Timon Singh

The Rio+20 Conference: Academic Panel Urges Governments to Seize "Historic Opportunity"

by , 06/19/12

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The Rio+20 Conference (20 years after the original Earth Summit) was called to bring together world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups in order to discuss how the world can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on a planet with an ever-increasing population. However even before the conference started, it received a body blow with news that world leaders US President Barack Obama, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would not be attending. Now there is word that low goals and in-fighting are raising fears that Rio+20 could fail to make any impact leading an academic panel to voice their concerns.

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Despite urgent requests from Nobel laureates, ministers, scientists, and even Prince Charles, that governments must seize this “historic opportunity,” arguments have reportedly already broken out on several issues.

Apparently heated discussions have revolved around several issues such as a proposed green economy, fossil fuel subsidies and sustainable development goals (SDGs). EU delegates have complained that Brazil has been pushing their agenda without any real negotiation, and as a result has failed to sign off on any proposals.

The fossil fuel subsidy issue was a particular source of controversy as the G20 leaders pledged to phase them out three years ago, but failed to set in place a firm deadline or plan. Environmental groups have attempted to turn popular opinion to the cause with an online campaign on June 18 to set the world record for the most uses of a Twitter hashtag — #endfossilfuelsubsidies.

The rumored arguments have led to more than 30 signatories includes Nobel laureates such as Carlo Rubbia, Walter Kohn, Douglas Osheroff and Yuan Tseh Lee, as well as politicians including Brazil’s Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira and Finland’s recently ex-President Tarja Halonen release a statement.

In it, they said: “The combined effects of climate change, resource scarcity, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem resilience at a time of increased demand, poses a real threat to humanity’s welfare.”

“There is an unacceptable risk that human pressures on the planet, should they continue on a business as usual trajectory, will trigger abrupt and irreversible changes with catastrophic outcomes for human societies and life as we know it.”

It is hoped that this strong-worded statement will light a fire under world leaders, and as a result make them raise their environmental ambitions. It is expected that the “final” Rio+20 agreement will be presented to G20 leaders in Mexico either today or tomorrow.

Click here to follow our ongoing coverage of the Rio+20 Conference.

+ Rio+20 Conference 

Images © Fora di EixoITUC and  Hector Garcia

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