Countries seek new path towards agreement for Rio+20

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Representatives from governments negotiating the Rio+20 outcome document agreed to add another five days to their deliberations in order to bridge differences that have hampered progress to date.  The move came as the latest round of negotiations concluded with some progress made, but much work left outstanding. “The present negotiation approach has run its course,” said Rio+20 Secretary-General Sha Zukang, adding that there is a need to proceed with a sense of urgency.

The negotiated document, along with voluntary commitments by governments, businesses and civil society, will set the stage for the global community to recommit to sustainable development and agree to concrete actions needed.

The five added negotiating days are set for 29 May to 2 June.  The additional negotiations will take place in New York before moving to Rio de Janeiro on 13 June for the third and final preparatory meeting for the Conference.  Rio+20 – the UN Conference on Sustainable Development — will take place from 20 to 22 June.

Rio+20 Preparatory Committee co-chair Kim Sook, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea, said that there will be a change in working methods when the negotiations resume.  This will include working from a new streamlined text prepared by the co-chairs, as well as other changes in the negotiating procedures.

“Delegates have expressed disappointment and frustration at the lack of progress,” Ambassador Kim told participants at the concluding meeting of the latest round of talks.

Kim added that the “spirit of the negotiations must match our ambition,” pointing out that UN Secretary-General has called Rio+20 “a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”  Cautioning that this opportunity would not be available next year, he said negotiators “must send a clear message to our Heads of State and Government that we are on the right track” and that they should come to Rio.

Rio+20 Secretary-General Sha Zukang said that the present document, even after it had been reduced by about 100 pages, still had too many pages and paragraphs and contained too much duplication and repetition“Let us be frank,” he said. “Currently, the negotiating text is a far cry from the ‘focused political document’ called for by the General Assembly.”

Calling for greater political will and agreement on all sides, he said, “We can have an outcome document which builds upon earlier agreements — an outcome document which is action-oriented in spelling out the future we want.”

The objective, Mr. Sha said, should be to arrive in Rio with at least 90 per cent of the text ready and only the most difficult 10 per cent left to be negotiated there at the highest political levels.

Need to come together on key issues

Countries still need to come together on key issues, including one of the themes for the Conference—the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.  Some developed countries have embraced the green economy as a new roadmap for sustainable development, while many developing countries are more cautious, asserting that each country should choose its own path to a sustainable future and that a green economy approach should not lead to green protectionism or  limit growth and poverty eradication. Other countries and stakeholders have voiced concerns about implementation and accountability, pointing out that some commitments made at previous global meetings, such as for official development assistance, have yet to be fully realized.

Nonetheless, countries appear willing to agree on a number of issues, including the overall need to recognize and act to meet pressing global and national challenges.  It has been widely acknowledged that action is  needed to provide for the needs of a growing global population that continues to consume and produce unsustainably, resulting in rising carbon emissions, degraded natural ecosystems and growing income inequality. The need to find a better measurement of progress than GDP has also been widely acknowledged.

Countries have also been examining the concept of new Sustainable Development Goals, a set of benchmarks to guide countries in achieving targeted outcomes within a specific time period, such as on access to sustainable energy and clean water for all. Countries have differing views on what should or should not be included in the goals, as well as the formal process for how and when the goals may be defined, finalized and agreed to. Some countries would like to see the goals approved in Rio, while others see Rio+20 as a starting point for deciding on the goals. Some have concerns that the goals could bind them to commitments they feel are unrealistic, such as on climate change, while others want to ensure that countries are held accountable to achieve whatever goals are set.  

Rio+20 is expected to set the agenda for a more sustainable future for years to come. Governments, business and civil society organizations are expected to launch actions that will make a measurable difference, leading to greater prosperity, health and opportunities, and an environment that will continue to support growth for future generations. More than 120 Heads of State and Government have registered to attend; in addition, some 50,000 people, including business executives, mayors, NGOs, youth, indigenous people and many other groups, are expected to participate in both official and informal events in Rio de Janeiro during the Conference.

Source: Rio+20 press release

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