Diplomats agree on 'weak' text for Rio+20 green summit

Tue Jun 19, 2012 4:57pm EDT

* Text fails to define 'sustainable development goals'

* Environmentalists criticize text, urge action on climate

* Big city mayors craft green strategy of their own

By Nina Chestney and Valerie Volcovici

RIO DE JANEIRO, June 19 (Reuters) - Diplomats from over 190 countries agreed on a draft text on green global development on Tuesday to be approved this week at a summit in Rio de Janeiro, but environmentalists said the agreement was too weak.

The summit, known as Rio+20 because it comes 20 years after the first Rio environmental summit, is aimed at providing clarity on proposed "sustainable development goals," a loose tripod of economic, environmental and social objectives that proponents believe could help guide global development.

But the text agreed to by diplomats early on Tuesday failed to define those goals, promising only more rounds of talks to clarify them in the near future. They did specify exactly when.

It is "telling that nobody in that room adopting the text was happy. That's how weak it is," the European Union's climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said on social network Twitter.

The text "has too much 'take note' and 'reaffirm' and too little 'decide' and 'commit'. (The) big task now for U.N. nations to follow up" on this, she added.

Expectations were low for the summit because politicians' attention is more focused on the euro zone crisis, a presidential election in the United States and turmoil in the Middle East than on the environment.

The first Rio Earth summit in 1992 paved the way to a global treaty on biodiversity, and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases, which is due to expire this year.

Heads of state including Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with diplomats representing other nations from Wednesday for three days to discuss the text and possibly make some changes to its wording.

Observers do not expect major amendments.

Environmental groups criticized the text, saying it omitted or watered down important proposals and challenged heads of state to act urgently to respond to climate change.

"This summit could be over before it's started. World leaders arriving tonight must start afresh. Rio+20 should be a turning point," said Oxfam spokesman Stephen Hale.

"There's no sign of that here. Almost a billion hungry people deserve better."

Others were slightly more optimistic.

"The outcome document does not have the ambition needed to save the planet or the poor but it has not taken us backwards, particularly given our initial fears that Rio+20 might be Rio-40," representing a retreat from current initiatives, said Meena Raman of the Third World Network NGO.

Separately, in a meeting of big-city mayors at an old fortress in Rio, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and colleagues from around the world sought to show how cities, can make progress even if a multi-national agreement isn't possible.

Cities are responsible for up to three-quarters of global greenhouse gases.

Measures already underway in major cities, the mayors said, are on track to reduce their combined emission of greenhouse gases by 248 million tons by 2020, an amount equal to the current annual emissions of Mexico and Canada together.

The measures, the mayors said, include everything from better waste management to more efficient lighting, and would include biofuel and electric-powered municipal transport.

Noting the sluggish pace of the multi-national negotiations, Bloomberg said cities "aren't arguing with each other. We're going out there and making progress."

As chairman of the C40, as the mayors group is known, Bloomberg led the day-long discussions and toured a local slum with Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes. (Additional reporting by Paulo Prada; editing by Todd Eastham)