Rio+20 Achievements

The Parliamentary Information Office of the Parliamentary Yearbook is currently gathering news items for major features on sustainable energy and climate change in the next edition and has been monitoring progress at Rio+20 towards a greener future

United Nations senior officials have highlighted the achievements made during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) held from 20th to 22nd June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, stressing that they represent a global movement of change in which governments, the private sector and civil society all contribute to achieve global prosperity while protecting the environment.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a General Assembly meeting on 28th June on the outcome of the Conference:

“Let me be clear. Rio+20 was a success, in Rio, we saw the further evolution of an undeniable global movement for change.”

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.

World leaders attending the summit on sustainable development approved the agreements drawn up earlier in the week following negotiations by 193 countries.

In his remarks, Mr. Ban highlighted several parts of the Rio+20 outcome document, entitled ‘The Future We Want,’ which he hailed as “an important victory for multilateralism after months of difficult negotiations.”

These sentiments were echoed by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman who welcomed the progress made towards a more sustainable future at Rio+20.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who led the UK delegation, set out the UK’s ambition to build on the Rio+20 agreement. Addressing the final plenary, he said:

“This week we have agreed to set Sustainable Development Goals. I want to see progress in agreeing these within the post-2015 development framework, so that – as at the original Rio conference – the environment and development are again part of a coherent whole. I would like to think that the ideas we have promoted here – governments, civil society, consumers and business working together and concepts like the green economy and natural capital – will be central to the way we all behave.

“We need to turn words into action. We need to work together to change behaviours, to change all our mindsets and put our world on a more sustainable footing. That’s why the UK Environment Secretary and I have been using the unique platform that Rio provides to talk to fellow leaders from around the world about how we turn these ideas into reality.”

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, who led talks in reaching the agreement, said:

“We came to Rio with a clear set of ambitious aims on totally new concepts such as Sustainable Development Goals and GDP+, and we should be positive that we have made good progress on all them.

“Rio+20 has shown that there is political ambition for change. Now we have to make sure that will is not squandered. We have already started to make headway in the talks held since the text was agreed, such as good progress towards deciding on the themes the Sustainable Development Goals should cover.”

Key points from the agreement for the UK are:

  • Agreement to establish Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The United Nations General Assembly will appoint a group of representatives from 30 countries by September to develop the goals, with our aim for these goals to focus on food, water and energy
  • Recognition of the importance of the green economy as a way to help nations to grow sustainably, and to help eradicate poverty
  • A call from all nations at Rio+20 for businesses to adopt ways of reporting on their sustainability performance, as championed by the UK delegation and businesses such as Aviva.
  • Recognition by all nations at Rio+20 of the importance of including the value of natural capital and social wellbeing into decision making will be given real force by having a UN commission undertake the work on GDP plus.
  • Oceans to be given greater prominence with a commitment to extend marine conservation to on the high seas.
  • A call for enhanced efforts to sustainably manage forests including reforestation, restoration and afforestation. The agreement highlights the importance of initiatives such as REDD+ in reducing emissions from deforestation.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Caroline Spelman have been working to implement the agreed text over the final three days of the summit.

A Natural Capital Summit was hosted by Nick Clegg with the leaders of nations including Norway, Denmark, Costa Rica and Gabon to announce that 50 countries and 50 global firms have made commitments to include the value of natural resources in their accounts as part of the World Bank’s 50/50 campaign.

Caroline Spelman held talks with world leaders including Presidents and Prime Ministers to discuss how to take forward work on Sustainable Development Goals, which led to a developing consensus on the themes that SDGs should cover – including food, water and energy that the UK has pushed for.

Rio+20 has also been used as an opportunity for many bilateral meetings with other nations to discuss environmental projects, trade, and ways to boost growth and create jobs in the UK.

The Parliamentary Information Office of the Parliamentary Year book will continue to report on environmental issues and their impact on the UK as we go through the months ahead.

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