Despite Setbacks, EU Calls Rio a Success

Posted on 20 June 2012 by admin

By Claudia Ciobanu

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 20 (TerraViva) In the face of opposition from some developing countries, the European Union failed to get all it wanted from the final Rio+20 final agreement. Nevertheless, the Europeans decided to look at Rio as a good start.

“The agreement we have come to is not the best agreement in the world, but it is an agreement for a better world,” Danish Environment Minister Ida Auken told Terraviva.

“The EU came with a very ambitious agenda, and not all of our wishes have been fulfilled,” explained Auken, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

“However, the agreement marks progress on some points: the world has come to an understanding on the necessity of the green economy, which is new,” she said. “The first steps on the road towards global sustainability goals have been taken. New actors like cities, companies and civil society are being recognised as important to sustainable devepment.

“Concerning resources, the world has committed itself to reducing waste and to ensuring access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation.”

UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg conceded that, “Any text approved by 190 countries from different hemispheres will always involve compromises and dilution.

“But it is important to look at what direction it is pointing us to. And this text pushes us towards a world in which we treasure, measure and protect sustainable development like never before,” he said on June 20, the official start of the three-day conference.

All European decision-makers present in Rio admit a sense of disappointment with the results of the negotiations, but rally behind the common position that the agreement sets the world on the right path to sustainable development.

The main frustrations for the European Union have been the dilution of the commitment to the green economy, which at the moment has been replaced with more vague wording implying that countries keep some leverage over to what extent they choose to go down the green economy path; the postponement of the adoption of sustainable development goals until after 2015; and the rejection of the creation of a new body to handle the implementation of sustainable development commitments.

The final agreement envisages instead a redefined role for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In Rio, the EU found itself facing big developing countries which rejected the green economy vision as an imposition by the global North on the development path of the South. Additionally, far from strengthening the EU position, the United States reportedly kept a rather low profile in the negotiations.

A less discussed aspect of the final document is the role envisaged for civil society in the implementation of the sustainable development vision.

“While the document recognises the role of civil society in implementing sustainable development, this role should have been made more specific and additional mechanisms for civil society involvement should have been created,” Staffan Nilsson, the president of the European Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC is an EU body meant to enable European civil society groups to make their voices heard by Brussels decision-makers), told Terraviva.

“If there are no actions from civil society, there is less direction for sustainable development,” Nilsson added.

At the same time, he noted that regardless of this weakness in the final document, Rio represents a strong example of civil society having numerous opportunities to make their voices heard and a good starting point for further positive work from both non-governmental and governmental actors on sustainable development.

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