Negotiations have concluded at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) with delegations adopting the outcome document “The Future We Want” to mixed reviews.
Outside the negotiations, governments, the private sector, civil society and other groups made nearly 700 voluntary commitments to implement the conference's goals, with financial commitments reaching US$513 billion.
22 June 2012: The third and final meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), Pre-Conference Informal Consultations Facilitated by the Host Country, and the UNCSD convened back-to-back in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 13-22 June 2012. During their ten days in Rio, government delegations concluded negotiations on the Rio outcome document, titled “The Future We Want.”
Representatives from 191 UN Member States and observers, including 79 Heads of State or Government, addressed the general debate, and approximately 44,000 badges were issued for official meetings, a Rio+20 Partnerships Forum, Sustainable Development Dialogues, SD-Learning and an estimated 500 side events in RioCentro, the venue for the Conference itself.
In closing the Conference, UNCSD President Dilma Rousseff (Brazil) stressed that Rio+20 was the most participatory conference in history and was a “global expression of democracy.” Taking place in parallel to official events, approximately 3,000 unofficial events were organized throughout Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Governments and the Rio Conventions organized Pavilions showcasing their experiences and best practices, and the Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development, a Global Town Hall, a People’s Summit, the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Sustainability and spontaneous street actions were just a few of the many events around the historic city of Rio de Janeiro, discussing the Rio+20 themes and the broader requirements for sustainable development implementation.
Participants at Rio+20 were encouraged to make voluntary commitments for actions to implement the conference’s goals, and almost 700 had been received by the close of Rio+20, with financial commitments from governments, the private sector, civil society and other groups reaching US$513 billion. Among the financial commitments, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a partnership between the US and African countries, with US$20 million in funding, to unlock private financing for clean energy projects in Africa and beyond. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff pledged US$6 million to UNEP’s fund targeting developing countries, and US$10 million towards climate change challenges in Africa, least developed countries, and small island developing States (SIDS). A similar pledge had been offered earlier in the meeting by Wen Jiabao, Premier of China. José Manuel Durão Barroso, President, European Commission (EC), announced the EC would mobilize €400 million to support sustainable energy projects. Koichiro Gemba, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Japan, announced funding for a three-year programme of disaster risk reduction (DRR), and eight multilateral development banks pledged to invest US$175 billion over the next ten years to support the creation of sustainable transport systems.
The agreement adopted in Rio calls for the UN General Assembly (UNGA), at its next session, to take decisions on, inter alia: designating a body to operationalize the ten-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production (10YFP); determining the modalities for the third international conference on SIDS, which is to convene in 2014; identifying the format and organizational aspects of the high-level forum, which is to replace the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD); strengthening the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); constituting a working group to develop global sustainable development goals (SDGs) to be agreed by UNGA; and establishing an intergovernmental process under UNGA to prepare a report proposing options on an effective sustainable development financing strategy; considering a set of recommendations from the Secretary-General for a facilitation mechanism that promotes the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies. In addition, the UNGA is called on to take a decision in two years on the development of an international instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) regarding marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. Furthermore, the UN Statistical Commission is called on to launch a programme of work on broader measures to complement gross domestic product, and the UN system is encouraged, as appropriate, to support industry, interested governments and relevant stakeholders in developing models for best practice and facilitate action for the integration of sustainability reporting. The outcome also includes text on trade-distorting subsidies, fisheries and fossil fuel subsidies.
While many had held out hope that Rio+20 would launch new processes and significantly alter the international framework – from establishing a new High Commissioner for Future Generations, to upgrading UNEP to the status of an organization, to identifying significant means of implementation, to establishing concrete targets and a “roadmap” for the green economy – the UNCSD agreement was much more modest. But while some criticized the document for “kicking the can” down the road and missing an opportunity to boldly redirect sustainable development actions, others focused on the upcoming opportunities within the UNGA and other fora to shape the true Rio+20 legacy.
In her closing statement, Rousseff also said that Rio+20 had demonstrated that multilateralism is a legitimate pathway to build solutions for global problems. The negotiations on the outcome text had taken place over the past two years, and as the outcome document had swelled to over 200 pages at points with limited signs of movement towards consensus text, many had expected the full ten days in Rio would be filled with the long nights and brinksmanship that have characterized recent multilateral environmental agreements. At the end of the meeting, delegates complemented Brazil for its leadership during the Pre-Conference Informal Consultations, during which the organizing country developed a revised draft, facilitated three days of discussions, encouraging delegates to suggest changes to the draft, and facilitated final agreement prior to the opening of Rio+20 itself. Delegates at UNCSD adopted the final report for Rio+20 on 22 June 2012. Following statements by President Rousseff, UN officials and governments – including a number of reservations – the meeting closed at 8:41 pm to praise across the board for the host country’s achievements in bringing the most participatory summit in history to a satisfactory conclusion, while views on the main political outcome were mixed. [IISD RS Earth Negotiations Bulletin Summary and Analysis] [IISD RS Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage] [The Future We Want, Rio+20 Outcome Document]