Rio – the final score: climate change 22, sustainable 400

Well, it’s all over but the shouting, and I’m sure we’ll hear lots of it in the months ahead! I don’t know how many of the “High Level” participants actually read and comprehended this 283 paragraph “outcome document“. It will certainly take a few days for me to translate from Bureaucratese into comprehensible English.

But in the meantime …

There are a few paragraphs that set my alarm bells ringing. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has been a manufacturer and promulgator of scary stories since 1972. It has the highest flying carbon footprint of any UN agency. And of course it is the parent of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Gaia knows how many acronymic offspring. Yet on p. 17, we find (emphases mine -hro):

87. We reaffirm the need to strengthen international environmental governance within the context of the institutional framework for sustainable development, in order to promote a balanced integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development as well as coordination within the United Nations system.

88. We are committed to strengthening the role of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. We reaffirm resolution 2997 (XXVII) of 15 December 1972 which established UNEP and other relevant resolutions that reinforce its mandate, as well as the 1997 Nairobi Declaration on the Role and Mandate of UNEP and the 2000 Malmö Ministerial Declaration. In this regard, we invite the General Assembly, at its sixty-seventh session, to adopt a resolution strengthening and upgrading UNEP in the following manner:

[...]

(c) Enhance the voice of UNEP and its ability to fulfil its coordination mandate within the United Nations system by strengthening UNEP engagement in key United Nations coordination bodies and empowering UNEP to lead efforts to formulate United Nations system-wide strategies on the environment;

(d) Promote a strong science-policy interface, building on existing international instruments, assessments, panels and information networks, including the Global Environment Outlook, as one of the processes aimed at bringing together information and assessment to support informed decision-making

And here are some word-counts to ponder.

sustainable/sustainability 400
environment 123
women 58
framework 48
finance/financial 39
poverty 65
inclusion/inclusive 35
stakeholders 28
biodiversity 27
gender 26
climate change 22
green economy 23
equity/equitable 23

equality 20
civil society 13
governance 13
Agenda 21 12
children 10
adaptation 4
carbon 3*
greenhouse gases 3
mitigation 2
global warming 1
footprint 0
IPCC 0
IPBES 0

*two of which were contained in “hydrofluorocarbons”

Well, that’s a quick ‘n dirty analysis. But it does give some indication as to what they’ve decided the “priorities” will be – and where the power will lie. At least until the next meeting of some High Level Committee or Panel somewhere on the planet! In the meantime the emphasis seems to be on “voluntary commitments” towards the Future [they haven't quite been able to convince us] We Want.

Big Green are less than thrilled with this outcome document. Sooooo – perhaps the future won’t be quite as bad as we thought. Well, at least until the UNEP acquires its “enhanced voice”, and we find out who all these “stakeholders” might really be.

UPDATE: See also Peter Foster’s assessment in the Financial Post, in which he concludes:

The Rio future we avoided

There remain calls to tie down a set of Sustainable Development Goals, which should be good for another hundred reports and a dozen conferences. An Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is also on the drawing board. This will reportedly do for biodiversity what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did for climate science: pervert it for political ends.

The Rio+20 text was originally sold as promoting “The Future We Want.” However, the “We” in question was always a self-selected group of UN bureaucrats, alarmist NGOs, corporate rent-seekers and main chancers whose interests were sharply at odds with those of ordinary people. Rio+20’s failure should be celebrated as The Future We Avoided.

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