At last week’s Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, delegates did not agree to any ambitious treaties or deadlines for dealing with pressing issues such as climate change, food and water scarcity. However, there were many positive signs for the future global environment.
On Friday 22 June, heads of state and government signed an agreement on sustainable development called ‘The Future We Want’. This was not as ambitious as the EU had been pressing for and did not include detailed Sustainable Development Goals with fixed deadlines or numbers. Nonetheless, the European Union (EU) managed to get some goals into the final text. It is hoped that these preliminary targets will form the basis for further negotiation within the UN.
On the proposal to make the United Nations Environment Programme a full UN organisation (in line with the World Health Organisation and others) it was instead agreed to strengthen UNEP. This includes universal membership of UNEP – meaning that all countries are now UNEP members.
Another notable step in the right direction was the adoption of the global 10-year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production. The UN failed to reach agreement in this area in 2011.
The agreement also noted the importance of ‘green economy’, an important objective for EU negotiators during the Rio+20 summit:
…we consider green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication as one of the important tools available for achieving sustainable development and that it could provide options for policy making but should not be a rigid set of rules (paragraph 56).
Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director said: “For the first time, governments recognised the importance of green economy as well as the need for knowledge and information. This is good news, but it is only the start – we need to turn this recognition into real environmental improvements.”
The European Environment Agency in Rio
During the Rio summit, the EEA successfully pushed for the meeting to recognise the importance of environmental data and information and information sharing. Access to information appears six times in the text. The EEA’s ambitious information sharing network, Eye on Earth, was also mentioned in the final agreement (paragraph 274).
Eye on Earth was also named as one of the Sustainia 100 global sustainable solutionsat a side event in Rio on 20 June. The Sustainia 100 solutions were presented at a ceremony attended by Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, sustainability legend Gro Harlem Brundtland, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Chair Rajendra K. Pachauri and EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard.