Rio+20 must ‘unenvironmentalise’ green issues, says G77 negotiator

Next year’s Rio+20 United Nations summit must “un-environmentalise” the world’s approach to sustainability so that it can reach out beyond the converted, according to a senior organiser in the host nation.

André Corrêa do Lago, the chief negotiator for Brazil, said the once-in-a-generation gathering should focus on economic opportunities so the principles of sustainability are accepted beyond the “usual suspects” of environment ministries and green NGOs.

The effort to broaden the principles of the original 1992 Rio Earth summit are likely to prove controversial. Supporters say the world needs a new, more inclusive approach to sustainability that emphasises the benefits to humanity because current efforts to protect nature are failing. Critics warn the increased emphasis on technology and markets will simply greenwash destructive levels of consumption and development.

The follow-up in June 2012 will also try to set the global agenda for the next 20 years, predicted do Lago, but he said the outcome would take a different shape. The shift partly reflects a change in the global balance of power. Twenty years ago, the west – particularly the US – dominated the world economy and political agenda. Today, such older industrial powers are struggling to recover from the 2008 financial crisis while fast developing nations, like China, India and Brazil are in the ascendant.

But a gap has opened up as the former group lose influence, while the latter are reluctant to accept more responsibility. Disputes between developed and developing nations are partly to blame for the dire progress in UN climate negotiations, which were also started by the 1992 summit. After the acrimony of talks in Copenhagen in 2009 and the weak outcome of Cancún last year, there is a danger that another poor result in Durban this winter could undermine the entire UN negotiating process and turn the follow-up Rio summit into a crisis meeting to rebuild the multilateral framework.

Even if the hosts can stick to their desired agenda, the emphasis on technology and “ecological service payments” has already alarmed many environmental commentators, who feel core values are being diluted and losing out to pressure from big corporations.

A furious debate looks likely to ensue between those calling for traditional protection for nature and those looking to collaborate with companies, markets and accountants in the creation of a green economy.

Article originally published at

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