Rio+20 Secretary-General ShaZukang / UN Photo/EskinderDebebe
NEW YORK –The Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, commonly referred to as Rio+20, met today for their first negotiations on the draft of what will eventually be the conference’s outcome document. The so-called “zero draft” of the outcome document was compiled from more than 6,000 pages of submissions from Member States, international organizations and civil society.
The document represents the first hint of what is to come from the Rio+20 meeting, beginning on June 20thin Rio de Janeiro. Secretary-General of Rio+20 ShaZukang, spoke out on the importance of creating a clean, concise and actionable document.
“When world leaders gather in Rio in five months, we need to present them with an ambitious and yet practical outcome that equals the magnitude of today’s challenges,” said Mr. Sha at the opening of the Preparatory Committee’s meeting on Wednesday.
While drafting an outcome document with top UN experts on hand sounds fairly straightforward, negotiations become complicated when nearly two hundred member-states with different economies, climates and interests have their say. Thus far, feedback from member-states and civil society has been quite critical of a document that threatens to recreate the anticlimactic outcomes of climate conferences in the past. Governments of small island states are especially focused on achieving an actionable outcome from Rio+20, representing populations that are increasingly vulnerable to climactic events.
“If the Rio+20 document is simply plagiarized from previous UN conferences, we will have failed to recognize this historic opportunity,” said a representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a Caribbean state.
Civil society has been equally critical of the draft document, citing a lack of ambition and a clear action plan.
"The text I think is weak as a final outcome. It is simply a restatement of a lot of principles that governments have committed to already in a number of occasions," Jacob Werksman, a program director at the US World Resources Institute, a global environmental think tank. The World Wildlife Fund has joined in this sentiment, saying the document is a step in the right direction, but is not ambitious enough.
The ‘Green Economy’ aspirations of the outcome document are on the right path according to analysts in the HSBC climate change center, but need to be developed further to create a real impact.
“The text is a mixed bag containing the hopeful, the vague, and the promising. Governments are ‘urged’ and ‘encouraged’ to do things that should have been implemented years ago” says a recent report from the bank. “But it also contains the bare bones of a package that could promote green growth as a core economic strategy”.
The Preparatory Committee continues its informal negotiations on the zero draft of the outcome document today at the United Nations.