Last Friday evening, the negotiations to prepare for the Rio+20 Conference were supposed to have finished. They hadn’t. In fact, it is still unclear whether the work that started a year ago will lead to any results.
There are several reasons for this. One visible issue is that developing countries refuse to commit to any new obligations in what they predominantly see as a northern-shaped environmental agenda – unless those northern countries re-commit to substantial forms of (additional) financial and technological assistance, combined with favorable trade agreements etc.
Northern governments are not prepared to do this in the ways demanded. And some, including the EU and South Korea, also think that the green economy path they are promoting will benefit everyone; rather than a sacrifice, it will be an opportunity.
This general problem is undermining progress in many areas, including on forests. Developing countries do not want to commit to anything not already agreed under the framework of the UN Forest Forum (UNFF), while others, in particular the EU, proposed a set of specific instruments (including certification) to develop more effective anti-deforestation and forest degradation programmes. As the UN is basically a consensus-driven organization, the collective weight of the developing countries – organized as a group of 132 of the 193 UN members – is high. As such, they can apply the brakes in many cases.
Rio+20 risks to become nothing more than a reconfirmation of what was happened before, with the only additions mandates for further work on institutional UN sustainable development work and a process for a sustainable development goal.
Also on Friday night, the UN handed over the leadership of the process to the Government of Brazil. I’m curious about what kind of change this will bring. We will all know by Wednesday.