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Americas

Critics label Rio summit a 'failure'

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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-06-22

With the global summit on the environment in Rio wrapping up Friday, a 53-page statement was issued outlining an action plan. However, critics lined up to complain about the lack of concrete measures agreed on.

AFP - A global summit to root out poverty and fix Earth's worsening environment was set to wrap up here Friday, issuing a roster of promises that many critics have already branded as pallid or gutless.

The gathering of 191 UN members crowned a 10-day forum marking 20 years since the Earth Summit, where leaders vowed the world would live within its means.

In a sprawling 53-page statement, the three-day summit will voice dismay that more than a billion people live in extreme poverty on a planet strained by ecological overload, and outline the plan for a cure.

"We... renew our commitment to sustainable development, and to ensure the promotion of an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet and for present and future generations," the document says.

It highlights a range of perils facing a world with a human population set to surge from seven billion today to 9.5 billion by 2050.

The long list includes desertification, fisheries depletion, pollution and deforestation, and the danger that thousands of species will go the way of the dodo.

But a special status is reserved for global warming, described starkly as "one of the greatest challenges of our time."

"We are deeply concerned that all countries, particularly developing countries, are vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change," the statement says.

"(They) are already experiencing increased impacts, including persistent drought and extreme weather events, sea-level rise, coastal erosion and ocean acidification, further threatening food security and efforts to eradicate poverty."

"Sustainable Development Goals" will replace the UN's Millennium Development Goals from 2015, although defining the aim will be left for future talks – a process likely to be long and fiercely fought.

The strategy also promotes the green economy, a concept that breaks new ground in official UN terminology.

But despite the demands of developing countries for $30 billion in help, it stipulates no funding figures to achieve sustainability goals.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the statement as a blueprint for making the world a brighter, safer place.

"This is a very good document, this is the vision on which we can build our dreams, our visions and it is important that the member states are united and work together," Ban said on Thursday.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday said the document "marks a real advance for sustainable development. We know this is one of the most pressing matters of our time."

Clinton confirmed the United States would stump up $2 billion in funds, earmarked by Congress in 2011, to support clean energy programs and projects in developing countries. This money could act as a powerful lever for luring private-sector investment, she said.

More than $513 billion has been "mobilized" in commitments for sustainable development by governments, businesses, civil society groups and others, the UN said.

It gave no immediate further details about the pledges, notably as to whether the funding was new, or about the criteria for considering the projects sustainable.

Greens said a revolutionary chance to change a broken economic model had been wasted, while campaigners against poverty railed against greed and selfishness.

"Rio+20 has been a failure of epic proportions," said Greenpeace's executive director, Kumi Naidoo.

"We must now work together to form a movement to tackle the equity, ecology and economic crises being forced on our children. The only outcome of this summit is justifiable anger, an anger that we must turn into action."

Ban set the Conference on Sustainable Development as the cornerstone of his plan for fairer, cleaner growth, the "No. 1 priority" of his tenure.

But talk of a summit that would draw as many 130 heads of state or government to give a push to his goals was way off the mark.

In the end, less than half of the UN's rollcall of countries sent their leader, with the remainder represented by deputies, ministers or simply chief negotiators.

Absentees included US President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Date created : 2012-06-22

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