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Earth

Talks stumble ahead of Rio summit

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-06-19

Talks meant to draft a blueprint on sustainable development ahead of the Rio+20 summit had not yet produced an agreement Monday night, as negotiators stumbled on matters of technology transfer and environmental standards.

Negotiations on a blueprint on sustainable development were still mired in discord on Monday night, less than two days before the opening of the official UN Rio+20 summit on sustainable development.

Some 120 heads of state and government are expected in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro from June 20 to 22 in a bid to revive the momentum of the 1992 Earth Summit.

Yet the 50-page draft of the international agreement, entitled “The Future We Want”, outlining proposals to fix damage to the environment, eradicate poverty and promote green jobs was still the object of fierce diplomatic wrangling.

Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister Antonio de Aguiar Patriota said his country wanted to close a deal swiftly enough to present a document that will be used to create a final declaration at the end of the summit.

A slimmed-down draft

Host country Brazil took over negotiations on the document after the last round of talks supervised by the UN ended on Friday without a final agreement.

Palestinians seek full representation at Rio+20 summit

Palestinians are pushing for full representation as a state at the Rio+20 summit. “We expect full-status participation because we already have it in UNESCO and we have ties with Brazil (the host country, which recognizes the Palestinian state) and with more than 130 countries,” Palestinian ambassador Ibrahim Alzeben told AFP.

But Nikhil Seth, head of Sustainable Development at the UN and head of the Rio+20 Secretariat, said at a press conference that “discussions” were ongoing. The final decision will be made at a procedural session when the official Rio+20 summit opens on Wednesday.
 

Only 38% of the original text – 116 out of 315 paragraphs – have been approved by the delegates who have been working on it for five months. Yet these figures are being put forth to save face more than anything else: a number of the said paragraphs merely recall commitments taken at the 1992 Earth Summit and at other international summits held over the past 20 years.

So far, Brazil has picked up the draft and removed the most contentious paragraphs, slimming the text down to 50 pages.

“Shorter does not mean weaker,” Nikhil Seth, head of sustainable development at the UN and head of the Rio+20 Secretariat, told the press Sunday.

But Lasse Gustavsson, head of the WWF delegation to Rio+20, said he did not expect any “political miracles” after reading the Brazilian draft. “Too many expressions are ambiguous,” he added. “I hope [the negotiators] prepared plenty of coffee (…) because they have long nights ahead of them if they do not want to embarrass their bosses.”

Agreements and disagreements

One of the main bones of contention is the principle of “common but differentiated responsibility” created at the 1992 Rio Summit. This principle translates into different environmental standards for developing countries, in order not to slow their economic growth.

But Western countries consider the principle less and less relevant as countries once considered “developing” are now comparable to richer countries in terms of carbon emissions and consumption of natural resources.

Negotiations also stumbled on the matter of technology transfers to help developing countries shift towards a greener economy.

A World Environmental Organisation?

Also on the agenda in Rio is the question of an institutional framework for sustainable development. France has been pushing to create a World Environmental Organisation modelled on the World Trade Organisation (WTO). French President François Hollande, who took up a proposal already drawn up by predecessor Jacques Chirac, can count on support from a majority of African countries. But the US, Canada, Russia oppose the idea, as does the “Group of 77” organisation of developing countries, which fears it will impede their economic growth. Yet France’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Nicole Bricq, said early this week that she was hoping India and China would support the move.

Brazil and other countries of the G77 group (a coalition of 132 developing countries) suggested creating a dedicated fund worth 30 billion dollar a year – something the West, mired in an economic crisis, is critical of.

At least, “accepting the concept of a green economy is no longer a major problem,” said the UN’s Nikhil Seth. But the term “green economy” tends to be superseded by “green economy policies”, which gives governments a freer rein.

While Brazil pushes ahead with talks in Rio, some eyes have turned to Los Cabos in Mexico, where Brazilian President Dilma Roussef is taking part in a G20 summit Monday and Tuesday.

WWF’s Lasse Gustavsson hoped that “G20 leaders in Mexico [would] boost Rio”, saying long-term sustainable development was the condition of economic stability.

But the Brazilian negotiator for Rio+20, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, said Dilma Roussef would not discuss Rio+20 in Mexico.

Given the slow pace of the talks, many participants fear a draft will be patched together at the last minute, as was the case in 2009 at the Copenhagen summit on climate change. When political leaders turned up, they found a draft text full of gaps.

While rumours at the Riocentro exhibition centre late at night on Sunday hinted that Brazil was drafting a new document altogether, so as to avoid a complete failure, the Brazilian delegation has denied this.

 

Date created : 2012-06-19

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