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Brazilian pitch for summit deal faces objections from Europe

Blueprint for Earth’s future is to be issued at the three-day Rio summit

Activists deploy a banner at the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro
Image Credit: AP
Activists deploy a banner at the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. The banner calls on Rio+20 leaders to deliver a new plan to shift nearly $1 trillion spent each year on fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy and sustainable development.
Gulf News

Rio de Janeiro: Brazil on Sunday pushed a deal for a looming global summit on poverty and the environment, but its draft ran into objections from Europe and criticism from activists, who said it fell dismally short.

The blueprint for Earth’s future is to be issued in Rio de Janeiro after a three-day summit to climax the UN’s Conference on Sustainable Development.

Hosting the nine-day mega-event, Brazil on Saturday assumed control of troubled negotiations to agree on the communique.

It declared it wanted to seal a deal by Tuesday, when an expected 116 world leaders start jetting in.

They will be joined by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has called sustainable development “my number one priority.”

“The way is pretty much open for a good final agreement. It is a balanced text,” Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, the chief Brazilian delegate, declared on Sunday.

“There will be nothing for the heads of state to debate… we are very optimistic about closing these negotiations as soon as possible.”

But the European Union said the 50-page draft lacked tougher commitments for ending dangerous abuse of the planet’s resources and creating a green economy.

“We would like to see goals and targets with concrete timelines and monitoring mechanisms to monitor progress,” said Monica Westeren, spokesman for EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik.

“A lot of work [lies] ahead of us, [but] there is still time to improve the chances of a positive outcome.”


People and planet first


Non-governmental organisations [NGOs] said the craving to avoid a bust-up, as happened so traumatically at the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, could badly dilute the keystone document.

The draft deal “has been skillfully constructed to avoid controversy and promote consensus, but even if agreed it would not reorient growth towards putting people and planet first”, said Oxfam.

The 50-page compromise text put forward by Brazil has no figures for funding sustainable development, though developing countries are calling for $30 billion (Dh110 billion) a year.

It sketches the objective of ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ to replace the UN’s Millennium Development Goals after they expire in 2015, but defining them will be left to a later conference.

The text is “pretty acceptable”, Ecuador’s minister for heritage, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, told AFP, adding that her country still had a number of concerns.

Assad Rehman of Friends of the Earth said the world was faced with “a triple planetary crisis — from climate catastrophe, deepening global inequity and unsustainable consumption driven by a broken economic system.”

“The text is neither ambitious enough nor delivers the required political will needed to fix our broken planet,” he said.


Climate change


WWF’s Lasse Gustavsson said Brazil’s draft was larded with fudge, especially its section on energy, “which could have been written by the oil and gas industry”.

The Rio Conference on Sustainable Development is the 20-year follow-up to the Earth Summit, where UN members launched offensives to roll back climate change, desertification and species loss and work to root out poverty.

But the outlook in 1992 was far different then.

The great meeting took place at a time of post-Cold War euphoria.

Prospects of cuts in defense spending encouraged governments to open up their wallets for the environment and the world’s poor.

Today, many western governments are mired in fiscal and budget crises, and key leaders - including US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — will be conspicuous in Rio for their absence.