It’s Time for Sustainable Development
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Bill Clinton was set to enter the White House, the European Union was born and China had its first taste of a double cheeseburger with fries when McDonalds opened its doors in Beijing. That was 1992. A lot can happen in 20 years.
In June 2012, two decades after the groundbreaking Earth summit, which put climate change and biological diversity on the global political agenda, attention will turn once again to Rio de Janeiro for the UN conference on sustainable development, or Rio+20.
But the biggest environmental summit in 20 years is already proving controversial. The conference is a vital chance to renew political commitment for sustainable development at a time when urgent action must be taken to divert humanity from disaster. However, some commentators already believe it will be just another conference – all talk and no binding action.
The event’s focus on the “green economy” is deeply dividing opinion. Some see the label as an opportunity to hitch global financial systems firmly to sustainable development goals. Others see it as an open invitation for the proliferation of “greenwash” initiatives, which continue to put profit before people and planet.
Meanwhile, there are calls for Rio’s seven-strong shopping list of “critical issues” to be replaced by focus on one sector. UN executive Brice Lalonde, for example, has pushed for agriculture to be at the centre of negotiations, arguing that from agriculture other development goals – gender, biodiversity, land use, water, energy – flow.