Last week, I kissed my five-year-old daughter goodbye in Beijing and got on a flight bound for Rio de Janeiro. 25 hours later, I joined some 50,000 other people in Rio for the Rio+20 Earth Summit.
Absent from that big crowd, though, are leaders of such major western powers as US, UK and Germany. Though small in number, their high-profile absence has cast a shadow on the summit at Copacabana. On the other hand, their counterparts from BASIC countries – four new economic powerhouses of the world: Brazil, South Africa, India and China – will all be represented at the summit.
One of the world’s most fundamental changes since the first Earth Summit in 1992 is the rise of China to the status of the world’s second biggest economy – and one of the biggest polluters of the environment. On its way to becoming a giant economy, China has also made itself the world’s largest user of coal, CO2 emitter, timber importer and consumer and producer of steel and cement. The road was not without pleasant surprises though: by the end of 2010, China overtook the United States as the world’s biggest country in installed wind capacity, and it has safeguarded the future of its food by keeping genetically engineered rice within labs. But overall, China will without doubt occupy the center of attention as not only the biggest economy present at Rio+20 but also a major polluter. And Beijing knows that there is no chance China can sail smoothly through the 3-day event without making visible efforts. At a side event held on Saturday, China announced a string of initiatives on poverty eradication, energy efficiency and international cooperation for sustainable development.
Together with other developing countries, China should take actions that western powers like the US and Canada are shamefully blocking. It would make me so proud to see China actively speak out in Rio on major global environmental issues such as the protection of the High Seas, and commit to pursuing an energy revolution and sustainable agriculture at home.
The world has witnessed China growing into a major power since 1992. Now, together with other rising powers of today, China can and should play a vital part in delivering the future that my daughter’s generation deserves.
The negotiations here in Rio continue. We received the latest negotiating text last night. If adopted as it stands, it would condemn the world to a future of pollution, plunder and destruction. There is no action here, no commitment, no future we want. The only encouraging inclusion is the Oceans Rescue Plan for the High Seas.
Yong Rong is the Head of Policy and Public Affairs in Greenpeace East Asia’s Beijing office