Environmentalists slate summit’s green global development draft

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RIO DE JANEIRO: Diplomats from more than 190 countries agreed on a draft text on green global development yesterday to be approved this week at a summit in Rio de Janeiro, but environmentalists complained that the agreement was too weak.

The summit, known as Rio+20, was supposed to hammer out aspirational, rather than mandatory, sustainable development goals across core areas like food security, water and energy, but the draft text agreed upon by diplomats failed to define those goals or give clear timetables towards setting them.

It is “telling that nobody in that room adopting the text was happy. That’s how weak it is,” the EU’s climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, said on Twitter.

The text “has too much ‘take note’ and ‘reaffirm’ and too little ‘decide’ and ‘commit’. The big task now is for UN nations to follow up” on this, she added.

Expectations were low for the summit because politicians’ attention is more focused on the euro zone crisis, a presidential election in the US and turmoil in the Middle East than on the environment.

The first Rio Earth summit in 1992 paved the way for a global treaty on biodiversity, and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases, which is due to expire this year. The Rio+20 moniker is a nod to the 1992 summit.

Heads of state and ministers, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President François Hollande and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, met diplomats representing other nations from yesterday for three days to discuss the text and possibly make some changes to its wording.

Observers do not expect major amendments.

US special envoy for climate change Todd Stern said on Tuesday he did not expect the document to change much after heads of state meet to discuss it.

“We don’t have anything that we are expecting to try to drive into the document that is not there yet,” he said.

Environmental groups criticised the text, saying it omitted or watered down important proposals and challenged heads of state to act urgently to respond to climate change.

“This summit could be over before it has started. World leaders arriving tonight must start afresh. Rio+20 should be a turning point,” said Oxfam spokesman Stephen Hale.

“There’s no sign of that here. Almost a billion hungry people deserve better.”

The draft text omitted a clause calling for governments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, which have nearly tripled since 2009, despite a pledge by G20 countries to eliminate them.

Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies by 2020 would reduce annual global energy demand by 5 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 6 percent, according to the International Energy Agency.

Oil-producing countries, including Venezuela and Canada, blocked inclusion of the clause, despite a huge social media push on Monday to include phase-out language in the text, with more than 100 000 tweets on Twitter with the hashtag #endfossilfuelsubsidies.

An eagerly awaited decision on a governance structure for the high seas was also postponed for three years, after the US, Japan, Canada, Russia and Venezuela opposed strong language to implement it. – Reuters


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