Rio Update – Monday June 18, 2012
The international sustainability scene is getting increasingly complex. Not only is UNCSD aka Rio+20, the world’s biggest meeting on sustainability, taking place this week but the agenda for the G-20 Economic Summit (today and tomorrow) includes discussions about “promoting sustainable development with a focus on infrastructure, energy efficiency, green growth and financing the fight against climate change.”
I think it is an incredibly good sign that the G-20 is bringing international monetary policy together with sustainable development. From what I am reading in the international press, the disconnect between macroeconomics, the green economy, and the elimination of poverty seems to be a major problem in getting agreement among the diplomats at Rio+20. Last Friday, the final Preparatory Committee Meeting resulted in agreement on less than 40% of the outcomes document. The UN passed the document to the Brazil government who as host is charged with further development in bringing the document to the conference. Brazil now has presented a longer but more focused document for discussion that more clearly represents the positions of the countries in the developing world. According to some sources, the US, Canada, and European Union have been blocking many measures in the original zero draft document on the basis of economic issues (free trade, intellectual property rights, responsibility for payments). There are concerns that a final outcomes document will fail to confirm the original principles of the Earth Summit and will fail to provide Sustainable Development Goals to replace or supplement the Millennium Development Goals,, let alone provide funding to make anything happen.
On a more optimistic note, several events in Rio indicate that progress will be made despite the failure of diplomats to come to agreement. There have been a number of commitments and healthy discussion coming from the Corporate Sustainability Forum, particularly on public reporting of sustainability efforts. Microsoft has committed to net zero carbon emissions. Another announcement was the signing of the Natural Capital Declaration by 37 major financial institutions that commit them to work towards integrating natural capital considerations into their products and services.
Today, as the side events continue, a consortium of higher education sustainability associations will be presenting the side event Aiming Higher, Unlocking Tertiary Education's Potential to Accelerate Sustainable Development and the Transition to a Fair and Green Economy. Dr. Kim Smith of Portland Community College will represent AASHE at that meeting. Last night I received the following update in an email from Kim.
"It has already been an incredible two days. The Earth Summit is a conference to beat all conferences. Every issue related to sustainability and the green economy is being discussed, with fascinating and thought-provoking presentations in the RioCentro Pavilions given by experts all over the world. One talk yesterday on glaciers was particularly fascinating, as was an amazing talk on sustainability and the education system in India. An Indian girl came up with a new slogan: "Increase your handprint! Decrease your footprint!" They are all talking about how to turn all of these words into actions.
There also are amazing exhibits at Athlete's Park (to be used for the Olympics in 2016), like a World Expo. I took many pictures there today and learned a great deal about different countries' sustainability efforts.
I also am having lively conversations with people from all over the world, and am pleased to report that many people have been very supportive of higher education. I have definitely been networking and have given away all 100 of the flyers for our presentation. It was particularly good to meet some youth from the EU Student Forum the first day, as we have been supporting each other's efforts. It was wild to have them engage in a debate about the economic state of Europe. Truly, I cannot make this up: a German, English/Greek, and Belgian walk into a bar.... drink caipirinhas and totally duke it out over capitalism, socialism, taxes, subsidies, health care, the elderly, the stratification of 27 countries, German wages, and what to do with Greece. I was in awe! They are doubtful that the EU will be able to agree upon the treaty. I was able to give them quite a lot of problematic examples from the United States as well. Alas, each day, the UN picks a delegation that does the least to support the Summit and sustainability efforts. They call them the "fossil" of the day. The first day it was the United States (very embarrassing). The second was Canada. It is not too easy to represent North America when everyone thinks that we are a bunch of idiots....
It is incredible how contentious it is and how cynical some of the bureaucrats are as to whether we actually will be able to turn all of the words into actions and solve the problem in time... Of course, it doesn't help that so many in the US don't even believe that there is a problem. The number of people all over the world who believe we are in crisis are staggering compared to the US. Our media truly does such a disservice in educating the public about crucial issues and providing good information on the solutions."
Browse by Topic
- AASHE Biz
- Co-Curricular Education
- Community Engagement
- Connecting the Dots
- Dining Services
- Diversity, Access, and Affordability
- Faculty and Staff Development
- Government & Legislation
- Human Resources
- Presidents & Chancellors