After Rio +20 – Is There Hope For Change Left?

by Guest Blogger

June 26, 2012

by Ruth Davis, Greenpeace UK

The Future We Want is nowhere to be found in the agreement which world leaders are currently rubber-stamping in Rio. Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo summed up the feelings of millions of us when he described the outcome as a polluters charter that will cook the planet.

Gone from the Rio agreement is a commitment to end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. Gone is any clear commitment to protect our oceans from over-fishing and pollution. The money needed to pay for clean energy, and to ensure that the growing world population has access to decent food and clean water, is no-where to be seen. Again, our leaders have reminded us that while cash can be found to pursue wars and to rescue banks, nothing is left to help billions of people out of poverty or protect the ecosystems upon which human life ultimately depends.
But strangely, while Rio+20 represents a new low in the international communitys response to our growing crises, the anger it is generating might be our last, best, hope for change.

Because although self-interest, short-termism and vested interests dominated the official Rio+20 summit, outside and beyond it, hope, solidarity, and a willingness to fight for the common good are growing.

In the unofficial Peoples Summit 40 miles from the official venue, ideas and opportunities were being shared about how we can build a future we really want. Experts explained that we have solutions to bring about a green energy revolution, avoiding catastrophic climate change and providing access to power for 1.6 billion people who have none: a revolution that would provide millions with decent jobs and bolster failing economies. And this was being discussed by people from all nations and backgrounds, recognizing their common humanity and mutual dependence.

The campaign to introduce a zero deforestation law in Brazil grew from strength to strength at the summit – with thousands signing up to join a coalition which has the support of indigenous peoples groups, faith leaders and environmental organizations, as well as those most Brazilian of national heroes some of their most famous footballers.

And on 21June, as the ink began to dry on the official Rio+20 text, we launched our new campaign to Save the Arctic – calling for the creation of a new global sanctuary in the high Arctic, and to put an end to the oil drilling and industrial fishing which is threatening the future of this fragile region.

As the world awoke to discover polar bears next to the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and Big Ben, smiles appeared on the faces of tired campaigners in Rio and around the world. We do not have to accept the despair being offered us by our governments. We can act, we can work, we can make our voices heard and our demands irresistible.

We still need a global deal to tackle the threats of climate change and ecological destruction, and the miseries of poverty, hunger, disease and inequality. But to make that happen, we will need to make it impossible for our leaders to do anything less.

This is the message that we will be giving to Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, when he arrives home from Rio. Instead of trying to persuade us that Rio+20 was a success even a modest success he must acknowledge the scale of its failure, the depth of the crisis, and the urgent need for action, not words.

He has a unique opportunity to match the hopes and passions of our movement this Autumn, by helping to transform the UKs own energy system. A UK on track to a 100% renewable future and carbon-free power by 2030 would be something worth shouting about. The vague promises and empty platitudes of Rio+20 are not.

Ruth Davis is the Chief Policy Adviser for GreenpeaceUK


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