ENVIRONMENT: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Rio+20 ends with a whimper, not a bang
, July 21, 2012
Twenty years ago, the UN International Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio ended with a ringing endorsement of the extreme environmentalists’ agenda of mandatory cuts in CO2 emissions by the developed world, and a massive transfer of money to the Third World to compensate for the effects of increased CO2 emissions and “global warming”.
The latest UN conference, styled by its organisers as Rio+20. and attended by our Prime Minister Julia Gillard and a conference hall full of other celebrities, ended with nothing more than a collection of platitudes in a resolution which had been published even before the Conference began on June 20.
On June 19 — the day before the conference began — the British newspaper, The Guardian, published the full text of the Rio+20 conference resolution.
Its first paragraph began: “We, the heads of state and government and high-level representatives, having met at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 20-22 June 2012, with full participation of civil society, renew our commitment to sustainable development, and to ensure the promotion of economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet and for present and future generations.”
The radical environmentalists, who were effectively excluded from the conference, were apoplectic in their denunciations of Rio+20.
Jim Leape, international director-general of the World Wildlife Fund, declared, “It’s pathetic. It’s appalling. If this becomes the final text, the last year has been a colossal waste of time.”
Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, stated, “Rio+20 has turned into an epic failure. It has failed on equity, failed on ecology and failed on economy.”
International chairman of Friends of the Earth International, Nnimmo Bassey, issued a media release which said, in part, “Politicians are spinning this outrageous deal as a victory, but in fact it is nothing less than a disaster for the planet. This is a hollow deal and a gift to corporate polluters that hold UN decision-making hostage to further their economic interests.”
The first and most obvious casualty of Rio+20 was the Green Climate Fund, one of the outcomes of the unsuccessful Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in 2009. Although the Copenhagen Summit failed to establish binding emissions targets to follow the Kyoto Protocol, it threw a bone to radical environmentalists and Third World governments by committing to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 for environmental purposes.
This commitment was repeated at the Cancun (Mexico) conference in 2010, and at Durban (South Africa) last year.
However, the fund has been bedevilled by disputes over its design and management, as well as the global financial crisis which dried up possible sources of funding in Europe, and the failure of the EU’s emissions trading system (EU ETS), which handles over 90 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions trading.
In spite of massive investment by European governments over the past decade, the price of carbon permits has slumped, and is currently priced at about €6.67 ($8.32) per tonne.
In the Rio+20 conference resolution of 49 pages and 283 lengthy paragraphs, there was only a single reference to the Green Climate Fund. The resolution “welcomed” the launching of the Green Climate Fund, and called “for its prompt operationalisation so as to have an early and adequate replenishment process” — whatever that means.
The resolution was important for what it did not say: it had no reference to the global financial crisis, or its impact on CO2 emissions, although the effects of the crisis have been profound, particularly in the developed world.
The rest of the Rio+20 resolution was a collection of aspirational statements gathered from earlier UN climate conferences, topped up by commitments from government leaders such as Julia Gillard.
A week before the Rio+20 conference, the Gillard government announced a massive expansion of marine parks around Australia from 27 to 60, without informing affected industries such as fishing, boat building and tourism.
The Australian Prime Minister made the announcement of Australia’s new marine parks and the new carbon tax the centrepiece of her presentation at Rio+20. Clearly winning the UN’s approval counts for more than the opinions of Australians.
Proving that every cloud has a silver lining, the outcome of Rio+20 was welcomed by the UN bureaucracy which organised the event.
The conference secretary-general, Sha Zukang from China, described the conference outcome as “historic”, and said it would “provide an enduring legacy”.
Not to be outdone, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, described Rio+20 as “a successful conference” which provides “a firm foundation for social, economic and environmental well-being”.
As one wit commented, the real achievement of Rio+20 was that it did not inflict the extremist agenda of mandatory targets, carbon taxes and emission schemes on either the developed or developing world. In light of this, the Australian government’s commitment to its carbon tax and mining tax remains almost incomprehensible.