World leaders weigh 'green' economy

2012-06-21 07:30

Rio de Janeiro - World leaders attending a UN summit in Rio on Wednesday weighed steps to root out poverty and protect the environment as thousands of activists marched through the city centre in protest.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned that "time is not on our side" for fixing a mounting list of problems as he formally opened the UN summit on sustainable development.

The high-profile Rio+20 event, attended by 191 UN members, including 86 presidents and heads of government, comes 20 years after Rio's first Earth Summit when nations vowed to roll back climate change, desertification and species loss.

But thousands of activists attending a counter-summit staged a good-natured and colourful protest in central Rio to denounce Amazon rainforest deforestation, the plight of indigenous peoples and the "green economy" being advocated at the UN gathering.

The march drew environmentalists, workers, civil servants, black militants, homosexuals, indigenous peoples and feminists.

Draft document

Organisers said 50 000 people turned up but police estimate the crowd at no more than 20 000.

At the summit, Maldives President Mohamed Waheed announced that his Indian Ocean archipelago planned to set up the world's biggest marine reserve to protect its fisheries and biodiversity.

He said the Maldives would become "the single largest marine reserve in the world", where only sustainable and eco-friendly fishing will be allowed.

A total of 191 speakers were to take the floor until Friday when the summit leaders are to give their seal of approval to a 53-page draft document agreed on by their negotiators on Tuesday.

The draft outlines measures for tackling the planet's many environmental ills and lifting billions out of poverty through policies that nurture rather than squander natural resources.

In his opening remarks, the UN secretary general praised Brazil, the summit host, for securing a deal on the summit's final draft statement.

"The world is watching to see if words will translate into action as we know they must... It's time for all of us to think globally and long term, beginning here now in Rio, for time is not on our side," he said.


French President Francois Hollande described the deal on the draft as "a step" but "an insufficient step".

"It will be up to world leaders to make a positive step," he told a press conference.

"We recognise that the old model for economic development and social advancement is broken," Ban said later at a ceremonial event.

"Rio+20 has given us a unique chance to set it right... to set a new course that truly balances the imperatives of robust growth and economic development with the social and environmental dimensions of sustainable prosperity and human well-being," the UN chief said.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was elected president of the conference, said she had no doubt "that we will be up to the challenges that the global situation imposes on us".

From the International Space Station, US, Russian and European astronauts sent greetings to the summit leaders, courtesy of the US space agency Nasa.

As the summit got under way, eight multilateral development banks announced that they would set aside $175bn to finance sustainable transport systems over the next decade.

Rain forest sale

The pledge was made jointly by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, African Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, CAF-Development Bank of Latin America, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment Bank and Islamic Development Bank.

Some of the most contentious issues discussed at the 10-day UN conference were proposed measures to promote a green economy and the "Sustainable Development Goals" that are set to replace the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals after they expire in 2015.

Environmentalists were scathing in their criticism of the summit, with Greenpeace calling it "an epic failure" while WWF said it was "significantly disappointing".

And a London-based NGO said it had put the Amazon rain forest up for sale on eBay - starting price 99 pence ($1.50) - in protest at what it said was the British government's obsession with putting a financial price on the ecosystem.

"The UK government is promoting the sale of nature to the highest bidder. We set up the Rio+20 nature sale on eBay to demonstrate how ridiculous this is," said Kirsty Wright of the World Development Movement.

The bogus offer was removed by the online auction site, the group said.

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla meanwhile criticised the absence of some heavy hitters such as US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

  • craig.king.7505 - 2012-06-21 08:13

    I'm told Rio is nice this time of year.

  • Squeegee - 2012-06-21 08:15

    Hahaha. Show me one summit/conference that has led to real action. Lots of travel, meals, meetings and talk, talk talk. I almost forgot.. promises, promises, promises!

  • Amanda - 2012-06-21 08:23

    Oh, goodie, another gob fest where tax payers money is wasted whilst those who think they know best get to decide our fate. The UN can't even sort out Syria yet think they can root out poverty! Guess what, poverty will always be with us. Root out the dictators stealing the people's money and you'll root out poverty! As for the climate, it's doing just fine thanks.

  • mart.botha - 2012-06-21 08:26

    When will the Leaders of this world realise that the biggest threat to our survival is the over population in many, in fact most, countries. The only way to root out poverty is to root out unwanted pregnancy. It is quite illogical for us to expect this earth to continue to support multitudes of unproductive and surplus people. Billions should have been earmarked for voluntary sterilisation, birth control access, family planning awareness and for empowering women to say No to their bodies being used and abused by men. I have no doubt that the human race is mutating backwards and what is creeping up on us is a 'dog eat dog' world which cares little for the sustainability of peoples good intentions. 'Quantity of Living People is and will continue to destroy Quality of Life' in 75% of our world'. People are the only real problem in this world, we need to find a way to balance the books.

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