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Rio+20, a place where good things might happen, but probably won’t


Rio + 20, EarthSummit 2012, or more formally, the Second UN Conference on Sustainable Development takes place in Rio do Janiero in one week’s time.  I am not holding my breath.  The journal, Nature, devoted its editorial in the June 7th issue to this event, pointing to the great optimism that greeted the first Earth Summit in 1992 and the pervasive gloom and doom that surrounds this second event.  Over the past 20 years, far too little progress has been made towards the goals set forth and agreed to by the participating nations.  Most of the MDGs (Millenium Development Goals) set out as targets have not been met and progress on some has been slight.  Indeed, where progress has been made, it has usually been made by local or regional governments acting alone, rather than by nations acting together.  And there is now little reason for cheerful optimism.  As Nature states, “Despite progress on some issues — ozone loss, for example — the disconnect between science and politics seems to be growing, not shrinking. The accumulating evidence screams that the consequences of inaction could be dire. As each day passes, the problems become more expensive to solve and the number of available options decreases. New clean-energy technologies could make all the difference to climate, but many governments in the industrialized world are investing less money in clean energy now than they were just a few years ago”.

Does that last bit not describe Canada in 2012 rather well?  If anything, Canada is moving backwards, creating a less environmentally sustainable economy than it used to have, apparently content to be among the worst countries in our per capita assaults on the environment.

Read the full Nature editorial, and stay tuned.  I will be following the summit with interest, and a certain amount of fear and trepidation.  We do not need another failure in seeking international agreement of the likes of Durban 2011, when 194 countries agreed to not put in place any treaty on curtailing emissions of GHGs that would come into effect before 2020.  That is called kicking the can ten years into the future.