainability reporting. Now, we do. There is not enough of them and the voices of the forward-looking businesses are not as loud as they deserve to be. But they are the future of a truly green and just economy.

Mittwoch, 13. Juni 2012


Freitag, 8. Juni 2012

Rio+20: High Seas protection possible; right to food? US says:"delete"

(A version with links of this post is at If you believe the United Nations press release a lot was achieved at last week´s "informal informal" negotiations for Rio+20: "Before the negotiations, only 6 per cent of the text had been agreed upon. Now, that number has jumped to more than 20 per cent, with many additional paragraphs close to agreement." So what? you may rightly ask. Not only because that leaves a disturbing amount of work to be done before world leaders arrive in Rio on June 20th, but mainly because we judge Earth Summit´s by how much they achieve for people and planet. The number of paragraphs which have been diluted enough to be agreeable to all is neither here nor there. On substance, there was one bit of good news from last week: The launch of a High Seas Biodiversity Agreement is still possible at Rio. We never found out why the Co-Chair´s had ignored the vast majority of countries calling for such an agreement in the draft published May 22nd. But we thank Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Maldives, Nauru, Micronesia, India, Chile, Trinidad & Tobago, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Philippine, Fiji, Barbados, Uruguay, the European Union and Monaco for standing up for our oceans and the future last week. What governments must do at Rio is simple: They need to agree paragraph Oceans 6 Alt 1 (including all the things currently still in "brackets"). Let the US, Canada, Russia, Japan, Iceland, Korea and Norway not stop the rest of the world from making this urgent step towards ending the Wild West exploitation of over 64% of the world´s oceans. There is also still a possibility of the UN Environment Programme being turned into an Agency with real money and implementation powers and the paragraph on harmful subsidies is now so contested that it could go any way - watered down to extinction or a strong call for getting rid of fossil fuels subsidies, as so many demand. But that´s it for what can count as good news (real or imaginary). The rest of the text (which is here) really makes my blood boil. There are differences, of course, but really all sides are at fault at these negotiations and failing to deliver the kind of changes - such as an energy revolution - the world so urgently needs. The United States, for example, wants to delete the right to food (paragraph 7) and seems to think hunger is ok - just "extreme hunger" is something to get rid off (paragraph 2). The US (backed by Canada and Japan) also think that the technology transfer promised at Rio in 1992 should now be only "voluntary" (paragraph MOI 3) and the US opposes any mention of "unsustainable consumption and production patterns". Ok, that´s not a pretty phrase, but what it means is very real: We would need five planets, if all of humanity wanted to waste as many resources as the average American. George Bush Senior got famous in 1992 for stating that "the American way of life is non negotiable". Obama is allowing his negotiators to take the same arrogant view. The G77, the coalition of developing countries that has been trying hard to negotiate as one group, wants to delete the word "accountability" everywhere, it seems, including when it comes to the behaviour of global corporations. Partly as a result, mandatory reporting on social and environental impacts, still alive in the Co-Chair´s text, was killed last week (paragraph 41, which is now meaningless). The G77 want to get rid off the reference to the UN Secretary General´s (highly insufficient) Sustainable Energy for all initiative (paragraph Energy 5) and (together with the US) want to eliminate mention of "planetary boundaries", which remind us that there are real limits to growth (paragraph 42, for example). There are other issues, of course, where we agree with the G77. But fighting for a Future We Want, they are not. The EU, meanwhile, is pushing faulty ideas such as liberalizing trade in so-called "environmental goods and services" (Trade 8) and is asking the UN to develop and manage partnerships, rather than do what the UN exists for: setting global standards and delivering their implementation (paragraph 49bis). I know that all was not rosy in 1992 either. The original Rio Earth Summit endorsed nuclear power, for example, and was full of businesses pretending to be green (we published the Greenpeace Book on Greenwash then!). But as I get ready to get on a plane to Rio next week, I do think that compared to what is on the table now, Rio 1992 was a hippy love fest. Will governments at least prove me wrong in part - and agree to launch a High Seas Biodiversity Agreement in Rio? Watch this space, we will keep you updated. Daniel Mittler is the Political Director of Greenpeace International

Samstag, 2. Juni 2012

Corporate Accountability – without a chance at Rio+20?

Twenty years ago, the power of corporations over governments was already mighty. Witness the fact that just a few months before the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the only intergovernmental mechanism that had been monitoring transnational corporations – the UN Centre on Transnational Corporations (UNCTC) – was discontinued. Along with it went almost 15 years of work on the Code of Conduct on Transnational Corporations (TNCs), which attempted to spell out the rights and duties of TNCs and the rights of States to regulate them. While Principles 13 (Liability), 14 (Double Standards), 15 (Precautionary Principle) and 16 (Polluter Pays Principle) of the Rio Declaration all relate to corporate behaviour, governments failed to commit business to concrete actions to achieve sustainable development. Ten years later, corporate accountability – in the wake of the Enron scandal – became one of the issues at Rio+10. A global civil society call for true accountability led to early drafts of the Rio+10 outcome text calling for a commitment to ‘launch negotiations for a multilateral agreement on corporate accountability’. This got watered down along the way (not least by the then Bush administration). But at Johannesburg, governments at least – and at last – acknowledged the need for global rules for global business. They pledged to ‘actively promote corporate responsibility and accountability... including through the full development and effective implementation of intergovernmental agreements’. May be it reflects the increasing rise of corporate power over the last twenty years (and in the wake of liberalisation), that this sort of language cannot be found in the drafts of the Rio+20 Outcome Document. The words ‘corporate accountability’ can be found in the latest Co-Chairs’ text, but in a manner that has nothing to do with holding anyone accountable for their social and environmental impact. Instead, the newest draft has even watered down the proposal for mandatory reporting by corporations. But a more positive change that has occurred since 1992 is that today it is mainly progressive investors and businesses that have been calling for improvements in corporate governance. Specifically, they are calling for a convention on mandatory corporate reporting. Despite the setback of the latest Co-Chair‘s text, I wish them luck in still having their voice heard and making at least this small step forward at Rio+20. But today, even more so than 20 years ago, what is really needed is a global instrument to ensure full liability for social and environmental impacts of global corporations. While some corporations are willing to act, we need clear rules and penalties for those which try to free-ride and dump external costs on society. Just as it is unacceptable for tax payers to pay for the reckless gambles of greedy banks, it is irresponsible that the people of Japan, for example, are now having to pay for the financial fall-out of TEPCO´s (Tokyo Electric Power) irresponsible behaviour. It is adding financial insult to environmental injury. And the opposite should be the case: Whoever damaged people or the environment, should at the very least know that they will be held to account – including financially. With less than a month to go, it looks set that mandatory corporate reporting is the best outcome possible at Rio+20. But we as civil society, should unite once more like back in 2002 and call for “rights for people and rules for big business”. This piece first appeared in OUTREACH.