Well, yet another major global summit on environmental policy, the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development, has ended well short of the mark. It’s hardly a surprise given the history of these events, with Copenhagen and Durban being the most recent disappointments, and now Rio.
Twenty years after the first Rio Earth Summit agreed on a future involving strong action on global warming, and on the already obvious loss of biodiversity, very little government progress has been made. Leaders from the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Russia didn’t even show up for the summit, demonstrating their lack of commitment to what is shaping up to be the most important set of international issues and circumstances of this century.
Having said that, we could almost forgive Germany, because it is the nation that is perhaps leading the way in terms of a transition to a more sustainable economy and society. No doubt the eurozone financial crisis is consuming attention at the moment. There always seems to be something more important, doesn’t there? Until this becomes a crisis way too large and obvious to ignore any longer.
A lack of a decisive agreement over sustainable development goals has left many, including me, doubting whether these kinds of global events will ever be the catalyst for a necessary global transition to more sustainable economies. Will avenues other than governments and international institutions be the ones to really start to move the world significantly in a different direction? At this point in history, it seems like that will have to be the case.
Indeed, the executive director of the WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature), Lasse Gustavsson, has said of the latest summit result, “The greening of our economies will have to happen without the blessing of the world leaders”. There’s no doubt that there are many people around the world working to these ends already, but not enough yet.
Clean technology that will help with the transition is advancing at a rapid rate, exponentially in the case of solar power, and becoming less expensive. This will help, but we will need more than new technology. We’ll also need the will of populations to get the job done, the world over.
The Rio+20 approved agreement lacked any specifics, real commitments, or measurable goals on how to achieve a sustainable future. I’m sure the question now burning in the minds of many after this latest fiasco is: is it now up to individuals, communities, cities, local governments, and companies around the world to work wherever and whenever possible to achieve the necessary future? What are your thoughts?
Image credit: NASA