For three days, as part of the High-level Segment at Rio+20, heads of state have made speeches and have sat at meetings to discuss the draft declaration text. If all goes well, the future we want will arrive on Friday. So, where do we stand?
In these final discussions, the key issues were, broadly:
Reaffirming the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities: The bloc of poorest nations – the G77 – is adamant that this should be featured, otherwise it will be a “big retreat” from the Rio 1992 Statement. However, countries in the OCED wonder whether this principle is still valid for all in the G77.
Green growth/the green economy: This was quite a battleground – poorer countries said that this agenda is a screen for a new wave of green protectionism to be ushered in from industrialized countries. On a broader level, Brazil is not entirely comfortable with the phrase “green growth” – Brazil would like see equal weight placed on the social and environmental pillars of sustainable development. However, the EU, represented by the Danish presidency, is quite insistent on the green growth concept. Currently, the carefully crafted language allows the phrase to appear, but does not give it any real meaning. This is probably how the final text will end up.
Sustainable development goals: The idea is for a process to be set up at Rio+20 for some agency to design and launch new global goals to start 2015. It is generally liked as concept, but there is, naturally, a turf war over who in or out of the UN would take the lead to develop these new goals, and on what themes they should be. There is also concern from the development community about overlap and confusion with MDGs. Should the G77 not focus on the MDGs post 2015, getting each of them to zero (i.e. making sure the SDGs fit the post 2015 development landscape)? Others want the SDGs to apply equally to richer countries.
Institutional frameworks: There is some internal UN cooking on more resources for UNEP, changing it from a programme to a specialized agency, the creation of a Sustainable Development Council instead of the current SCD, and other institutional changes.
Funding: Inevitably, the G77 wants a sustainable development fund; the bloc proposes US$ 30 billion by 2018, then up to US$ 100 billion thereafter. Could this be a bargaining chip from the G77? If you want us to have SDGs, then you must provide the money to pay for them; if you don’t have the money, then don’t push new goals onto us. The donor nations, of course, don’t have much extra money.
Technology transfer: There is no movement from richer countries on this topic, which is irritating China in particular. The language remains the “voluntary transfer of technology on mutually agreed terms”, which hardly promotes full and free flow of property rights and technologies around the world.
The means of implementation: Brazil has been keen to infuse the text in places with the usefulness of public-private partnerships and multistakeholder collaboration. The country presents these as practical vehicles that can help developing countries get things done. Others in the G77 see this more as a smokescreen, which can be used to organize for less aid from the West. Brazil would suggest it is not less aid but higher impact aid that is needed.
The other angle, which is interesting, is that there are no numbers in the text. No clear, measurable targets are set.
So, there is still a lot to be done. At this stage, we have perhaps a document that reflects a world of the negotiations and their politics and wordsmiths. While an important reflection of the multilateral conversation, it may well be a document that is far from the scale of the challenge and the practical multistakeholder innovations being developed to respond to them around the world.
Author: Dominic Waughray is a Senior Director and Head of Environmental Initiatives at the World Economic Forum
Pictured: Chimneys and bulidings are seen through thick steam at Taiyanggong Gas-fired Thermal Power Station near an electricity pylon. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic