Previous post withdrawn … and more post-Rio gleanings

Sorry, folks … I was experimenting with “Storify” and my creation really was far from ready for prime-time live – but I was hoping to see an intermediate step between Storify export and WordPress publish. If there is one, I haven’t found the magic button. So I have deleted that post, at least for now!

In the meantime, you might want to take a look at some highlights (or lowlights, depending on one’s perspective) from the IISD’s Report (apart from headings, all bolds are mine -hro):




A. Strengthening the Three Dimensions of Sustainable Development: In this subsection, delegates discussed civil society engagement, with differences persisting over the venues for stakeholder involvement and placement of the related text, and on concerns over monitoring roles.

Final Outcome: The document agrees, inter alia, to: strengthen IFSD, including by promoting the “full and effective participation of all countries in decision making processes”; promote the review and stocktaking of progress in implementation of all sustainable development commitments, including those related to MOI [Means of Implementation -hro]; and enhance the participation and “effective engagement” of civil society [civil society is UN-speak for NGOs -hro]. It calls for capacity building especially for developing countries, including in conducting their own monitoring and assessments.

B. Strengthening Intergovernmental Arrangements for Sustainable Development: This subsection includes the UNGA [UN General Assembly -hro], UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), [see my post on this -hro] and the high-level political forum.


Final Outcome: The document calls for the UNGA to further integrate sustainable development in its work, including through high-level dialogues. It commits to strengthening ECOSOC, and looks forward to the Review of the Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 61/16 on the strengthening of ECOSOC.

It decides to establish a universal intergovernmental high-level political forum, building on the CSD and its “inclusive participation modalities” and “subsequently replacing” the CSD. The high-level forum “could,” inter alia: follow up and review progress in the implementation of sustainable development commitments made at previous UN summits and conferences; and strengthen the science-policy interface including in the form of a global sustainable development report. An intergovernmental process under the UNGA will define its format and organizational aspects, with the aim of convening the first high-level forum at the 68th session of the UNGA.

The outcome document also invites the Secretary-General to present a report on the needs of future generations.

I always thought that “sustainable development” rested on “three pillars”. But it seems that the “pillars” have morphed into “dimensions.” Oh well …

There is a section on Climate Change. Here’s the quasi-official word:

Climate change: The text used as a basis for the negotiations in Rio had five heavily bracketed paragraphs on: protection of the climate system for present and future generations; international responses to climate change; funding mobilization; interlinkages among climate change and other issues such as water, energy and food; and short-lived climate pollutants. One particular area of contention was reference to CBDR [Common But Differentiated Responsibilities -hro], with delegations such as the US, Canada, Japan and Australia requesting its deletion and the G-77/China supporting its retention. Among the other issues of divergence were references to specific UNFCCC COPs, disproportionate impact on women, prompt operationalization of the Green Climate Fund, and immediate action to reduce short-lived climate pollutants.

Final Outcome: The subsection on climate change includes three paragraphs on:

• the threat of climate change, vulnerability of developing countries to climate change, and that adaption to climate change represents an immediate and urgent global priority;

• an effective and appropriate international response with a view to accelerate the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions;

• recalling that the UNFCCC provides that parties should protect the climate system on the basis of equity and in accordance with CBDR;

• mobilizing funding and welcoming the launch of the Green Climate Fund; and

• urging parties to implement commitments under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, and to build upon progress achieved including at COP 17 in Durban.

Conspicuous by its absence in the above is any mention of the IPCC. This could be because Chairman Pachauri was occupied with other duties … in the Sustainia tent.

And if you find yourself with time on your hands, you could take a stab at memorizing the “translations” of all the acronyms by perusing the handy Glossary at the bottom of the page.


3 thoughts on “Previous post withdrawn … and more post-Rio gleanings

  1. Here’s a wee thought experiment (that we may actually get to perform this decade): suppose a totally no-emissions, no radioactivity, ultra-low cost, inexhaustible, distributed, dispatchable (easily ramped up and down); 24/7 energy source was made available world-wide. What is then “sustainable”?

    The folks at are working hard to make it happen.

  2. There was a debate in the European Parliament last Thursday (5th July) about Rio +20; I often find these sessions interesting, as quite a few are about climate change, sustainability or related themes; there are some parallels between the institutions of the UN and EU, and I find that the ideas and language (including the jargon) are similar. Here’s a link to the BBC’s video record of this, but I’m not sure if it’s accessible outside the UK:

    Basically, this was a post-mortem; beyond the platitudes, there’s a consensus that the outcome was generally disappointing for the EU (one of the world’s major proponents of CO2 mitigation, sustainability, etc), with MEPs talking openly of a failure and that “we failed to set an example.” There was some anti-capitalist sentiment, for instance a speech by Joao Ferreira of the Portuguese Communist Party, which included this line: “The dominant economic and social system at world level has shown itself incapable of satisfying the most basic needs of millions and millions of human beings” (none of these teeming millions ever went hungry before capitalism came along and spoiled things, I presume.) And there’s Sandrine Belier of the French Greens, who says the EU should be “pushing for a new model of development in order to come out of the crisis.”

    “We now, at a European scale and at the level of member states, need to push for this transition without further ado, push for innovative funding, the financial transaction tax, green taxation. Without waiting, we need to push for our energy transition so that we put an end to the use of fossil fuels, preserving our marine and land resources. Let’s just do it. The European Union would become more credible and would have greater clout internationally. The human community would gain, in terms of its perspective for the future. So right now we need to be determined when it comes to pushing through this work programme adopted at Rio, speeding up change and also reaffirming our ambitions…”

    I’ve looked for English transcripts of this and similar sessions but haven’t found any so far – the EU’s websites are generally labyrinthine and it’s not always obvious where useful things are hidden. Maybe I’ll transcribe some of them myself, but would take a while as they do tend to be long-winded! But it’s interesting (if often irritating) to listen to these ideas being articulated in detail. I think that if measures such as “innovative funding”, financial transaction taxes, green taxes and “energy transitions” are to be implemented wholesale anywhere in the world, the EU will probably be in the forefront.

    • Thanks for this update, Alex. The BBC video link you provided does work (well, at least it works for me here in Canada!)

      From my reading of the various IISD reports on the pre-Rio deliberations (on the “outcome” document), I had the impression that the EU had been pushing for far more than they (and the NGOs) got.

      I’ve often wondered how it came about that the EU should have such influence in UN circles; for example, at the 33rd session of the IPCC, the “European Commission” had 3 attendees – although their “participant type” is listed as “Organizations”. In this instance, all 3 were from Belgium along with 5 from Belgium designated as “National Delegation” participants and two more from WWF and one from Global Wind Energy Council. So the Belgium contingent was 11 in total. [Source which I had discussed here]

      Don’t have the actual text handy at the moment, but the Rio outcome document also pushes for an “enhanced” role for both the EU and the NGOs (aka “civil society”).

      I think that if measures such as “innovative funding”, financial transaction taxes, green taxes and “energy transitions” are to be implemented wholesale anywhere in the world, the EU will probably be in the forefront.

      I think you are quite correct; this seems to be a pattern we have seen in the past: the EU seems to be the “test bed” and if it flies there, then it makes it into the UNEP generated “ambitions” ;-)

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