Frustration over 'weak' Rio+20 text

25th June 2012

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Mitigation ,
  • Natural resources ,
  • Business & Industry



Environment groups lambast lack of ambition and action in Rio+20 agreement, as policymakers admit the text will disappoint many

World leaders have been accused of failing to get to grips with the challenges of sustainable development after signing up to the “Future we want” document negotiated during the Rio+20 summit last week.

Representatives from more than 190 countries ratified the text ahead of the close of the summit on Friday (22 June), despite groups including WWF, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth strongly criticising the document as offering little tangible action to tackle environmental impacts and encourage sustainable development.

“World leaders in Rio have responded to the tide of global destruction that’s fast approaching by sticking their heads firmly in the sand,” warned Friends of the Earth’s director of policy Craig Bennett, who attended the conference. “These talks have been completely undermined by a dangerous lack of ambition, urgency and political will.”

The executive director of the UN Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, admitted that the conclusion of the talks had not lived up to expectations.

“The outcome of Rio+20 will disappoint and frustrate many given the science, ... the analysis of where development is currently heading for seven billion people and the inordinate opportunity for a different trajectory,” he said.

“However, if nations, companies and civil society can move forward on the positive elements of the summit's outcome it may assist in one day realising the future we want.”

The document has been criticised for doing little more than acknowledging the difficulties of climate change, resource use and protecting the environment, with the signatories not required to undertake any targeted actions.

“While the text states that it recognises that action is fundamental and underscores the importance of governments taking a leadership role, its fine words lack clarity about implementation mechanisms and frameworks and clear specific actions,” argued Dr Margaret Adey, development director of the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership.

World leaders have, however, agreed to work together to develop new sustainable development targets to succeed the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.

Representatives from 30 countries will form a working group to develop the goals, which will focus on food, water and energy, by September 2013. Private sector organisations will have a role in designing the new goals after UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon accepted the recommendation from the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum.

Rio+20 participants also agreed to extend marine conservation to include oceans, boost efforts to manage forests sustainably, and to provide greater support to the UNEP.

They overwhelmingly endorsed the view that a green economy is important for the future, and called on more businesses to report on their sustainability performance.

Participants also acknowledged that a new understanding of wealth incorporating natural capital was needed, and asked the UN Statistical Commission to launch a programme investigating the potential of extending the concept of gross domestic product (GDP).

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who led the UK delegation and announced the UK’s plan to mandate greenhouse-gas reporting for businesses at the summit, said the next step was 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,” he said. “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.”

Meanwhile, environment secretary Caroline Spelman, who participated in the negotiations, said: “Rio+20 has shown that there is political ambition for change. Now we have to make sure that will is not squandered.”


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

EU and UK citizens fear net-zero delivery deficit

Support for net zero remains high across the UK and the EU, but the majority of citizens don't believe that major emitters and governments will reach their climate targets in time.

16th May 2024

Read more

There is strong support for renewable energy as a source of economic growth among UK voters, particularly among those intending to switch their support for a political party.

16th May 2024

Read more

Taxing the extraction of fossil fuels in the world’s most advanced economies could raise $720bn (£575bn) by 2030 to support vulnerable countries facing climate damages, analysis has found.

2nd May 2024

Read more

The largest-ever research initiative of its kind has been launched this week to establish a benchmark for the private sector’s contribution to the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

The Scottish government has today conceded that its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 is now “out of reach” following analysis by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

18th April 2024

Read more

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close