RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Countries attending a U.N. environmental conference in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday will consider a draft agreement on global green growth, but expectations were low for an agreement.
The summit, known as Rio+20, comes 20 years after the first Rio Earth summit in 1992 cleared the way for a global treaty on biodiversity, and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases, which is due to expire this year.
The event, which drew representatives from 190 countries, is supposed to produce a series of political agreements to improve standards of living while protecting the environment.
Diplomats who have been negotiating for more than a year, drew up the 49-page draft text on Tuesday and will present it to leaders for adoption by Friday.
Some of the main areas covered in the text are outlined below.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGs)
It was hoped that Rio+20 would hammer out goals across core areas like food security, water and energy.
But expectations were low that it would produce a defined set of mandatory measures with timelines because politicians are more focused on the global financial crisis and unrest in the Middle East.
The text proposed launching a process to agree on sustainable development goals, or SDGs, which will likely build on and overlap with a current round of objectives known as the millennium development goals, which U.N. members agreed to pursue at least through 2015.
“We resolve to establish an inclusive and transparent inter-governmental process on SDGs that is open to all stakeholders with a view to developing global sustainable development goals to be agreed by the United Nations General Assembly (in September),” the text said.
When defined and agreed on, SDGs would likely come into force in 2013/2014, observers said.
It was also hoped that Rio+20 could firm up a commitment for all countries to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels.
Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies by 2020 would reduce annual global energy demand by 5 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 6 percent, according to the International Energy Agency.
In 2009, G20 leaders agreed to do this in principle but no timelines have since been set. A G20 meeting in Mexico, which ended on Tuesday, also failed to firm up the idea.
The Rio+20 draft text reaffirmed previous commitments by countries to “phase out harmful and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption and undermine sustainable development.”
But it stopped short of beefing up the voluntary commitment with timetables or more details, which disappointed some business and environmental groups.
The text committed to “take action to reduce the incidence and impacts of such pollution on marine ecosystems, including through the effective implementation of relevant conventions adopted in the framework of the International Maritime Organization.”
It also proposed that countries take action by 2025 to achieve “significant reductions” in marine debris to prevent harm to the marine environment, and committed to implement measures to prevent the introduction of alien invasive marine species and manage their adverse environmental impacts.
It also reiterated a need to work further on preventing ocean acidification.
However, an eagerly awaited decision on a governance structure for the high seas was put off for a few years.
The United States, Japan, Canada, Russia and Venezuela opposed strong language to implement it, observers said.
The text called for a new intergovernmental process to produce a report that evaluate how much money is needed for sustainable development, and what new and existing instruments can be used to raise more money.
The process will be led by a 30-member group, which will conclude its work by 2014.
Although some developing countries had called for the creation of a $30 billion sustainable development fund, the text did not include it but instead “recognize(d) the need for significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources.”
Another potential outcome of the summit was around strengthening UNEP - an international institution that coordinates U.N. environmental activities - to a U.N. agency with power equal to other U.N. agencies like the World Health Organization.
The draft text proposed that a U.N. general meeting in September adopt a resolution “strengthening and upgrading” UNEP. It proposed giving UNEP “secure, stable, adequate and increased financial resources” from the United Nations’ budget and voluntary contributions to help it fulfill its role.
However, some countries, such as the United States, are opposed to strengthening UNEP’s role.
One of the major themes of the conference is the concept of a “green economy,” or improving human well-being and social equity while reducing environmental risks, which could be a common roadmap for sustainable development.
The text affirmed that each country could have their own paths towards achieving a “green economy.” The text said it could provide options for policy making but should not be a “rigid set of rules.”
Another concept is to develop alternative ways of measuring national wealth to take into account countries’ natural assets, such as forests - known as GDP+.
The text recognized the need for “broader measures of progress to complement GDP” to better inform policy decisions. It requested the U.N. Statistical Commission to launch a program of work to build on existing initiatives.
Editing by Doina Chiacu