Rio + 20 Earth Summit


Twenty years ago, the nations of the world rushed to Rio with sunny ambitions and plans to create political momentum for a world-wide green economy, to protect the environment and tackle poverty and inequality. Within weeks, it had all started to unravel. Twenty years later another Rio Summit is set to begin but the Canadians who took part last time return in a different political climate. Today, we look at what they hoped for and what we've got.

Part Three of The Current

Rio + 20 Earth Summit - Panel

We started this segment with a clip from twelve-year-old Severn Cullis-Suzuki, the daughter of David Suzuki, speaking at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro ... one of the most memorable moments of that UN conference.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki impressed a global audience with her call to take urgent action on the ozone layer, deforestation and biodiversity loss. And in the afterglow of the Rio Earth Summit - spearheaded by another Canadian, Maurice Strong - it seemed that the global community had turned a corner and embraced environmental action with new resolve.

But, twenty years later, climate change may be a bigger threat than the hole in the ozone layer was, and global attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions lie in tatters. Little progress has been made on many environmental challenges. That was the message from the United Nations Environment Program in the Global Environmental Outlook it released two weeks ago. We aired a clip of Nick Nuttall, the spokesperson for the UN Environment Program, who spoke to us from Rio de Janeiro.

That's where the Rio + 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development officially opens tomorrow. My next two guests were among Canada's key players in Rio in 1992. Elizabeth May is now the member of parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands, and the leader of the Green Party of Canada. She was in our Ottawa studio. And David MacDonald served as chair of the parliamentary committee on the Environment as a Progressive Conservative MP under PM Brian Mulroney. He was also the Lead Parliamentary Advisor for the Canadian delegation at the 1992 Earth Summit. He was in our Toronto studio.

Rio + 20 Earth Summit - Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Environment

Thousands of delegates will spend the next few days at the Rio+20 conference hashing out how to build a green economy in which environmental sustainability, not just economic growth, would be the measure of progress. But it's opening under a cloud ... rich and poor nations far apart and bickering over how to divide responsibility for reducing environmental impact.

Canada's Environment Minister Peter Kent will be in Rio for the summit. He was unavailable to speak with us today, but we were joined by Michelle Rempel ... the Conservative MP for Calgary Centre-North and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment. She was in our Ottawa studio.

This segment was produced by The Current's Chris Wodskou.

Other segments from today's show:

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