Green targets being watered down for UN summit - observers

LONDON Tue May 1, 2012 12:02pm EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Some of the main proposals in a draft text for negotiation at a U.N. sustainable development conference next month are being watered down at informal talks in New York, observers said on Tuesday, heightening fears the summit will fail to deliver.

The Rio+20 summit in Brazil from June 20-22 is expected to draw more than 50,000 participants from governments, companies and environmental and lobby groups.

It will try to hammer out sustainable development goals across seven core themes including food security, water and energy but is not expected to produce mandatory targets.

Informal talks are taking place in New York until Friday to shape the main negotiating text.

One area of discussion is how to measure economic growth to take into account the value of natural assets, such as water and forests, as well as innovative financing, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and a plan to help prevent ocean acidification.

Participants said there had been moves to water down a clause which would require companies to include sustainability information in their corporate reporting.

"It appears to be batting to and fro in a tennis rally here," David Pitt-Watson, chairman of investor Hermes Focus Asset Management, told Reuters from New York.

"There have been suggestions for watering down and also for putting the clause back in as it originally was," he said.

Investment and pension funds would like the measure agreed so they know as much as possible about the "green" credentials of a company before investing in it, which could help open up their trillion-dollar assets for more clean energy investment.

Steve Waygood, chief responsible investment officer at Aviva Investors, representing a coalition of investors worth $2 trillion which backs the proposal, said: "Currently 75 percent of companies do not report on sustainability issues at all.

"Without this convention, at the current rate it will be decades before sustainability reporting is common practice across global markets."


The U.N. Earth Summit in Rio 20 years ago ultimately led to the Kyoto Protocol on capping emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases and a treaty on biodiversity.

Since then, successive attempts to secure a new binding pact to cut emissions have failed, public interest in climate change has waned and many world leaders are focused on financial woes.

Rio+20 secretary-general Sha Zukang said in a blog June's summit should at least launch a process which leads to new sustainable development goals being set.

The original 19-page draft text has grown to just under 200 pages along with supplementary texts and could be revised at a final round of informal talks in Rio from June 13-15.

"With only 10 working days left for discussions before the text is presented to Rio, leaders need to be more ambitious about what they hope to achieve," said Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of conservation at WWF International.

Language on phasing out "market distorting and environmentally harmful" subsidies, including for fossil fuels, agriculture and fisheries, could also be weakened or dropped after opposition from Japan, the United States and Canada, observers said.

More than 130 heads of government and deputies are on the summit's speaker list but some major figures, such as U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, are not expected to attend.

The Danish presidency of the European Union recognized last month that ambitions among EU countries might be waning to define concrete action on water, marine environment, land-use and biodiversity, sustainable energy, resource efficiency and waste management.

Some have grown tired of U.N. climate meetings after a much-hyped conference in Copenhagen in 2009 failed to deliver a binding deal to halt global warming. Last year, a U.N. summit in South Africa agreed to forge a new deal by 2015, but it will not enter into force until 2020.

Scientists estimate the world's average temperature has risen by about 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1900, and nearly 0.2 degrees per decade since 1979. They say efforts so far to cut greenhouse gas emissions are not sufficient to stop a rise beyond 2 degrees C this century, which risks an unstable climate in which weather extremes are common.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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Comments (2)
ZBan wrote:
Rio + 20 will be a failure, because it relies on voluntary self sacrifice for the greater good. They fail to see that sustainability is a public good, and the way to implement measures to achieve this, we need to aproach it the same way we build consensus on building a sidewalk.

May 01, 2012 4:38pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Anandi61 wrote:
No individual nation nor the world as a whole will survive the impacts of its own emissions let alone those of any other country or those of all countries together. Coal oil gas and nuclear power need to be outlawed unilaterally by each country now in order that societies can recover from the damage already caused and live in peace and harmony with all of creation. Neither citizens from countries of the global North let alone citizens from tropical countries can survive the temperature rises let alone the destruction of land and water sources from power generation and capitalism. The 6 point programme in each country must comprise abolition of fractional reserve banking, universal wage grant, outlawing oil coal gas and nuclear energy, abolishing private and state property forms, protecting our borders till all countries have done the same as us, and giving all power over land and money to villages and town ward committees. If liquidity of the universal wage grant of say Rs 10’000 per month per adult proves too high it can be taxed and sent to the state and centre for central roads, railways and some common emergency preparedness services for some time. Family, health, education, agriculture and all other cultural and social and environmental activities shall be taken care of locally. This must be done in an organised manner straight away otherwise we will just watch increasing difficulties pile up on humanity and all other species with yet more destitution and inequality and finally destruction of all living things through the sheer unwillingness of capitalists to confront the truth.

May 02, 2012 1:18pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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