My favourite article on our recent 40th anniversary was about the serious, important but often invisible political work we do.
So while Brian has already told you that our new flagship Rainbow Warrior III will be heading to Rio de Janeiro “Earth Summit” in 2012 – and I really hope I will be on board then! - I wanted to tell you about how we are working to influence that anniversary of the historical Earth Summit in 1992.
Today is a good day to do so, as today is the deadline to send comments to the United Nations headquarters on what governments should do and agree when they meet in Rio from June 4th- June 6th 2012.
You can read our call for governments to deliver a green and fair economy here – and all submissions made by many different countries, NGOs and also businesses here. Until next June, there will be many weeks of UN meetings to prepare the 3 day event in Rio.
In March, I personally was present as the world community met in New York and governments outlined their first ideas for Rio 2012. Since then, a lot of regional meetings have been and are taking place to set out what governments will do on the “green economy” and on improving the “governance for sustainable development” - the two major themes of the “summit”. Colleagues from Chile, China and the Middle East, for example, have recently made your voice heard at meetings in Santiago, Cairo and Seoul.
Sadly, these meetings have not given us hope, that governments are ready to jumpstart and speed up the solutions our planet so urgently needs. At Cairo, Saudi Arabia and other countries insisted that sustainable development was all fine and well, as long as it did not do anything about our global addiction to oil. At Seoul, many Pacific nations called for effective protection of our global oceans by calling for the green economy to be a “blue economy”, with ocean conservation as key. This call was ignored by the Chairs of the conference and the official outcome was disappointing.
It fits this disappointing tale that the Rio meeting has recently made headlines not because of an exciting Earth rescue plan to be launched there, but because of a clash with the Queen´s birthday. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that the Queen´s jubilee will be more important to him than the Rio meeting. Just another nail in the coffin of his claim to lead the “greenest government ever”, though his cuts to support for solar or support for deep sea drilling are more severe and disturbing abdications of that worthy goal.
That´s why I still use quotation marks around “Earth Summit”. Because at this point, it is by no means clear that the meeting will be a Summit – defined as an event attended by your heads of states and governments. To be fair, to Greenpeace it matters less who attends the Rio event than what governments and businesses do there. What we expect is that governments need to be honest about not having delivered on the green and just development that they promised twenty years ago. We even call on them to do what you would not ask your child to do on a playground: To shift the blame. They should point to those businesses that have been holding us back and been lobbying against the laws people and planet need (and should be ashamed of putting these corporations ahead of their own people). Companies such as APP have stopped better forest protection in Indonesia; Volkswagen has stood in the way of the climate laws our planet needs in the US and the EU.
Secondly, we call on governments and businesses to not just use fine words like “green economy” while continuing business-as-usual. They need to commit to real action, especially ending deforestation, delivering sustainable energy for all by 2020 and ending the free for all exploitation of the global high seas. They should not be afraid of doing so, as unlike 20 years ago, we have prove that solutions exist. The summit´s host, Brazil, for example, has shown that it is possible to cut deforestation rates through effective governance and good business practices: Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has declined year on year and in 2011 it was at its lowest ever level.
But this year, the Brazilian government's monitoring system picked up a 37% increase in deforestation compared to 2010 in Mato Grosso state as a result of a move to change the Forest Code, the main law in Brazil that protects the forests. The changes would allow an amnesty for past forest crimes, creating an incentive for illegal activity now and leading to an increase in deforestation before the law has even been changed. Brazil and President Dilma must decide whether it wants to be known as the nation leading the path to sustainable prosperity and zero deforestation, or as a nation that showed that deforestation could be halted, but failed to do so to cater to short term special interests.
The energy sector is also already changing. In Germany, for example, of all installed power capacity in the last decade, 81% was renewable. The Energy Revolution scenario Greenpeace has developed together with business partners shows that globally we can deliver energy to more people, especially the poor in developing countries, cut emissions by more than 80% by 2050 – and create more jobs doing so. Governments therefore face a choice at Rio. They can choose greenwash or they can truly go for a just and fair Green Economy.
Given my job, I do not have a choice, though. I will have to attend many more UN meetings to make the choice governments face clear. And I will report back to all of you regularly how governments – and businesses - are doing.
P.S. UPDATE: Brazil has postponed the Summit! The new dates will be June 20th-22nd 2012, and Brazil is hoping that world leaders will fly to Rio direct from the G20 meeting in Mexico, which happens on June 18th and 19th.
Daniel Mittler is Political Director at Greenpeace International.