What is cooking? Negotiations on the zero draft of the Rio+20 outcome document
Commentators point out that the draft still lacks a clear definition of ‘green economy’. Many (for instance Greenpeace) criticise lack of urgency and clear enforcement rules in the document. Indeed, the document proposes ‘gradual change’ and suggests voluntary commitments as main transformation mechanism. There are also concerns that the draft does not emphasise the notion of ‘limits to growth’ sufficiently. On the other hand, some observers claim that the draft is ‘environmentally heavy’ and there is a need for the exclusion of social and economic considerations in the final outcome document.
Among respondents to the zero draft there is strong support for the formulation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, questions are raised on how to organise the process and whereas SDGs we should wait with their implementation until 2015, when Millenium Development Goals expire.
The idea to complement GPD with an indicator that measures health and happiness in addition to economic aspects is also well received.
There is ongoing discussion on possibilities to strengthen global sustainability governance. Three competing ideas include setting new UN Environmental Agency (for instance Sustainable Development Council), strengthening existing institutions (for instance Economic and Social Council) and appointing an Ombudsperson/ High Commissioner, for Future Generations.
Deciding on concrete solutions seems to be tricky. According to observers the draft lacks creative solutions concerning leveraging additional funds for the transition to a green economy. Moreover, there are controversies about reducing trade barriers, eliminating subsidies that have negative effects on the environment and phasing out subsidies on agriculture.
There are also more general concerns about the entire Rio+20 process. Whereas everybody agrees that governments, companies and civil society should debate on the outcomes of Rio+20, many actors seem not to be involved and political will seems to be weak. Sue Riddlestone from BioRegional, who attended World Economic Forum in Davos noted that for most delegates the event was possibly the first time they heard about Rio+20. She observed ‘surprising general lack of knowledge on Rio+20 or sustainability issues’ among the overwhelming majority of business leaders.
Yet, Chantal Line Carpentier, Coordinator for Major Groups at the Rio+10 Secretariat, is more positive about possible impact of the Rio+20 conference. With expected more than 100 heads of states participating (so far 30 heads of states confirmed their participation, including China, Germany and India) she believes that there is a real opportunity to secure high-level political commitment to sustainable development. However, as Chantal Line Carpentier remarks, perspectives for binding commitments are weak. For this reason civil society organisations need to stay alert also after the Rio+20 conference and keep putting pressure on the governments to make things happen.
Text: Marta Dabrowska