Citizen Actions Turn Up the Heat for a Warming Planet

In advance of the June 2012 summit, officially dubbed the Conference on Sustainable Development, some environmentalists say they are concerned about its focus on developing a “Green Economy”.

According to Sustain Labour’s Laura Martin, the green economy originated as a concept in 2007, when governments created “green” stimulus packages to offset financial panic. Now, some argue that it is taking away from the summit’s real objective: sustainable development.

Despite the official Green Economy targets of creating green jobs, a social protection floor, and new and green fiscality and redistribution, Martin explained that, in reality, stimulus packages have already become insufficient, rhetoric has replaced real policies, and the momentum of 2007 has largely dissipated.

Most of the objection to the summit’s green economy-focus has come from the developing world, represented by the United Nations Group of 77 (or G77), while European nations are generally in favour of it. If member states are unable to reach a consensus, the meeting could face a similar fate as past climate change talks: incompletion and irresolution.

In 2009, the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP-15) in Copenhagen was temporarily suspended when G-77 members famously walked out in protest. Last May, the 19th round of the Conference on Sustainable Development – the forerunner to Rio+20 – broke down after 10 days of negotiations when no outcome document could be agreed upon.

“Unless people see green economy as a tool to achieve sustainable development and poverty alleviation, it’s not going to go forward and we’re heading further to failure,” said Chantal Line Carpentier, of the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Rio+20 Secretariat.

Carpentier recently visited Santiago, Chile, where a group of Latin American representatives rejected the concept of Green Economy in a preparatory meeting. But when it was reintroduced in the context of poverty alleviation and sustainable development, she said, the members reconsidered and accepted it.

She said that under the “Major Group” tab on the official Rio+20 website, civil society members are encouraged to post petitions, position papers, and links to their blogs.

She likened the United Nations to a national government. “Sometimes, you have champions in the government,” she said, “but they need you to go to them and help them … If they don’t get leadership from the top, they need support from the bottom.”

She also noted the important role that civil society played during Copenhagen’s COP-15. Although that conference has largely been considered a failure, she said, it was successful in drawing global attention to the issue.

Article originally published at

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