Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ban Ki-moon urges world leaders to act on sustainability

UN secretary general defends scope of summit agreement, but says it is 'merely a piece of paper' unless leaders take action.

Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, called on world leaders to step up their political commitment to sustainability yesterday, with an acknowledgement that negotiations have so far failed to live up to hopes.

More than 100 world leaders and senior ministers, including the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, are in attendance at Rio+20 which has been billed as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebalance economic growth, social stability and environmental protection.

However, many delegates and NGOs have expressed dismay at the watered-down outcome document that was agreed by member states ahead of the summit.

Although it promises to establish new sustainable development goals and a host of other objectives in 26 areas, the terminology is vague. Most timetables, targets, financing figures, methods of monitoring and strong language on commitments was stripped out of the document – The Future We Want – by the hosts, Brazil, in a desperate attempt to secure a compromise before the leaders arrived.

Ban said: "Some member states hoped for a bolder ambitious document. I also hoped that we could have a more ambitious outcome document. But you should understand that negotiations have been very difficult and very slow because of all these conflicting interests."

He said the document was practical and far-reaching, but its significance would depend on the political will of national leaders. In the coming three days, the document will be discussed at high-level talks. It is thought unlikely that they will reopen negotiations on the wording, but Ban urged the leaders to step up the ambition.

Photo courtesy of Cintia Barenho via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)