Ban: ‘The work starts now’ as Rio+20 summit ends
UNITED NATIONS, June 23, CMC – As the Rio+20 – the United Nations environment and development summit to follow a generation after the Rio Earth Summit – ended on Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called on world leaders to build on the pledges they made to achieve economic, environmental and social prosperity for their people everywhere.
“The speeches are over. Now the work begins,” said Ban at the closing ceremony of the three-day summit, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
But even as more than 100 heads of state and government agreed on new policies to promote equitable prosperity, fight poverty and advance environmental protection – sustainable development – critics said they leaders delivered a "new definition of hypocrisy" for standing in the way of progress and failing so far to challenge the text of the draft outcome document.
“Rio+20 has affirmed fundamental principles – renewed essential commitments – and given us new direction,” he added. “From governments to the world’s biggest companies, from philanthropic organizations to youth volunteers, they are part of a growing global movement for change.”
In his remarks at the ceremony, the UN chief said he was also encouraged by the more than 700 concrete commitments registered at the conference from governments, business, industry, financial institutions and civil society, among other groups.
The UN said about 513 billion US dollars in funding was pledged during Rio+20 for several issues, including energy, food security, access to drinking water and management of the oceans, among others.
It said a wide range of actions have also been pledged, such as planting 100 million trees, empowering 5,000 women entrepreneurs in green economy businesses in Africa, and recycling 800,000 tons of polyvinyl chloride (commonly known as PVC) – one of the most widely used plastics – per year.
A key element on Rio+20 was its outcome document, entitled “The Future We Want” and agreed on by UN member-states after negotiations, the UN said. Ban welcomed its adoption.
“The outcome document provides a firm foundation for social, economic and environmental well-being,” he said.
“It is now our responsibility to build on it. Rio+20 has affirmed fundamental principles – renewed essential commitments – and given us new direction,” he added.
But the global environmental NGO, Greenpeace, described Rio+20 as an “epic failure” and “nothing short of disastrous”.
"The epic failure of Rio+20 was a reminder [that] short-term corporate profit rules over the interests of people," said Daniel Mittler, Greenpeace’s political director. He said governments came to the meeting offering no money or commitments to action.
The outcome document calls for a wide range of actions. These include beginning the process to establish sustainable development goals; detailing how the green economy can be used as a tool to achieve sustainable development; strengthening the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); promoting corporate sustainability reporting measures; taking steps to go beyond gross domestic product to assess the well-being of a country; developing a strategy for sustainable development financing; and, adopting a framework for tackling sustainable consumption and production.
It also focuses on improving gender equity; recognizing the importance of voluntary commitments on sustainable development; and stressing the need to engage civil society and incorporate science into policy; among other points.
Lasse Gustavsson, the head of conservation at WWF, said two years of "sophisticated UN diplomacy has given us nothing more than more poverty, more conflict and more environmental destruction".
But UN officials suggested the task ahead lay in maintaining the momentum toward sustainable development and that the world’s governments should be held to the commitments which are not binding in international law.
“Sustainable development is the only option for humanity, for our shared planet, for our common future,” said Rio+20’s Secretary-General, Sha Zukang, in his closing remarks. “Let the commitments of Rio be with us all, as we continue our journey towards a sustainable future.”
More than 40,000 people – including parliamentarians, mayors, UN officials, chief executive officers and civil society leaders – attended Rio+20 from 20-22 June.
The event followed on from the Earth Summit in 1992, also held in Rio de Janeiro, during which countries adopted Agenda 21 – a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection.
“Twenty years ago, here in Rio, we put in place key principles and international agreements to guide our efforts,” Sha said. “Rio+20 carries on that tradition, and has laid out a framework for action to expedite implementation.”
Over 50 million people from all over the world also participated in the Conference through social media platforms, voicing their comments, opinions and ideas, making the platforms a key component in establishing a conversation on sustainability issues both in the lead up and during the conference.
“Our job now is to create a critical mass, an irresistible momentum. Because the road ahead is long and hard,” Ban said. “Rio+20 has given us a solid platform to build on. And it has given us the tools to build with – the work starts now.”