AlertNet: The world has to transition to a green economy for its survival but the current economic downturn will make it hard to strike a deal at this month’s Rio+20 sustainable development summit, a senior U.N. official said on Friday. The June 20-22 meeting in Brazil, which is expected to attract more than 50,000 participants from governments, business and lobby groups, will attempt to set new goals across seven core themes including food security, water and energy. “Rio is going to be a very difficult negotiation, extremely difficult,” said Amina Mohamed, deputy executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).
“We need to do this but it is going to require energy, it is going to require resources, it’s going to require a sense of focus and we don’t have that because we are trying to focus on reviving our economies.” Negotiations ahead of the summit have been extremely slow. Only one-fifth of the draft text has been agreed so far. Although the goals are aspirational, not mandatory, many countries are reluctant to make commitments because of a preoccupation with their own faltering economies.
“It’s an opportunity that we should not lose. If we lose it we will have to wait for another 20 years,” Mohamed told AlertNet in an interview. “By then, the damage that we see today will be 20-fold.”
TOO MANY PROMISES
The original Rio Earth Summit 20 years ago led to the Kyoto Protocol on capping greenhouse gas emissions and a treaty on biodiversity. But only four out of its 90 most important commitments have been met, UNEP said in a report this week. The world’s failure to achieve the 500-plus commitments made 20 years ago is adding to the lethargy, according to Mohamed.
“Too many promises were made,” she said. “There is a track record. People are looking at this and saying look, ‘We made all these promises. How much have we done on them? Why do we want to enter into new ones?’” Experts agree, however, that the world has no alternative if the planet is to ward off catastrophic climate change. Increasing global temperatures are already causing more extreme and erratic weather conditions and a surge in natural disasters.
“It is the only option that we have on the table if we are not going to have governments preside over countries that are destructed and damaged by the consequences of everything that is going on, especially the consequences of climate change, of drought, food insecurity and joblessness,” Mohamed said. She said the current model of development is “obsolete” whereas a low carbon economy, driven by investment in renewable energy and more efficient use of energy, could create 15 to 60 million jobs.
“Either we take the road that is business as usual – and obviously we know where it is going to end because it’s not sustainable – or we take a new route,” she said. “A little more painful, probably additional resources required, but at the end of the day we know that we will come out of the precipice.” Africa, which is leading the world in embracing green technologies, is strongly advocating the transition to a green economy as a goal at Rio+20. Europe is also in favour of ambitious initiatives to mitigate climate change.
Even if ambitious targets are not adopted in Brazil later this month, the world will eventually have to make the transition, Mohamed said, adding: “The green economy is about the survival of the planet.”
By: Katy Migiro
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