At the opening press conference for the Rio+20 summit, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced two key developments:
- Member States have agreed upon an outcome document addressing moving forward with sustainable development initiatives worldwide. More details about these plans will be provided this Friday.
- Global support has been received for a new sustainable energy initiative with over 200 private and public commitments expected to result from further discussions this week. This initiative seeks three objectives by 2030: universal access to modern energy services; scaling up of energy efficiencies; and, doubling the renewable energy mix in the power grids worldwide.
In his opening statement, he observed that bold words and good intentions are no longer enough as to sustainability goals. Rio+20 must be about people and creating better lives for the poor, women, young people and future generations. He noted that we must overcome the myth that there is a tradeoff between prosperity and what's good for the environment.
Numerous observers have charged that the outcome document is a watered-down approach with few advances on protecting the environment. Others charge that Rio+20 is spending too much time trying to punish polluters and too little time on encouraging innovators to come up with new technologies to solve problems. Two contentious issues impeding negotiators are: 1) technology transfers from rich to poor nations; and, 2) new financing for developing countries. Environmental groups are even more critical with Greenpeace already concluding that Rio+20 "... has turned into an epic failure."
"Epic failure" likely is an overstatement but it is clear that initial insights strongly suggest that progress on Rio+20 objectives will be slow in coming.
UN webcasts of key Rio+20 proceedings and press conferences are available at http://www.uncsd2012.org/ .