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CHEAT SHEET: Hopes And Fears For The Rio+20 Conference Including David Suzuki
June 1, 2012
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This June, a group of scientists, international leaders, activists and thinkers will convene in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD). Rio+20, as the conference is known, will mark the 20-year anniversary of the first UNCSD, which was held in the same city in 1992. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said "Rio+20 will be one of the most important global meetings on sustainable development in our time" - but some observers are questioning what Rio+20 can actually achieve.

The slogan for Rio+20 is "The Future We Want", and the conference will focus on securing political commitment to sustainable development, assessing the progress of initiatives that are already in place, and looking at the future of environmental protection.

Here's an overview of what some climate change commentators and experts are saying about Rio+20:

Fred Pearce, Environmental Writer, Writing In the Guardian

Pearce suggests that the promises of the original UNCED conference - "two groundbreaking treaties on climate change and biodiversity and grand declarations about creating a future green and equitable world" - have not led to substantive action. He says that unless the representatives at Rio+20 are expected to agree to definitive action, nothing will come of the summit.

Luis Ubinas, President of the Ford Foundation Charity, Writing in the New York Times

Luis says that amid the gloom about the progress made on climate change in the last twenty years, there is some good news and hope for positive change: "in a largely unreported global movement, some 30 of the world's most forested countries have adopted an innovative idea for protecting forests: granting ownership rights to communities that reside in them". Ubinas points out that almost 90 percent of the laws granting those ownership rights have been passed since the original UNECD conference in 1992, suggesting that "a global consensus can produce real change".

Sha Zukang, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General, Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs, Writing in the InterPress Service

Zukang focuses on the challenge of sustainable development in an interconnected world: "what happens on one side of the globe can easily reverberate on the other. Living on borrowed time and consuming resources as if there were five planets, we can no longer afford a business-as-usual attitude". He says that Rio+20 is "not about enforcing rules or regulations at the cost of quality of life, but rather to encourage and facilitate better, wiser choices by individuals, local communities, businesses and governments".

The Canadian Government's Official Submission To The Summit

According to the official document that Canada submitted to the UN ahead of Rio+20, our country's main objective is "securing renewed political commitment for sustainable development is in the interest of all countries". The doc also talks about the need to make the case for transitioning to "a green economy" in order to encourage sustainable development and eradicate poverty.

Gro Harlem Brundtland and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Elders, Writing in the Christian Science Monitor

Gro, the former Prime Minister of Norway, and Fernando, former President of Brazil, are both members of 'The Elders', an organization founded by Nelson Mandela to work on issues facing humanity, including climate change. In this article, they suggest that their optimism about Rio+20 "is being seriously tested by the lack of urgency in the run-up" to the summit. The two Elders believe that setting defined and clear goals is essential to success for Rio+20: "We believe setting 'sustainable development goals' that address the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of development".

Hilal Elver, Co-Director of the Climate Change Project, Writing in Al-Jazeera

In her piece, Hilal compares Rio+20 to the original Rio summit, and says "Rio+20 will not be nearly as successful". She suggests that "many NGOs are very skeptical" about the approach of the current summit, since they "worry that the Rio+20 is being hijacked by the corporations to showcase the new 'green sector', a colour normally associated with making profits".

David Suzuki in the Red Chair

David Suzuki was on our program yesterday, and George asked him about the environmental movement and where it's going, and what might be in store at the Rio+20 conference. Check out his response below:

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