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Nations back in Brazil to build on sustainable commitments

18 Jun 2012

The Irish Times

Frank McDonald

WE ALL thought we were going to Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to save the world. The Earth Summit drew an unprecedented 108 heads of state or government and 25,000 other participants to Brazil's most magical city and seemed to mark a turning point of potentially enormous significance.

Its 20th anniversary is being marked this week by another big bash, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or "Rio+20", which is expected to attract twice as many participants, including at least 114 heads of state or government, vice-presidents and deputy premiers; Taoiseach Enda Kenny will not be among them.

As in 1992, the negotiations are taking place way out at Rio Centro, the main convention centre some 35km south of the city, surrounded by increasingly tight security. A huge civil society gathering in Flamengo Park, close to the city centre, is billed as the "people's summit", echoing the colourful Global Forum held there 20 years ago.

Rio+20's declared purpose is to strengthen commitments to sustainable development and build a "green economy". But only limited progress was made at preparatory meetings in New York in March and in Rio over the past week, largely because of differences over defining what "green" actually means in this context.

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